Do what you love or love what you do?


Absorbed in his drawing

Absorbed in his drawing

Photo credit: Mr Khenghuai

July 2014 was an eventful month for me. I visited Furano flower fields of Hokkaido, contracted dengue and met Steven Wiltshire. All within the same week.

Despite my extremely low platelet count, I made my way to the Paragon, where Mr Wiltshire was finishing his last strokes of the 4m Singapore skyline.

The drawing, commissioned by SPH as a gift to Singapore on the company’s 30th birthday and Singapore’s 50th birthday, will be displayed at the URA Singapore City Gallery for public viewing as of today. Admission is free.

Even as a youth, Mr Wiltshire could sketch architectural scenes from memory after seeing it on a helicopter ride. He performed the same feat in Singapore, although he could not register circular objects such as the upcoming Sports Hub.  Nonetheless, an amazing feat.

As the late Chinese painter Qi Baishi would say, “paintings must be something between likeness and unlikeness”.

Mr Wiltshire’s story is very inspiring. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 yrs old, he was also mute. Source: Wiki.  Given his interest in art, his teacher in the Special School would take away his art supplies – to get him to utter words like “paper”.  It was only at 7 yrs old during a class outing that his human camera talent was triggered. [Hurray for the teachers and their dedication.]

Diagnosing your talent from your interest

The ancient wealthy Chinese families too have an interesting custom of helping one year olds choose their careers.  Items such as “stamp seal”, calligraphy brush, bow,  abacus, monastery beads are laid out, and baby put in the centre.

If he chooses a calligraphy brush or book, he has an inclination towards being a scholar. Abacus – business. Bow- warrior and general. Stamp seal – government official.

It appears that Tibetan Buddhism follows a similar custom of finding their reincarnated Dalai Lama by presenting these items to a young child (after divine narrowing to the village) to select items belonging to the late Dalai Lama. [As told to me by our Tibetan guide who also lectures at a university in Lhasa.]

Do you do what you love or love what you do?

Sometimes, too much choice may not be a good thing. Steve Jobs famously said, “Follow your passion”, do what you love.  He followed that statement with an unsexy “Love what you do” – although he’ll always be remembered for “Do what you love”.  But Mr Jobs’s real love seemed to be in Eastern mysticism. After he dropped out of college, he joined Atari because he needed money to survive and fund his trip to India. Born in San Francisco, being involved in electronics, having friends who toyed with electronics in their garage and in school clubs seemed like fish to water, something in his environment. Read:

After he was asked to leave Apple, he continued in this field. I believe that his famous quote “Do what you love” applied to this second cross-road of his life.  Should he do something else, or continue in the field he had earlier chosen.

Those of us still struggling with our career choices:

(a) Expose yourself to different fields
(b) Find a home-base to focus your enthusiasm [Sometimes its the only door opened for you.]
(c) Deepen skills
(d) Persist and don’t regret closed doors
(d) Experiment, cross fertilise and update with trends.

We all start off as amateurs. Even the talented Mr Wiltshire.

Eventually, do what you love. The reason we love something is because we become good at it. For some of us who’ve not found our passion, it may be the world is not ready. Timing is everything. In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell observed that many titans in Silicon Valley were born around the same age e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. No coincidence because technology had to be available for the mini computer in mass production.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

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