To Be or Not to Be: The Job Question

by Eric Tsai

Hey everyone, I added some photos to my ongoing public exhibition: Brands, Spaces,  Interactions – my investigation using iphone and social network tools.

While I was away in the past few days, I received an email that I found appealing. It was from a reader asking for advice and he sounded confused.  I can relate to the concerns and the emotions from this person so I am going to discuss it.

Here it is:

Hello Eric

I was following twitter stumbling to your blog. I’m deeply intrigued with the posts of who, what, when to sell the stuff. I understand you’re in multi-disciplinary fields. I’m not sure if architecture is one.

I myself am into fields of architecture. The prime question is it worth going into. The job doesn’t offer much money. I’m looking into a field that is related to architecture with a more promising paycheck and job security.

I’m just wondering in your knowledge if architecture is a job to enjoy with all nighters and high competition


My first thought: to sell what stuff?  Why be so concerned about money?

The Way Fear Works


The question outlined in Quincy’s email is defined by fear.  According to fear, you must not take high risks and play your cards save.  I’m concerned about a stable source of income.  If I get a job, I get security.  If not, either I’m not good enough or it’s too competitive.

Well — I hope nobody thinks that way especially in the creative fields.

As Quincy raises the question at the end, I know architecture is a job with all nighters and high competition.  I know the job doesn’t offer much money; I know how a promising paycheck can ease fear of job security.

See, I prefer to be working for something that I believe in, I want to make an impact everyday.  Unless your passion is making money, do you know your passion?  Getting an education is one way to find out about yourself, but the reality is you won’t know until you test out the water.  Fear can be good if you learn to overcome it and use it as an inspiration.  When successful people get together, they either like to talk about their passion or their mistakes.

Logic And Emotion

The biggest challenge everyone faces today is balancing logic with emotion.  It’s hard to believe, but you’re the one creating the fear by believing it. What bothered me was that Quincy seems to be a creative person and his fear is dictating his logic.  He’s in the field of architecture, he should know if he enjoys the all-nighters and the competition there.

Ironically, I had similar situation from my younger brother who is a landscape architect.  He was laid off last year, frustrated, and depressed.  In fact, many times he thought about changing career by going into real estate or become a Wall Street trader.  I encouraged him to look inside his heart and search for his passion.  He started freelancing and has since picked up some clients now.

Let me be clear – income is important. But try using your logic and do something each and everyday to get closer to your passion.

I am not a C-level executive, and I realize that I didn’t enjoy being one.  I’ll write more about this later, but on my cards it usually prints creative or marketing director instead of CEO.  When someone asked me, “What do you do?” I simply say I do design and marketing – two things I really enjoy working on. If your life (including career) is driven by fear, I think you will have a high probability of a mid-life crisis down the road.  That’s when you realized you don’t like what you do or who you married then you buy a Porsche and dress like you’re in your 20s again.  Instead of trying to conform to your fears, spend your time conquering them will benefit you in making logical decisions.

Focus On Your Passion Will Go A Long Way

When I first started doing web design in 2000, there were very few tools and freebies like what’s available today.  Everything has to be hand coded with some knowledge of HTML, image editing, and web servers.  Now majority of the web publishing are done by none technical people – fast and easy.

Does that mean there is no job for web designers anymore?  No, it simply means only the strong survived.  And those that endured the commoditization storm are required to do more while getting paid less.  One thing is certain, web designers are more incline to stay competitive when they’re fond of doing it.

The key take away is this:  most jobs will become scarce.  I call this the evolution of commoditization. It means a job will loose its value over time with the availability of knowledge and technology.  When knowledge becomes ubiquitous, it’s easier to obtain and retain for people, creating excessive supply of qualified candidates.

hypecycleIn business, commoditization arises from business process automation in an effort to reduce the steps required to do the same tasks.  Less steps means less labor, less labor means less resources or people to do the same job. Technology accelerates this theory as described in “Why Business Models Evolve and How to Stay On Top.

When a new niche or industry is created, the people that benefit the most will be the early adopters.  Still, they have to keep up with the rate of change in order to stay relevant. If you don’t like what you do or lack passion you will most likely treat your job as “just a job.” It’s why sometimes older, more senior level employees are replaced by younger, more passionate ones.

How a paycheck comes is up to how much you are willing to put in.  Perception is reality we all must overcome our fears to stay on top of our game.

When one door shuts, another opens.