Just Follow Your Heart

What Works and What Doesn't

Ever since that fateful night when it was first uttered, the phrase "Just Follow Your Heart” has come to symbolize the very essence of my husband’s philosophy about choosing a career – and nobody in our family can say it with a straight face.

It all started one Christmas Eve a couple of years ago. We were visiting with our grown kids and they were catching us up on what their friends were all doing, now that everybody was out of college. Here were the reports we got: Friend One was moving to Costa Rica to study Spanish. Friend Two was heading to New York, hoping to "be discovered” on Broadway. Friend Three had decided to go back and get a different major in school. Friend Four was taking some time off to write a novel. Friend Five was going on tour with his rock band. Friend Six was thinking about becoming a fulltime blogger. Are you sensing a pattern here? Good. It means you’re paying attention. And by the way, if you also picked up on a total absence of the word "job”, believe me, you’re not alone. Our son-in-law, Daniel finally voiced what I knew my husband had been thinking the whole time, "How are those guys going to support themselves?”

Without missing a beat, almost as if she had fully anticipated the question all along, my daughter Lauren replied, "Well, I don’t know about them, but I know exactly what Dad would say if one of us wanted to do something like that. He’d say, ‘Just follow your heart!’” Immediately we all burst into hysterical laughter – even Marc. And you would have too, if you only knew how absurd that notion really was.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my husband has anything against following one’s heart – just as long as one’s heart leads one to a steady paycheck. For him, employment is Job One. Just ask my children. They’ll tell you they were the only ones in junior high who had to earn their keep (okay, granted it was only babysitting and lawn mowing, but at the time you’d have thought their dad was forcing them to bust rocks with a sledge hammer alongside the highway!) Both of them worked all the way through high school and college too, but that’s hardly out of the ordinary. What sets them apart was how strongly and swiftly they were "encouraged” to land jobs after graduation.

For Marc, it mattered little whether or not a job sounded fun, or exciting, or glamorous. The objective was to get hired – and fast! In Lauren’s case she didn’t have anything lined up by diploma time so Marc gave her exactly thirty days on his dime, after which she’d be completely on her own. (And he reminded her that seldom do companies hand employees a paycheck on their very first day. Usually folks have to work a couple of weeks, or even a month to get one, so she’d better plan accordingly.) She says there’s nothing like that kind of "incentive” to send her scooting down to the staffing service, and I’ve got to hand it to her, by the end of the month she’d been employed by a great company in time to pay her next month’s rent.

And then there’s Jason (you’ve no idea how many times I’ve used that line!) His post-graduation story wasn’t so succinct. Absent the 30-day safety net offered to his sister, our son sold off most of his worldly possessions and headed west where he first spent a few weeks as a surfing instructor, and then did a stint at "advertising” that basically amounted to putting flyers on windshields in parking lots. I think one week his paycheck was less than twenty bucks. (And for this we paid $80K for a business degree from a private university?) Through it all, Marc steadfastly refused to bail him out or even to send him so much as a fiver for a chalupa. Enter that word "incentive” again. Just as Marc predicted, within a few months Jason had figured out that the shortest distance between himself and his next meal was a "real job” and not long afterward he landed one with a terrific corporation.

Just follow your heart? Sure it’s a lovely idea but there’s a sentiment that far better captures the way my husband feels, and here it is: "A thing of beauty is a job forever.” As far as Marc is concerned, that’s one you can take to the bank!

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