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Captain Kirk vs Harold Steptoe
on 11 September 2011
I almost didn't buy this book, but I'm glad I did.
Like so many life-improvement books, the premise is a blatantly obvious one. If you can combine your hobby (what you do in your play-time) and your work, then you are more likely to be happy. But of course, that's only the headline.
Any of us could quit our job today and start doing what we *really* want to do, but chances are that without looking more deeply into the subject we would be broke within a couple of months, our savings gone, our mortgage or rent in deep arrears. Of course, it is the fear of those outcomes that is the main reason why most of us never decouple from the secure but boring teat of a regular pay cheque.
Is it really true that if you love what you do, you will be happy? Well, look around, the world is replete with examples! We can see that it worked for Captain Kirk, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Whoopie Goldberg, Mother Theresa and many others, fictional and otherwise. Conversely we've all met Harold Steptoes (the fictional junk dealer who is locked into a job he hates, just to support his manipulative elderly father). People who are made unhappy by their jobs are, unfortunately, not hard to find. So, there does seem to be some truth to the basic premise of this book.
This book says that the real trick is thinking deeply in order to be able to pinpoint what your passions really are: Okay, you may love sports, but do you love the playing, the camaraderie, the equipment, the competitive element? - you need to know where the epicentre of your passion lies and work out from there.
The book gives you lots of help in analysing this area, tips and tricks to allow you to be brutally honest with yourself. Self-honesty is essential if you want to avoid making a very bad decision. Don't expect this first step to be a fast one, Mr Williams advises that you take the time to get this step right, because if you get it wrong, nothing good will follow on. Brutal and perhaps bruising self-honesty is the essential ingredient.
Once you have pinpointed your passion, the next thing is to look around at how you might get paid for applying your enthusiasm and energy. The book is brimful of ideas and useful tips in this area and also gives you some tools so that you can see how to get beyond the obvious applications for your enthusiasm and see ways of applying yourself that might not at first occur to you. Like Sherlock Holmes you may find yourself inventing a new profession for yourself rather than merely aspiring to change to an already existing one. As the book repeatedly illustrates, thanks to modern communications, Internet and technology it's easier now than it has ever been to innovate new kinds of products and services and the supporting professions that deliver them.
Then, the book gives you a lot of sound advice about how to make your switch from wage-slave to passion driven entrepreneur in a way that carries the lowest possible risk. It demolishes the things that you may believe hold you back as myths: For example "Nobody's ever going to pay me to play".
At every stage, the text contains lots of tools and advice. It quotes some detailed examples from people who have already done this kind of thing. They talk about what worked and what didn't work when they merged their play and their work. Finally, the text guides you through the rapids of getting going and staying focussed without losing the plot.
It may be that having read through this very useful book, you decide that there is simply no way that your particular interest area (whether it's watching daytime TV or doing Patagonian basket-weaving) could ever be translated into a job that could earn you money. The book makes clear that might be a possible outcome, however it also shows how some people have parleyed incredibly unlikely interests into fruitful careers so, whatever your starting point, I would advise that the book offers a journey worth taking.
In summary, yes, the premise of this book is a totally obvious one. However, the deep treatment of the subject, coupled with the clear and concise writing style, a text mostly devoid of phsyco-babble and the range of methods and tools it provides to help you through, make it a very worthwhile read.
If you are unhappy with your work life and want more, this is highly recommended.