I remember when I was doing my undergrad, as commerce students we used to make jokes like; “What’s the difference between a pizza and a humanities student? A pizza can feed a family of four!”
The question of following your heart or doing what pays is one that haunts many of us at some point in our studies or careers. Many students are sitting in courses that are literally killing their souls only because they need that certificate to pay the bills.
Let me share with you how I decided I would study towards an Accounting degree. Through most of my high school life I have always been involved in some kind of entrepreneurial venture. I was the civvies day photographer at school and I even started a t-shirt printing business. When it came to deciding on my career path I already knew that I wanted to do something in commerce. I then looked for the qualification that would pay me a lot of money and one for which a bursary was easily attainable to pay for my studies. I was not smart enough to do Actuarial Science and hence I chose to study towards becoming a Chartered Accountant.
Things worked out exactly as I had planned and I was awarded a bursary. Off I went – CA here I come! I must be honest I enjoyed my first year at Varsity and I did well. This is probably because the course was still easy. In my second year, after realizing how expensive new textbooks were and how hard it was to find used textbooks, I started Pimp My Book in order to assist students to find cheaper textbooks and to sell their used textbooks and get cash.
Pimp My Book also buys & sells textbooks from all faculties including education, science, humanities, law and more.
Pimp My Book ignited my passion for entrepreneurship and at that time it was giving me some pocket money. On the other hand an accounting qualification would give me a ticket to the corner office with a fat cheque and a BMW in the garage. But I came to the realization that I like accounting but only in so far as its ability to tell me how my business is doing. I do not have much interest in courses on IFRS and GAAP Principles, and I surely do not want to be the one preparing financial statements. I eventually stomached it and completed my degree but I was still stuck with a dilemma of whether to continue this accounting qualification or to carry on selling textbooks.
I remember one incident that really influenced how I decided between pursuing money and chasing my dream. There was a friend of mine from class who used to help me to pass accounting. This guy always used to speak about accounting, income tax, SAICA legislations, auditing and everything regarding the subject. He did not study that much, whenever I went to his room he would be having drinks and chilling but he always passed. I remember looking at him and thinking that I would probably make a good accountant because I work hard and I am diligent, but I silently admitted to myself that I would never be the best because I just lacked the spark which he had.
I realized that I did not want to be that guy who sits at work depressed and who made life horrible for everyone else who actually wanted to be there, just because I had chosen the wrong career. I did not want to be that guy who lives forever waiting for the weekend to come.
Today this friend of mine is a qualified chartered accountant. He has left the corner office in the city to rather make a tangible difference teaching accounting in the Eastern Cape. I on the other hand am leading the team that is building Pimp My Book. I must admit that right now I am earning a fraction of what I would have earned had I gone the accounting route, and I work twice as hard and often have more things to worry about than when the weekend is coming.
However, I am building my dream and who knows what the next 5 to 10 years can bring. I am a true believer in that anything that is done with love and commitment will bring financial reward. If you look at the top 500 richest people in the world you do not only see accountants, lawyers and engineers. There are rich entrepreneurs, rich musicians, rich sports people, rich writers, rich pastors, and rich politicians. I even know a very rich entrepreneur whose company collects our rubbish bins.
Some students will argue that they have to put their dreams aside because they have families to support and many are waiting for them to graduate. This is a real experience for many students in South Africa, although I find it fascinating how some of these students who are supposed to be looking after their families still go and buy expensive cars soon after graduating. We all have our reasons for our choices but I hope that you will take time to think about what truly drives you. There are millions of people waiting for your passion to influence their lives, and, if you do it well enough, I bet they’ll pay you for it!