Don’t Follow Your Heart

Internet is full of advice. Follow your heart, travel the world, do what you love, free your mind, and several similar combinations of words synonymous with freedom and happiness, can be found in multiple stories and articles published on the internet. This platform itself is a popular channel for people to provide such advice. Quite often the target audience is someone who works in a so-called dull office setup where he has to deal with office politics, lack of meritocracy and in general an unstimulating environment. The idea, of course, is to liberate such people from their mundane lives and inspire them to “do something else”.

I always wonder how sound such advice is, considering its interpretation is largely guided by the unique circumstances of people. A competent employee might see it as a message to be more ambitious and perhaps work harder and smarter. A person struggling to fulfill the responsibilities of his job, on the other hand, might consider this as an invitation for escapism. In fact, in most cases “follow your heart” is something people tell themselves to get rid of the guilt on their minds; the guilt of avoiding hardships; the guilt of not putting an effort; the guilt of knowing that they could have done more.

Proponents of “follow your heart” are quick to throw examples of successful people, world leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, and sports persons, who didn’t follow the stated rules of this world. Instead they followed their own hearts, and did what they were destined for. A famous statement is sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

Sure. Many people are only good at watching Netflix all day. But many of them also know that the well-being of their families will not be sponsored by weekly checks mailed to them by Netflix thanking them for their demonstrated genius in deciding which movie to watch first. They may not be experts in crunching numbers in spreadsheets, building parts in a factory or writing technical documentation for how to use smartphone covers. But their livelihood depends on these activities. So, they’d better do it. There is nothing wrong with it.

“That internet billionaire”, they say, “took risks in life, didn’t settle for less, and ultimately changed the world”.

Taking risks in life, is yet another hot advice coming from the fast growing internet philosopher community. The concept of risk, in fact, is very relative. What some minds consider a risk, will not even register on some others as an interesting event. I wonder how many successful entrepreneurs would describe their experience of setting up their first start-up as “taking a risk”. If you consider it a risk, unfortunately you already are at a disadvantage of not being as confident (or ignorant, or arrogant) as they are. But that’s okay. You can still quit your job to start your own company, even while knowing it is a risk. We need to take risks, throughout our lives. But anyone with an elementary knowledge of Finance, will know that a risk is justified only when a sufficiently good case for a potential reward can be made. Blind risk is again just escapism or plain stupidity. Yes, the mental relief from leaving your “boring” job and backpacking through the jungle, might be a reward in itself. But does this reward justify the associated penalty of having a potentially reduced income for quite some time? The answer would be different for everyone. Take the time to think through. Choose your complete answer.

Let your heart fulfill the one function it has been put inside your body for — pumping blood. If the poor organ could speak, the first thing it would say to you is: “don’t use me as an excuse for doing all the things you know you shouldn’t be doing”

You are contributing to the world economy and betterment of the society just by doing your job and by being part of a system that has been organically designed over thousands of years. Take pride in it. Be a responsible member of your employer, your family, your community.

Dream big. But work hard.

Travel and try new things. But pay your bills and save for the future.

Don’t follow your heart!