Passionate Job Or Practical Job?

Steve Job’s famous Stanford commencement speech

Those of us in the VFX industry certainly love what we do. So it was interesting to read this post by someone who left a job they were passionate about for something that is, well, boring and practical:

I walked away from the career I was so emotionally invested in, the thing I loved to do, and into a career that’s honestly just a job for me. It’s just something I do for money, nothing more or less.

Many of us in the VFX industry look to Steve Jobs as an idol and his famous commencement speech to graduates at Stanford University is incredibly inspiring. In it he encourages them to “don’t settle”, “stay foolish”, and do what you love.

However some doubt it’s realistic:

“Find what you love and never settle for less” is an excellent recipe for frustration and poverty. “Reconcile yourself to the limits of your talent and temperament and find the most satisfactory compromise between what you love to do and what you need to do feed your children” is rather less stirring, but it’s much better advice.

and some urge to be practical:

The problem is, the people who give these sorts of speeches are the outliers: the folks who have made a name for themselves in some very challenging, competitive, and high-status field.  No one ever brings in the regional sales manager for a medical supplies firm to say, “Yeah, I didn’t get to be CEO.  But I wake up happy most mornings, my kids are great, and my golf game gets better every year.”

I got into VFX because I loved it, and what I’ve learned is that you have to give it tough love or else it can ruin you. Doing what you love can be tough because there are people who expect that because you love it, you’ll be willing to sacrifice more.

As you eventually mature, you realize that the future is a bit imperfect for doing what you’re passionate about as other needs arise: family, age, health. But hey? You love what you do right?

Soldier On.


24 Responses to Passionate Job Or Practical Job?

  1. Pssst says:

    So it’s passion and immaturity or family and health?
    Not if you run a corporation…

  2. Ill-advised contribution says:

    I can’t really square the two ideas in my mind. Most of us took the risk, made immense and lasting personal sacrifices to do something that is inarguably great and lasting, and have been denied the ability to share in the rewards by… well, what did we we expect, I suppose.

    I can’t really see how feeling bad or wrong about that makes sense, I guess? It hurts, on a really deep gut-level, to know that doing what I love will certainly take years off my life and leave me with no appreciable ability to support a family, but… on principle, I think we should feel good about that choice. I feel good about what I’ve done.

    Good, and angry. Did I mention angry? Because fuck that. Next time you walk down Hollywood Boulevard and you see stars and handprints of people that live on in history and for better or worse made cinema the most widely appreciated artistic medium in human history, know in your bones that we’re so much more a part of it than the guy with an MBA and a spreadsheet who decided our careers could be thrown in the gutter for pennies. I won’t apologize for following a dream, but they should for snuffing it out.

    That’s rationalizing, but it needs to be said. End drunken rant.

  3. jonavark says:

    As someone who has done just about everything to make a living I can draw parallels between the pleasure of doing VFX and 3D and doing other things like software, hardware, and jobs I really didn’t want but had to do but I had to.

    When all is said and done 99.9% of VFX workers don’t get any more recognition or respect than plumbers or garbage men do. That realization tends to level out the feeling of ultimate accomplishment and satisfaction of working on large feature films. So I take it when I can get it and I don’t really mind it much when I am not involved in it at all. There are large gaps in my IMDB where I ventured off to do other things that I consider greater accomplishments, though not as personally satisfying as I wish.

    I never idolized Steve Jobs. By any stretch. He was just a wealthy, monopolistic marketing ‘genius’. That’s all. It is easy for a billionaire to make speeches about lofty goals. Don’t ever take them too seriously.

  4. JTJR says:

    Good article. The reality is that nobody is entitled to be able to do what they love.

  5. b says:

    Them winners tell funny stories while losers cry deal !


  6. edwardh says:

    It’s the famous lie of the american dream (which is obviously also somewhat true for many other wealthy countries)… dangling a carrot in front of many donkeys.
    Some of them may actually get a bite but that’s just maybe 1% of them. All others may just die thinking they have failed when many things were rigged against them from the start.

