Les Swanson, a former psychologist and guidance counsellor, now sucks shit out of people’s septic tanks full-time. Les is in his 60s and he loves his work. Here’s what Les had to say:
‘This (being a shit pumper) is not my wish for fulfilment, except for the fact that I love what I do, and I’m very good at it.’
‘So which one of those came first?’
‘Neither. What came first was the fact that nobody was doing it. What came second was my own hard-headed commitment to be very good at it. And then I did the thing that is the hardest thing to do. And that is, to figure out how to love something that you didn’t think you did.’
The happiest people may be the one’s who looked around, watched where everyone was going, and simply went the opposite direction. Les didn’t wake up one morning and decided that sucking shit out of sewers was his idea of fulfilment. He did it because it was a job nobody else was doing, and that gave him the opportunity to be one of the best at it plus the freedom to work when he wants.
Too often, we make the mistake of matriculating right out of high school and straight into uni, without having had any real life experience and ending up in jobs unwittingly chosen for us by our 16-year old selves. To make matters worse, government and educational institutions exploit our mindlessness, by lending us money they don’t have, to those who will never be able to pay it back, to train us for jobs that no longer exist.
So it’s on us to recognise that while being passionate and persistent are good heuristics, it’s even more important to be heading in the right direction. When you’re so fixated on your passion that it blinds you, you miss out on all the opportunities that you didn’t even know existed. Let’s do better than adhering to conventional wisdom, which tells us to to follow our passion and trust that everything will work out in the end. Consider instead, to always bring your passion with you, to doing what nobody else can has done.
Inspiration for this post came from Mike Rowe on the Tim Ferriss show.