The “follow your dream” mantra has a lot of power. Cal Newport over at Study Hacks spends a lot of time deconstructing the “follow your dream/follow your passion” narrative vs. a more realistic narrative of intensive practice and disciplined study leading to rewards. The two paths aren’t necessarily incompatible, but too much “follow your passion” and not enough “work hard and work smart for a very long time until you get really good” can lead to unrealistic expectations for young people.
In the ad below (which I saw recently while watching the new Cosmos on Hulu) the “follow your dream” narrative is used to persuade young people to take out personal loans in lieu of employment or otherwise creating reliable income streams. The euphemism “manage her debts” is used, but the implication is that the young artist is going to borrow money (and pay interest to Wells Fargo). “Sydney” isn’t going to sell her gear or her car, and she’s touring instead of taking a 9-5. So where’s the money coming from? I wonder what kind of interest rate Wells Fargo typically offers young music artists?
I’m making a broad and loose connection here, but when a cultural mantra goes 100% mainstream (“follow your dream” is definitely in this category), you have to start asking who is really served by the philosophy? Maybe the mantra for young artists should instead be “demand government funding for the arts” or “50% minimum royalty rate by law”. Neither of those serves Wells Fargo.
Incidentally, the star of the commercial is the talented and charming Prince protege Andy Allo. She’s got a good financial plan: advertising residuals!