Don’t Just Follow Your Heart, Be Smart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAp“My boyfriends a grad student at the U,” said the young waitress at a local diner.

“Really,” I replied. “What’s he getting his degree in?”

“He’s finishing his PhD degree in performance jazz!” she replied with great pride as she filled our coffee cups and moved to the next booth.

My wife looked at me and leaned forward, “A PhD in performance jazz?” she whispered. “Where’s he going to get a job with enough pay to make a living and repay all his student loans?”

I said, “He’s a musician. He’s following his heart, not his head.”

Which reminds me of another story. My brother Dick and I were in high school in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the space race between Russia and the USA heated up. From the first launch of the Sputnik to the first man on the moon, Dick wanted to be an astronaut. He loved flying and earned his private pilot’s license on his 17th birthday, so flying was in his heart. His grades were good and he had an IQ high enough to enter the space program so he inquired about it – he was following his heart.

But no matter how much he wanted to be an astronaut and no matter how great a pilot he already was, and no matter how high his IQ stood, he could never be an astronaut because he was too tall. At 17 years old he was over 6’ tall and back then no astronaut that tall could fit into a space capsule.

Brother Dick could not follow his heart so he had to be smart. Instead of flying as an astronaut, he went to college, then joined the Navy (like our dad did during World War 2), and learned to fly the Navy way and for several years flew the most sophisticated jets the Navy had; and he’s been flying ever since. Now, even in his retirement, he teaches others how to fly the most technically advanced executive aircraft there is.

No doubt you’ve read the quotes of those who advise you to find your passion and follow your heart. The advice sounds good at first, but is it? Of course it is, to some degree, but somewhere in the process you have to be smart.

I honestly hope our waitress’ boyfriend finds a really great job as a performing jazz musician and that he pays off his college debt early. But any following of the heart needs to be preceded by the use of your smart. That is, you must have some logic to your decisions and a plan that reaches beyond the passion of the moment.

“Where might this passion lead me?” is a worthy query. And to ask, “What will be required of me to fulfill my dream?” is imperative. In other words, you need to have a reasonable expectation of what it will take, followed by a willingness to pay the price. Then you can follow your heart.

This does not mean you should not dream big and follow your passion. It means there is a difference between a sincere vision of your future and a delusional desire to be someone or do something just because it looks cool or sounds exciting.

Today’s Kick in the Pants is: Don’t just follow your heart, be smart.

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