Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Deaf Jew (or, "On doing what you love")

When I taught private lessons in English to rich women the University of Guadalajara's stateside campus, I got to hear a lot of interesting stories. I've become something of an expert on "la metafisica," Chilean wines, and astrologically informed child-naming. I also got to hear about some awesome rises to (and sometimes falls from) power. My favorite of these had to do with a deaf Jew.

The Deaf Jew was a friend of one of my clients. He was an old man living in Mexico City. He came to Mexico on a boat as a child having just been orphaned by the holocaust. He had no family, no friends, no money, and no understanding of Spanish.

Reaching the shores of Mexico, hungry, he exercised a starving boy's ingenuity and tore up a shirt to remake the cloth into a necktie. Someone bought the tie, likely for pity's sake, and Deaf Jew made some change. He immediately bought more cloth and repeated the process.

Long story short: being orphaned, handicapped, foreign, and initially penniless, Deaf Jew forced his will upon the universe and ultimately became a millionaire upscale clothier.

These kinds of stories make me wonder if the cosmos might not actually be somewhat benevolent towards those who act. "Knock and the door shall be opened", etc. Maybe everything we want is there for the taking. Or maybe Deaf Jew just got lucky.

Anyhow, that's not my point. My point is about doing what you love.

On Hacker News, there's been this debate as of late about doing what you love. For me, that's drinking wine and having heart-to-hearts with strangers and throwing machetes at a tree. God I wish I could just do what I love.

There's a deep river of feeling in the American psyche, growing from a confluence of influences from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Disney, and robber baron capitalism, that tells us that our jobs are divine callings, and that we should find our joy and our identity in our careers.

I never much figured, though, that Deaf Jew just loved the hell out of neckties. In the same way, I never much figured that Bob Dylan's middle class Jewish bourgeois Yankee family talked in y'alls and if'ns, ma's and pa's. Nope, these two geniuses just found something that sold, and went with it, relentlessly.

Ultimately, I like to think that with this work they purchased the opportunity to do what they loved.

That is, at least, what I will keep telling myself. Until I see that wine/machete job posted.

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  1. Wouldn't the wine/machete thing get old if it was the only thing you did all day, every day? As cheesy as it is, I find that I appreciate the freedom to do as I please when it is tempered with a little enforced responsibility. All things in moderation, etc.

  2. Maybe the machete-ing itself would get old, but variations on that theme, never.

  3. I completely agree with this! The whole "doing what you love thing" doesn't exactly equate to being successful/reasonably being able to do what you actually love. But, I do think those most passionate at what they are doing can usually be the most successful. I think the key is somewhere in spinning what you love into a money making venture :) If only it were that easy!