    And… I also don’t get why people should idolize Steve Jobs. Yes, there are in general many who are too easily impressed by wealth and power and either don’t want to see the evil usually behind it (I don’t want to know what people will find in Oprah’s closets once she finally kicks the bucket…) or are impressed exactly by that. By the sheer ruthlessness and greed. But I don’t see the relation to our field in particular.

  7. DTESuperman says:

    It turns from passionate to practical the moment you don’t give a shit what movies you work on and fail to see the finished product in its entirety of the big screen. Who’s looking forward to working on something like Rob Schneider’s Toy Commercial Pt. 6?

  8. BrandonD says:

    I think it’s very difficult to take a hobby you love and turn it into a career without it wearing on you. On top of that, most of us fought tooth and nail to make it in this industry and in many ways our personal lives suffered accordingly. My first 10 years of VFX was all about becoming the best artist I could be 24/7 and always pushing the limits – then I took a break from VFX to go fight a war. On my return my priorities immediately shifted and suddenly I lost that drive and passion I had for VFX. For the last 6 years I’ve let off on the gas and put all of my spare time into my personal life and I have been incredibly happy because of it. However the result is my VFX skills have plateaued and I have little interest in returning to the cutting edge of my craft, which in some ways is painfully disappointing. Now it’s been all about being an efficient, reliable and productive team member – not a VFX superstar. It’s weird, I don’t even go to SIGGRAPH or read Cinefex anymore.

  9. Paul says:

    I just cannot find better equilibrium in Apple/Jobs fanboys being precisely useful idiots. The equation is just so perfect. Dare to raise the curtain.

    VFX Soldier in an earlier thread you said you liked vfx but you don’t loved it, now you say you love it…consistency much?!

  10. Paul says:

    Work is work, I work so I can get money, if I could make $100/h by mowing lawns I’d do it in a heart beat. The point is that I love vfx or anything else by doing that on my own time, at home or outside. I can love flying on the week-end but would have a hard time saying I love flying if I were an airline pilot or a banner tower.

    For me work = no love. If you love your work what do you say to the ones your share your life with…that you love them times 2?!

    I guess it’s more a semantic issue than anything else.

    And yes I did catch that line because I think it says a lot in regards to you and your blog.

  11. Sr says:

    Kevin Arnold – The Narrator: When you’re a little kid you’re a bit of everything; Scientist, Philosopher, Artist. Sometimes it seems like growing up is giving these things up one at a time.

  12. Pssst says:

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    Must have created iPhone apps that have been released to the APP store.

    • I assume that person need to be based in India?

    • Yes, You are right.

    • We have 200 software engineers in India with the skills to help you.

  13. IamAGhost says:

    Hello Guys,

    Life is shit sometimes. I loved vfx since kid, i wanted to study in Vancouver Film School, i come from a poor country, and I didnt have the resources at that time. I started with architecture , 1 year later i jumped into a Designer job directly, working for 6 years, dreaming one day , someone will see some talent and hire me and work in a Hollywood movie. I get paid like shit until that moment, and I wanted to convince my self that this dream to work in that movie, should give me everything ‘better life, better conditions, better shots, etc’ .That job appear last year. I worked in some cool hollywood movies, and after that what happen? We went all together to watch the movie with the company, and I did more shots with more shit than senior people, and what happen? I was not there, not in the credits, Do you know how bad you feel? , also they tried to convince me after that I signed a contract for a short time, and I signed a full time job. Of course i was sad like hell and feel like eating shit, for the very first time I understood what’s going on. Its all politics, bullshit and more shit. It’s all about politics, name, credits and corruption, i see it everywhere, I am tired of bad work conditions. Of course I would love to denounce this company that ruined my dreams in certain way, and did me a incredible mental damage, as well with my financial situation.
    I dont know if someone will do something one day, looks like this industry is going down like making burgers in macdonalls, paying shit money . I will await the moment that revolution start to denounce this fucking company who ruinned part of my life…, is not just a career.

    Get your own conclusion.

    Ah, Now everything turned into money, of course i keep loving what i do, ‘BUT’ just only when i do personal shots. I dont like the idea to feed someone’s life anymore. Its fucked around the world.

    Cheers, and enjoy to be a VFX Soldier. 🙂

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