Stop Telling Me to Tell My Son to Pick a Practical Career

Ask my 10-year-old son, Mr. T, what he wants to be when he grows up and he has one answer: musician. He used to have two answers, either a musician or a professional skateboarder. Now he's down to the one.

Plenty of people tell me I should discourage him. "How's he going to pay the bills as a musician?" they say. "You've got time to change his mind on that one," they'll add. Or, I hear about how I better hope he grows out of it.

But why? What's so noble about a "practical" career, and why do we insist on believing that pursuing your passions consigns you to a life of poverty?

PS: That's all self-taught.


Unknown said…
"why do we insist on believing that pursuing your passions consigns you to a life of poverty?" Fear? Insecurity? Complete lack of imagination?

"How's he going to pay the bills as a musician?" Really? Person asking that question has NO imagination and/or no idea how the music industry works. Song writers, producers, session musicians, promoters, teacher, marry someone with a lucrative full-time job, Jonathon Coulton-like internet celebrity, one of the small percentage of musicians who become stars because they're actually great. Or maybe he'll have a job that makes money but has a family that has an awesome time playing music together.

My brother 'wanted to be a musician'. He plays a few instruments, and studied composition & music business. In his composition classes back in the early nineties, he learned about computers and midis and that combined with the music business classes lead him to get a masters in database marketing. Now he has a day job he likes and two kids who play guitar and piano with him and his daughter has been staring in the musicals at her high school and is looking at a career in entertainment.

But when it comes down to it, no one has any business telling a 10 year old that there's something wrong with his dreams. My 9 year old daughter wants to be "an asteroid miner". Hard to know at this point what that even will mean in 12-13 years when she wants a job. My 13 yr old has a hundred interests from chemistry to creative writing and knows she doesn't know what kind of job she wants. Nothing wrong with that, either.

You should come up with something random to say to people who want to know how he'll pay the bills. Like, "Oh he's already a champion artisanal pickle maker." Or, "well I don't like to tell people about this but has some weird ability to know where to dig to find gold in the ground so I'm sure he won't have to worry about money.'

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