Dawn Sutherland

Paycheck or Passion: Is There a Generational Divide?

Paycheck or Passion is such a fun topic for me.  I have written and spoken about the elusive paycheck, passion, and happiness debate many times over the years.  Currently, I am having fun watching how different generations are embracing the issue with newfound post-pandemic fervor.

Imagine this.  You are a parent.  Your twenty-one-year-old child advises you they are dropping out of school to pursue a career in skateboarding.  How do you react?   Do you support their career choice?

Now imagine this.  You are a 55-year-old parent who was able to work from home for the last two-plus years.  You loved getting to ditch your 20-hour-a-week commute.  You were able to work from anywhere. You produced more, got paid the same (or more), and saved on life energy and the economic cost of the commute. Maybe you even added a bit more of the things you enjoy into your schedule. Now your organization wants everyone back at the office full-time.  Do you automatically say yes and return to the office?  Or do you try to negotiate an arrangement that achieves the organization’s goals, and your more fluid life goals?  Do you look for another job that comes closer to your desired schedule?  Are you willing to give up the time freedom gains you had become accustomed to?  Are you really any different than that twenty-one-year-old?

Welcome to the paycheck and passion debate 20.22

The 50-plus crowd

I laughingly say that the 50-plus crowd is being reminded of what it would be like to be twenty-one again.  This time they are not having to totally conform to institutional and geographically designed constraints.

Let me state for the record.  There is one variable every generation must contend with regarding the illusionary didactic choice of choosing a paycheck or following their passion.  That one variable is everyone must have a way to support their lifestyle.  From the best I can tell, money still does not grow on trees, yet the ways you earn money are changing and expanding.  When the 55-year-old was 21 (approximately 1988), the internet was still years from becoming a thing.  All banking needed a human teller to assist, and all stock trades needed a broker to complete.  There was no online ordering and therefore there was no eCommerce.  Whole segments of employment and business development were yet to be conceived.

That is, in part, why I find it fun to compare how generations are facing their current employment and business creation choices.

Let me share two recent examples.

The first is a woman of my generation.  On a recent family trip to the Grand Canyon, I came upon a woman painting and took the photo you see here.Dawn Sutherland We then approached her.  Dawn Sutherland has made her career as an artist painting the Canyon — and knowing every detail of what she paints.  Dawn asked how much we knew about the Canyon.  When we said not much more than what the signs tell us, she asked if she could share with us some things we might enjoy.  Of course, we said yes!

Dawn’s joy and love of her subject then came alive.  She shared that in addition to having her life’s work painting the Canyon, she and her husband are also involved with the preservation of the Canyon.  Can Passion meet a Paycheck? Yes! Dawn is an example of doing what you love and creating a career.  If I was a betting girl, I would put my money that appreciation of beauty and enthusiasm were two of her topic VIA strengths.

Next, I share a coversation I had with a part of my intergeneration tribe, Trey Huntley.  Trey openingly shares the journey through his 20s building a career that is lifestyle friendly, supports his family well, and allows for the flexibility to dream other dreams.

Trey and I had this conversation to help others in that important decade — the 20-somethings know has Gen Z — appreciate how far you can go in just 10 years.  What I hope you take away from listening to Trey is that he brings a lot of enthusiasm to his career, but he never mentions that real estate is a deep passion.  He has found that although he would not call real estate a passion, it allows him to use many of his natural strengths such as enjoyment of people, and allows him the flexibility to continue to design and live a life that gets closer and closer to what Dawn has created.

So is there a generational divide?  When it comes to wanting and achieving passion from how you create your paycheck, my observational answer is, no.  Metaphorically, I would say the opportunity to currently create a lifestyle-friendly career that inspires you is as big as the Grand Canyon.

About the author

Andrea Goeglein is part organizational psychologist, part entrepreneur, and all about success—your success. She understands both the pressures you face and the dreams that inspire you. Andrea merges her experience as a business owner with her training in Positive Psychology to provide effective, efficient and challenging personal development products and services. She combines an emphasis on objective assessment with an approach that is always powered by your spirit and guided by your goals. Her professional development offerings are based in theory and backed by direct business knowledge.

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