Lately there has been a lot of backlash against the “do what you love, love what you do” mantra - a credo that is pretty sacred here at Holstee. The three Holstee founders even found themselves in a bit of an uneasy, is-it-hot-in-here-or-is-it-just-me moment recently when NPR pondered out loud to thousands (millions?) of listeners whether Dave, Mike, and Fabian were just another set of spoiled gen Y-ers living in a world of self-indulgence and naivete. While perhaps uncomfortable, I think the questions raised by these critics are absolutely valid: is living your passion a mark of the educated elite? Is “Do What You Love” the next “Let Them Eat Cake”?

The fact is, where you happen to be born is likely to determine what kind of access you will have to even basic things like clean water, a balanced diet, education, healthcare, and a safe living environment. Needless to say, finding happiness and fulfillment in a career (or in general) is probably more likely when you are not struggling to survive. For a lot of people around the world, daily life is overcrowded with the stresses and salves of existence. So I would imagine that an inspiring call-to-action poster would look really differently if it was penned by a garment worker in Bangladesh, a used clothing seller in Uganda, a migrant farmer in the Dominican Republic, an unemployed mother on an American Indian Reservation, or a young black man in Florida. And this is exactly the way it should be: the Holstee Manifesto is not a universal tract dictating the specifics around how the world’s humans must live. But (almost) everyone has some level of agency in their lives, and it is up to each of us individually to decide how to use it (and to recognize the agency of others).

Reject being a cog in a cubicle not because you are ungrateful for an opportunity to work, or because you only want to have fun, but because upholding the status quo is unacceptable.

In this way, living with passion is not just about pursuing the things that make you “squeeeeee” with a myopic, hedonistic zeal. (That’s called college.) It is about something much more fundamental: moving away from boredom, routine, and petty frustration to consciousness. Reject being a cog in a cubicle not because you are ungrateful for an opportunity to work, or because you only want to have fun, but because upholding the status quo is unacceptable. As my favorite author David Foster Wallace explains it, challenge your own internal default setting. In other words, living with passion is not about the ability to free yourself from all of life’s crowded, unpleasant moments but to experience them differently, to challenge your own assumptions, and push yourself to higher level of thinking and then follow that voice. Try to operate with a full heart and a full mind as much as possible, your personal cruise control decidedly turned off. Passion isn’t synonymous with fun, it is synonymous with awake.

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