Will Wilkinson, the day after Steve Jobs’ death:
As an undergrad I was an art major. Frankly, few of my fellow art majors were talented enough to make a living at it, even after four (or more!) years of training. Sure they loved art, but in the immortal words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?” “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.
Steve Jobs’ gorgeous gadgets have no doubt helped some do what they love, and better. But mostly iStuff is so beloved because it offers such attractively pleasant diversion from the disappointment of having settled of necessity on lives we do not thoroughly love. To whom is watching Iron Man 2 on an iPad alone not settling?
For my part, I intend to be the dickens out of myself and chase my dreams like a starved coyote chases a vole because I’m so awesome there’s practically no chance this won’t turn out spectacularly well. Which is why I write blog posts for very small amounts of money in Iowa.
Will Wilkinson, a half a year later:
I think the most important thing I took away from all that time with my nose in happiness research and behavioral econ is that we overestimate the value of what we already have and so underestimate the upside of taking a chance, leaving something behind, and making a big change. Most of us end up where we are through a sort of drift. Sometimes that works out splendidly. And drift hasn’t not worked out for me. I really like what I do. But, alas, I don’t really love it. I never wanted to be a pundit or a “public intellectual.” I always wanted to be an artist of some sort and I still want that. I want to make awesome shit people love. It’s my new motto: make awesome shit people love. So here we go!
Many of the people I like and admire on the internet like and admire Will Wilkinson’s punditry. I don’t.
In fact, I count Will (there’s that first name blogger thing again) among a small group of internet pundits I avoid reading because Will’s writing reliably makes me uncivil.
And that’s a shame, because Will is a great writer, and the fact that what he writes makes we want to strangle him doesn’t blind me to that fact. I think and have thought for some time now that Will’s talents are wasted on mere punditry, and I’m happy to see he’s moving on to something more important, to him, to all of us.
So I offer Will my best wishes for happiness and success, and one (small) amendment to his new motto: Love making awesome shit people love. Love it, and don’t settle for anything less!