Full text of Don’t Just Follow Your Passion: A Talk for Generation Y by Eunice Hii at TEDxTerryTalks 2012 conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Don’t Just Follow Your Passion – A Talk for Generation Y by Eunice Hii at TEDxTerryTalks 2012
So when I was younger, my friend and I had a dream that we would open our very own pie shop. We knew what pies we would serve, we knew where we wanted our shop to be located. We even knew the name we wanted to call our shop.
And I was thinking about all of this, because I am currently in my fifth year and in my last semester, I have one month left to school and I have no idea what I am going to do when I graduate.
I was complaining to a friend of mine, a very dear friend of mine that I was so annoyed with all these people that were asking me, Eunice, what are you going to do when you graduate? In my first week here at school, 29 people asked me what are you going to do when you graduate.
And I was complaining to my friend of mine, and she showed me this photo. Needless to say, I was really tempted to run home and change my Facebook profile picture, but I didn’t. But I did have some big questions that I wanted answered, and I wanted some career advice, some solid career advice that would guide me.
So I did a quick Google search of top career advice that’s out there, and let me tell you there is a lot of advice that you do not want to go through. But I want to share some of that with you here today.
One entrepreneur said that you should just do what caters to your strengths. If you are good at it, just go do it. But then she ended her article by saying, just do anything really. So I was kind of confused.
One artist said “Just move to New York”, another writer said “Don’t move to New York, if you want to be happy.”
And one CEO said “Whatever you do, just listen to your dad”. I can see some dads nodding today.
But the top advice that I found, this theme that came up over and over again was this theme of: Do what you love, follow your passion and Steve Jobs even went so far to say in his commencement address to the Stanford University graduating class of 2005. He said “Don’t settle for anything less, than work that you love.” And this is a theme that I see when I look to role models of mine. Mother Teresa who devoted herself to helping others; Muhammad Yunus, who I love not just because his name sounds like mine, but because he eradicated poverty in many areas by basically developing this concept of microfinance when he started the Grameen Bank and empowered women to become the bread winners in their family.
And Nora Ephron who was able to turn every tragedy in her life into a comedic masterpiece. She wrote, maybe it’s like when Harry met Sally. And I look at these people and whether you admire them or not, the point is that you could substitute any of your role models into his slots and I guarantee you that they would be passionate about the work that they do, too.
And it seems to me that it’s this big question, that graduates have. It’s this question of choice. Do I go down this road where I choose what I love, this passion of mine, where there is probably more uncertainty, or do I go down this other road, get a job, find some financial security and maybe worry about loving life later on. Which one do I choose or maybe I find a road in the middle, if I am lucky?
For the past three years I have actually aired on the side of telling students to choose their passion. In my second year of university, I co-founded an amazing project called Passion Project with a dear friend of mine and my roommate at that time, Tarini Fernando. And Tarini and I had these two big frustrations. It was middle of December 2009, and if you are a student, you know this a very bleak time. It’s the middle of exams. And we just got to talking one night. We had these two big frustrations. We had, on the one hand, this frustration that we weren’t doing what we loved anymore because we were too busy studying. And we saw our fellow students in the same predicament.
And on the other hand, all of these students wanted to make a difference in their communities but they didn’t necessarily know how, and we were wrestling with these two questions of how do we more of what we love, and how do we make a big difference in our community. And so we thought, can we answer these two questions in one project.
So Passion Project was born. We had no resources, no funding. We didn’t even really know how to explain this concept that we had in our minds to our peers. But nevertheless, we went ahead with it. And we have had some amazing successes.
The first event that we put on was a concert at the Pit Pub and we got just under a hundred students to come out. We raised just under $1000 for charities that all the musicians chose. Another event that we had was a photography exhibition which you can see in the bottom corner. And again, all the money that we raised went to charities that the photographers chose.
And over the years, we wanted to move away from the financial model of doing things where we solely donated money to the charities that the artists chose. And we wanted to take a more hands-on approach on how we made a difference in our community. And so we partnered with the UBC Community Learning Initiative in February of this year, and we put on a 3-day reading week project in areas of slam poetry and photography and music. And we worked with great sixers and seveners. I don’t know if that that’s a word seveners in a local intercity elementary school here in Vancouver.
And one of my favorite stories that came from those three days was — there was a little guy named Sam. And Sam didn’t want to share anything that he wrote in his slam poetry workshops. And the poets that were there in the project Francis and Alberto, they worked with him everyday, “Sam, you know, it’s okay. You can get up and share what you have written” and we came to the last year and he still was reluctant to share, he was really shy, but we had an assembly that day in front of the whole school. And Sam gets up, in front of the whole school and shares not just a poem but a full on rap. And I thought that was a huge testament to the courage that can be borne if you are really passionate about something.