At age 25, would you pursue a good paying corporate job that makes you unhappy or a hobby that makes you happy but has no guarantee to pa…

Answer by Neil Kandalgaonkar:

I don't agree with how you define your choices.

First of all, you can change this dilemma into a more positive choice, by bringing "the bills" into play. Control your costs! There are many more possibilities if you don't get sucked into debt or a mortgage that requires a high corporate salary. (If you're in debt, your top priority may be to get out of it ASAP, which will modify the choices below.)

Next – "hobby" versus "job" is the wrong way to think about it. If you are going to focus on your "hobby", it's actually going to become your "job". Many an entrepreneur has been foiled this way – they loved baking pies, not running a pie factory, but now they're stuck behind a calculator doing payroll.

You can only know if you should be the salaried pie baker, or the entepreneurial pie boss, by knowing yourself.

And this is hard! I sympathize greatly with you – at age 25, if you've done the standard educational track we prescribe to kids, you probably know almost nothing about yourself. You've spent twenty years learning how to adapt yourself rapidly to the arbitrary demands of this course or that course. Even extra-curricular activities these days are highly prescribed and achievement-oriented, so they may not have illuminated who you really are.

So you may need to do something to figure this out. It's not wrong to take a year or two outside the corporate or student track – as long as you spend time trying on different roles, or exploring things you've always wondered about.

This is the main reason why corporate jobs are so alienating – you're working on some large scale thing and investing only a tiny sliver of your talents.

So work on something smaller where you invest the whole you. Maybe it is at your corporate job – if you're a natural wheeler-dealer, maybe you talk them into entrusting you with a lot of autonomy on a small project all your own. Or maybe it is that hobby you discuss – most people need to go outside the corporate world to get something where they can invest all of themselves.

But you know, it barely matters. I don't care if it's a student painter franchise, a Burning Man art group, a cross-country road trip, a rock band, seducing as many members of the appropriate sex as possible, learning a martial art to competitive levels, anything. Anything that requires you to rely on yourself and all your talents will show you who you really are.

A useful way to tell if you're on the right track: you accumulate stories worth telling.

Once your choices are clarified, try to design your life accordingly.

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