“Do what you love” is BS career advice. Plenty of failed writers, novelists and fiction authors can tell you that. Plenty of would-be entrepreneurs and start ups lay along that road of dreams. And the list goes on.
I know because I explored those ideas. I had day dreams of being a writer and waxed poetic over the fame and notoriety that would surely follow. I did the homework and realized that for me to make a living at the time (pre-internet) I would have made pennies a word and that the only way to make it a good living would be to achieve that rare hit. That one in several million novella or non-fiction blockbuster that brought the worlds attention flocking to your feet. The odds were against me.
I love to run, but I’ve seen very little realistic opportunity for me create a career around what I love. My ability to run does not excuse the fact that in this vast world, I’ve never been a high performing amateur, much less an elite athlete. And as life progressed, we have the commitments of time like making enough money to pay the rent, put food on the table and provide transportation.
“Do what you love” is such a purist oversimplification of what really should be a more complex concept.
“Do what you love” is frequently and inappropriately interpreted to mean “Do ONLY what you love and accept no compromises”. Or “Refuse to do anything else to do what you love and accept no compromises”. This interpretation smacks of a serious lack of reality based pragmatism.
Life is filled with things we don’t want to do. No one really enjoys going to the bathroom. But it’s what we have to do to survive. I personally don’t enjoy having to lay down to sleep every night, but its what I do every day to survive. Frequently stopping for water or food is an inconvenience when we have better things to do, but it’s what we have to do to survive.
In response to the idea of “Doing what you love” as career advice I offer the following:
- “Aspire to what you like while covering the basics”.
- Find something other people will compensate you to do for them. It doesn’t have to be glorious, fabulous or set the world on fire so long as it covers the basics. It can be a service or a product, just something.
- Do what’s necessary to support yourself and take care of your responsibilities. Even if it means taking multiple jobs. Nothing can undermine your sense of pride and well being than finding yourself dependent on the welfare of others or welching on debts.
- Strive for what you prefer. As you do what’s necessary, keep your eyes open for what you prefer and strive for that. In every aspect of life and work there are hidden gems and aspects of things you may find intriguing enough to keep you interested. Stay open to that.
- Learn to appreciate what you get for what you do. When you have a job or career, someone is paying you for the value you provide to them, no matter how much you don’t enjoy it. Don’t agonize or lament about the perpetual woes of where you are. Appreciate the income you get.
- Steer career changes to grow to love what you’re doing, or at least not hate it. I don’t know how many people I’ve met that tell me stories like “While working at x I got involved in this thing that led me in a completely different direction.” I’ve met a teacher that became an IT specialist for an entire school district. Law enforcement officer that became a chiropractor. A CFO that became a successful insurance salesman. And the stories go on and on. I have an education degree and I’ve been working for global IT companies for over 30 years.
- Be flexible. Because people change, as you will too. People can find themselves falling in love with things others find routine or abhorrent. People can also find themselves falling out of love when it becomes a ‘job’ (aka “chore”).
- Persevere. It’s absolutely rare the person that wakes up every day of their life saying ‘yay, I’m excited to get up and go do this for a living’. Even at something they ‘love.’ Do what you have to for today, because who knows what tomorrow will bring.