Here’s some better advice: try to avoid stuff that you hate. I admit that this is less uplifting, but it’s generally more achievable and produces reasonable results. You might not ever get your dream job, or your dream house, or your dream partner, because that’s just the way the lottery of life works. But with a little bit of effort, you might be able to avoid a soul-crushing job, a two-hour commute, and an empty relationship. Maybe. It’s worth a try, anyway.
But honestly, most of us are better off saving our passions for our hobbies. This won’t get me invited to give any commencement speeches, but it’s still pretty solid advice.
I’m not a big believer in saving for the sake of saving. I save for specific things, like a server upgrade or an iPad, which I just got a few days ago. I don’t believe generally in the notion of saving. To me, it’s investing in a future for which you have no specific vision. I feel the same way about retirement. One of my favorite designers, Stefan Sagmeister, has this philosophy of mini-retirements: Instead of working for 25-30 years, then retiring and getting bored in the first week, you should take sabbaticals periodically and enjoy your life when you’re vital and energetic. He takes one every seven years. It helps you make sure you invest in the present, rather than in a moment that may not come in the way you envision.
I wish the earlier me understood work and practice more. Just the repeated concerted effort to get better at things. I wish I didn’t have the notions of talent and genius I had back then. I thought, “Oh, these other people, they just have something that I don’t have.” When really, they are just people who work more.
I wish I understood work. Work is the key to anything you want to do. If you want to play the guitar—anybody can learn to play the fucking guitar—you can be good at it. Maybe you won’t get to be a genius but you could be good.
You can be good enough to write good songs or make a good film or whatever. There’s no such thing as not having enough talent to get to that level. I mean, persistence is talent, really. Just sticking with it. Talent is not stopping.