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FAQ 40:
... vs. FEELINGS

June, 2004 (last update: January, 2014)

NOTE: these articles are primarily aimed at aspiring game designers, but many of the concepts described herein also apply to those who aspire to other types of jobs in the game industry. This article is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.

It's what I do that teaches me what I'm looking for.

Pierre Soulages, French artist, 1953

I'm always going on and on about how you should follow your passions. Yet I also say, time and time again, that you should not trust your feelings. This might be taken as contradictory advice. So I thought I'd explain the difference.

Author Joseph Campbell used the term "bliss" instead of "passions." He said you should " follow your bliss" to enjoy your life. I say it a little differently - I chose to use the word "passions." The word "feelings" definitely wouldn't fly - it's way too wimpy, for one thing! And for another thing, it means something completely different.

What are "Passions," and Why Should They Guide You?

By "passions," I mainly mean "creative or constructive endeavors or activities that you enjoy immersing yourself in."

Some folks are passionate about coin collecting. Starting with filling out a selection of a type of coin, the collector becomes aware of better ways to collect (specializing in higher-quality coins of that type, or branching out into other types of coins) - and may even start trading and dealing, and might even turn it into a small business. That's "following your passion" in the truest sense.

Another person might get into playing video games, but his passion for these games takes him beyond simply sitting and playing them. Soon he's discussing the goods and bads of particular games with friends, writing commentary on them online (or in letters to the editors of game magazines, or to the game creators themselves). You know he's following his passions when he starts getting his own ideas for games and writing them down and looking for ways to pitch them to publishers.

This part is very important. Therefore I'm making this big, bold, and red. Your passions are your own personal Yellow Brick Road. Following your passions will lead you to your own personal Emerald City. You probably won't understand this right away. My telling you this probably isn't enough. Remember those words. Sleep on them. And as you live your life, follow your interests -- do the things you enjoy doing -- try to find creative ways to apply your passions to your life. Someday you will see that I was right.

Maybe you see now what I mean by the word "passions." Maybe you don't yet.

Passions are not to be confused with "goals" or "obsessions."

Somebody might have a passion for video games, without having a goal of being in the industry of making games - because he also has other passions, at least one of which points him to some other career goal.

Somebody who gets into games so deeply that he can't take time away from the computer to eat or interact with his family or pay the bills isn't being passionate about games - he's being obsessive.

Somebody might be addicted to playing video games, without having a passion for making games, and without having any particular goal except to continue playing video games. He might prefer to call that being passionate, but I call that being lazy.

I usually use the word "passions" when I'm talking about choosing a college or choosing a degree path in college. Let me talk about how I chose my college for a moment - it might be illustrative (or it might just be self-indulgent, I'll let you be the judge). You can skip this part, if you want.

I've gone on too long about myself (as I usually do). I'm trying to make a point that many of today's students don't seem to grasp: if you study topics that interest you, then you are starting down an interesting path. And it will lead you to interesting places (places that are interesting for you).

All too often, folks focus on a place where they want to wind up, then ask everybody within earshot how they can get there.

Notice how I never say "yes, that is the one sure way to go." What I always say is, "is that the way that you would like to go?" It's not that I answer that way because I'm an annoying jerk. The reason I answer that way is because one's career path has to be a personal choice, indicated by one's passions. If everybody tells you that you have to be a programmer to get into the game biz, but you suck at programming, then it would be a mistake for you to major in programming - that would be the wrong path for you. There are many other ways you can go, and some of them are surely more suitable for you.

It appears to me that many young folks who have a goal of getting into the game biz believe that there is one equation:

[Degree X] + [hard work] + perseverance + time + luck = Game Biz Job

And all they think they have to do is find out what X is. They assume that X is a constant! They don't realize that X is a variable!

And the variable is you. Your passions.
The things you are good at, that interest you, that intrigue you. That keep you going.

No two cases are alike. For every hundred game industry aspirants, there are a hundred different paths to get into the game biz. If your interests, skills, and abilities are in line with one of the many different jobs in the game industry, then follow your passions. You're bound to find an interesting path that will lead you to an interesting place eventually.

Passions are what drive us. Someone who ignores his passions is not going to lead a happy life.

What are "Feelings," and Why Should You Ignore Them?

We mean a lot of different things when we say "feelings." Sometimes it means "the emotion I am experiencing." Sometimes it means "empathy." Sometimes it means "using one's sense of touch." And sometimes it means "I dunno, whatever."

When one doesn't have a lot of facts or experience to go on, one sometimes acts on hunches, rumors, intuition, or misunderstood perceptions. Or we briefly consider two options and find one of them a little less desirable for some reason or other, so go the other way. And we call that acting on our "feelings."

I remember when I was a college student. I'm sure I used the word very differently then than I do now that I'm older. I no longer say, "I feel that I should go this way." Now I use the word "guess" or "believe" instead. "Guess" is more honest. "Believe" is more decisive. "Feel" is too darned vague, and I don't use it in this context anymore.

Summing It Up

Analogy time.

Passion is the gasoline that powers our engines. Passion also powers our steering wheels. The road we follow must be seen clearly, through a windshield not fogged by our "feelings."

Analogy time is over now. Back to English. (^_^)

PASSIONS - Our passions help us know what we want to do, and they drive us in a direction of our own.

FEELINGS - We need cold hard facts and careful consideration to help us choose which way to go to get where we want to be. "Feelings" are usually what we have when we don't have the facts (or haven't considered them fully yet). Feelings, therefore, are not to be used as a guide. They often lead us astray. Heck, you might as well flip a coin, if you're just going to follow your feelings.

An Exception.

Sloper's rule #3*: There's an exception to every rule. Even this one.

In Lesson 25, I gave one example of an instance in which one could let one's feelings be a guide: when all else (after collecting and weighing the facts) balances out equally. "I feel that I should accept the job offer from Company A rather than Company B" is too vague, if you have not yet done a decision grid. But if you have carefully weighed the pros and cons of working at Company A versus Company B, and they are equally good opportunities, and your feelings lean you towards Company A, then the scales are tipped! Something you can't quite put your finger on is inclining you that way. So accept the offer from Company A.

It's either that, or flip a coin. And wouldn't you rather let your feelings tip the scale than a random coin toss? Besides, your feelings may have some realistic basis - maybe you "felt" more of an affinity for the people at Company A. That's usually a good thing, right?

* Don't ask me what Sloper's rules #1 and 2 are. I'd have to, like, think! Or something.

These things are very simple if you have a hierarchy of what's important in your head.
- Dr. Laura, 5/7/2003

Follow your bliss - ManifestYourPotential
Follow your bliss - OneLetterWords
Are your passions a waste of time?

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© 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.