Do what you love or love what you do?


Absorbed in his drawing

Absorbed in his drawing

Photo credit: Mr Khenghuai

July 2014 was an eventful month for me. I visited Furano flower fields of Hokkaido, contracted dengue and met Steven Wiltshire. All within the same week.

Despite my extremely low platelet count, I made my way to the Paragon, where Mr Wiltshire was finishing his last strokes of the 4m Singapore skyline. The drawing, commissioned by SPH as a gift to Singapore on the company’s 30th birthday and Singapore’s 50th birthday, will be displayed at the URA Singapore City Gallery for public viewing as of today. Admission is free. [NB: Visitors to Singapore, this is a must-stop to view constructed models of Singapore landscape. There’s also a Hawker centre where you can try Singapore food, and famous Chicken rice, with thumbs up from Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. Most locals will say all 3 chicken rice stalls there are just as good. ]

I’ve seen documentaries on Mr Wiltshire years ago, on the Singapore Airlines inflight programmes. As a young boy, the documentary went suggested that he could sketch architectural scenes from memory after seeing it on a helicopter ride. We witnessed this for Singapore, although his mind did not seem to register circular objects such as the upcoming Sports Hub.  Nonetheless, an amazing feat.

As the late Chinese painter Qi Baishi would say, “paintings must be something between likeness and unlikeness”.

Mr Wiltshire’s story is very inspiring. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 yrs old, he might have had some kind of childhood trauma, as he was also mute. His story is in Wiki.  As he had expressed an interest in art, his teacher in the Special School would take away his art supplies so he could ask for them – to get him to utter words like “paper”.  From these accounts, no mention was made of his special in-born talent when he joined the school at 5 yrs old. It was at 7 yrs old when his teacher brought him to trips to discover them that this human camera talent was triggered. [Hurray for the teachers and their dedication.]

Diagnosing your talent from your interest

The ancient wealthy Chinese families too have an interesting custom of helping one year olds choose their careers.  Items such as “stamp seal”, calligraphy brush, bow,  abacus, monastery beads are laid out, and baby put in the centre.

If he chooses a calligraphy brush or book, he has an inclination towards being a scholar. Abacus – business. Bow- warrior and general. Stamp seal – government official.

It appears that Tibetan Buddhism follows a similar custom of finding their reincarnated Dalai Lama by presenting these items to a young child (after divine narrowing to the village) to select items belonging to the late Dalai Lama. [As told to me by our Tibetan guide who also lectures at a university in Lhasa.]

Do you do what you love or love what you do?

Sometimes, too much choice may not be a good thing. Steve Jobs famously said, “Follow your passion”, do what you love.  He followed that statement with an unsexy “Love what you do” – although he’ll always be remembered for “Do what you love”.  But Mr Jobs’s real love seemed to be in Eastern mysticism. After he dropped out of college, he joined Atari because he needed money to survive and fund his trip to India. Born in San Francisco, being involved in electronics, having friends who toyed with electronics in their garage and in school clubs seemed like fish to water, something in his environment. Read:

After he was asked to leave Apple, he continued in this field. I believe that his famous quote “Do what you love” applied to this second cross-road of his life.  Should he do something else, or continue in the field he had earlier chosen.

For young people, still struggling with their career choices, love what you do:

(a) Expose yourself to different fields, styles but

(b) Do find a home-base where you can focus your enthusiasm [Sometimes its the only door opened for you.]

(c) Develop your expertise and skills

(d) Persist and don’t regret the doors that were closed, then

(d) Experiment, cross fertilise and update it with current trends.

Eventually, do what you love. The reason we love something is because we’re good at it. But we all start off as amateurs. Even the talented Mr Wiltshire.

For some of us who’ve not found our passion, it could be because the world is not ready for your product yet. Timing is everything. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book “Outliers”, many of the titans in Silicon Valley were born around the same age e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. Not so much superstition but that the technology had to be available for the mini computer to be used in mass consumption.

Have courage, in the meantime, and practice your craft. Craft your narrative. Success may come suddenly. Then, you’ll be doing what you love. In the meantime, love what you do.

“A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.”

“Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back.”

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: