Earning to Give v. Pursuing your Passion/Direct Work

bycdc482 3y30th Jul 20169 comments


Like many of you, I have struggled with this. It is a complex decision with a lot of uncertainty. For the interim, I found 80,000 hours advice helpful. Their career guide said something to the effect of because I am young, I should TRY multiple fields of work before making a decision.

I actually changed my career plans senior year because of the strong argument EA makes for earning to give. Still, I wonder if earning to give is all it's cracked out to be. Macklemore told his son:

Don't try to change the world, find something that you love, And do it every day

Do that for the rest of your life, And eventually, the world will change

The following is taken from an article with a self-centered perspective. It still applies to the EA career dilemma:

What’s more, as the years pass, you will almost surely develop deep expertise at whatever it is you’ve been doing. At that point, even if few people in any one location place high value on what you do, you may find that your services become extremely valuable economically. That’s because technology has steadily extended the geographic reach of those who are best at what they do. If even a tiny fraction of a sufficiently large group of buyers cares about your service, you may be worth a fortune. There is, of course, no guarantee that you’ll become the best at what you choose to do, or that even if you do you’ll find practical ways to extend your reach enough to earn a big paycheck.

I usually don't care for high risk, high reward scenarios, but I wonder if following your passion through direct work is one of those scenarios. I know with certainty that I could increase my income by at least 8M simply by returning to a career in software or corporate management. I even have some good memories of this sort of work, so it's not like they're terrible jobs. Still, I think there is a point missing in this discussion. Among those who had a large effect on the world, were they pursuing their passion or earning to give?

Moreover, the significant psychological benefit to yourself surely has many ripple effects that increase your impact outside of your career. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

No offense, but I am most interested in people who have experience with earning to give (>30% of income) and/or following their passion for altruism through direct work.