Overheard While Hiking: With Millennials, the Passion vs. Money Debate Rages On

Our unretouched view of the Hollywood sign. © Marissa Brassfield
Our unretouched view of the Hollywood sign. © Marissa Brassfield

Yesterday, Mike and I hiked the Hollywood Sign hike at Griffith Park -- a 6+ mile roundtrip walk that takes you directly above and behind the famed landmark -- and we overheard an overwhelmingly common discussion topic among fellow millennial hikers: the old passion vs. money debate.

Every overheard conversation had two parts. First, the millennial was in a job that paid well and satisfied their parents/family, but wasn't significant or fulfilling. Second, the millennial expressed a desire to go into another field that paid less but was more fulfilling, significant or enjoyable.

Overhearing all this evoked a lot of... questions:

  • When will our generation decide to stop making major life decisions based on whether our family will be satisfied in the short term?
  • Why do we still think we can only have one career?
  • Is the best of both worlds for millennials a "moonlighting" approach, where we have a job that pays the bills and a side gig that lets us pursue passions?
  • Is this passion vs. money debate just our generation's version of the artist vs. businessman debate our parents faced, or is it a unique shift enabled by growing abundance?

I take a slightly different approach to my career than most.

For starters, I'm grateful to have two careers with massive growth potential and fulfilling yet challenging activities.

But it's still easy to burn yourself out when you're having fun. And I credit my mindset and approach for avoiding that.

I look at the week as a whole, and all the activities I completed within that week. Exercise, cooking, sleep, reading, leisure, energy-giving work, energy-depleting work, fun work, tedious work. Each activity either gives energy or takes it away.

So long as the overall week feels right -- as in, all of my activities left me with an overall energy surplus -- it's a success.

Sometimes I work more, and harder, on tedious activities that exhaust me. In response, I scale up the energy-giving activities: fun, sleep, exercise, close relationships. It's an ebb and flow rather than a constant current.

Back to the passion vs. money debate, I wanted to tell them all: you can have both. That's not the decision -- which to pick.

The real decision is if you're ready to commit to a life of your choosing. Are you really ready to weather the uncertainty to pursue an unproven, uncharted life path in the name of passion, significance and fulfillment?

Some get excited by that challenge. I know I do. Others would rather pursue the sure bet, and that's okay too. We need both types of people in this world. But above all, we need people with the confidence to make commitments to themselves.

Marissa Brassfield

Marissa Brassfield is a productivity expert, branding consultant and communication efficiency specialist who helps entrepreneurs and high-performance teams become ridiculously efficient.

Marissa has worked with some of the most visionary entrepreneurs on the planet. She’s dialed in to the frustrations these results-oriented, interrupt-driven individuals have with bureaucracy and suboptimal team performance. Her coaching helps entrepreneurs counteract growth-killing practices and unlock unparalleled performance from their support staff.