What Sets Your Soul On Fire

Recently, I was asked to sit on a a panel for the launch of the Speak & Share Series put on by two enterprising young women here in Halifax. There were a few things remarkable about this. First, the fact that I was even asked. When these women approached me, I double and triple checked they wanted ME to impart wisdom and advice to the younger generation (when did I even become the “older” generation?) and I repeatedly asked them “Are you sure you want me? I wear sweatpants for a living.” Despite my protests, they did want me to speak, and I won’t go into too many details about the event, but rather, would encourage you to check out the link on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEyKT1EJTSI

To launch the Series, Sam and Katie chose three women (including me) who have followed interesting paths leading to interesting careers. One of the most tell-tale comments from the evening, and one which was pointed out by an audience member (and probably not realized by anyone before the discussion) was that none of us had traditional business degrees, yet we all find ourselves running successful and innovative businesses in Halifax. That’s pretty cool!

And here was the other remarkable comment from the audience: “How can I make money and also do something about which I am passionate?” Great question! Um, wait…can you have both?

20 years ago, when we were graduating from law school, our primary focus was to find a job. Sure, we wanted it to be in a field which we found interesting (maybe even challenging), but our only goal was to get out into the workforce and start making money. I can honestly say that NEVER ONCE did we think about “following our hearts” or pursuing a career that “set our soul on fire.” That language and those concepts did not form a part of regular discussions.

I may be generalizing, but it seems (certainly from the audience that was at the talk that night), that this is a question and a pursuit that more young people seek out these days. Can you do what you truly love and make money? Honestly, I don't know. I hope so. My advice (and probably realistic but not necessarily what the audience wanted to hear) was twofold: 1) Pay your dues. Earn the money. Choose a career that you enjoy, earn an income that provides stability and savings, and then if you can, at some future point in time, find a way to pursue your passion (although you might not necessarily see the financial gains to which you have become accustomed); and/or 2) Find the vocation that “sets your soul on fire” and while it may not allow for the fancy cars and second home, if it allows you to eat, save some money and pay your bills, then stick with that. 

For me, if you can’t have it all, then it’s about priorities. I joke that I earned my highest income 20 years ago and I know that if I had stuck with the traditional path, I would have the fancy cars and second homes. But I don’t truly believe that I would be smiling with my chosen vocation every day as I do now. What it meant to “have it all” has changed for me, and despite the lack of cars and cottages, I can honestly say that today, “I have it all.”