Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Should You Do What You Love?

I recently had an interesting discussion with a friend around the idea of “doing what you love.” As many of you know, I’ve long been an advocate of doing what you love as a way to create a satisfying life for yourself and making money at the same time. Confucius is quoted as saying, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” My friend took a different approach to this topic and one that I thought was quite interesting.

Her perspective was that it is ridiculous to get paid for what we love to do because we are going to do those things anyway. She believed that career decisions are about the kind of lifestyle that you want to create, not about what you love doing. In other words, you take a job based on the kind of life you want to create for yourself, not on the things that you like to do.

As I listened to her argument, I couldn’t help but think of the people I know who are unhappy with their lives; people who are making good money, have big houses and nice cars but are grouchy, stressed, and constantly depressed. I thought of myself 10 years ago with a high paying job that I literally hated going to every day. I had achieved “success” and was miserable as a result.

But this was a smart woman, and I was not about to just discard her argument as incorrect. I pressed on with my questions. She was an accountant, did she love doing accounting? This question really seemed to hit a nerve.

“I like accounting,” she said. “I don’t LOVE it.”

“Are you good at it?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m very good at it. But I don’t LOVE it. I don’t work at the things I love. I work to pay the bills. I work to create a life for myself. Then I can do the things I love.”

She didn’t sound happy to me. In fact, she has seldom sounded happy to me, which seemed to make my point. But she was adamant that loving something and doing it as a career were unrelated.

“I love cooking. I love baking. But I’m not doing those things for a living.”

She had a point there. I’ve tasted some of her cooking. And while she loves it, this would not have been a good career choice for her.

Another key point is that I love more than one thing. Like most people, I have a variety of interests that are not all related. For example, I love helping people develop. I also love baseball. If I took a job in baseball and no longer was able to develop people, would I really be happy?

I found myself rethinking the quote from Confucius. “Choose a job you love….” Hmm. That was a little different than “doing what you love.” After all, I love to sing. But I only do it when I’m alone…with the windows closed… and no one else is at home. Because I know that while I might love it, I’m really not very good at it. But, if I choose a job that I love versus one that I don’t love, is that really the key to happiness.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this topic. Should I accept a job because it affords me the lifestyle that I want, even though I may not like it, or be very good at it? Or should I look for a job that allows me to do what I love and utilize some of my skills?

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Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Dave,

    Thanks for a provocative post. You should get lost of answers. My take is, "It depends." I think we want to create a life that we love and that work or career is a part of that. I hate accounting so that would be a poor choice for me regardless of the $$. Selling on the other hand is something I am pretty good at. Do I love it? Parts of it; some parts not so much.

    But, It supports the life I've chosen to design. I travel some, I am not tied to a desk, I make my own schedule and I am well rewarded.

    That being said there are a number of considerations:
    - Lifestyle
    - Colleagues
    - Income
    - Talent or skill
    - Autonomy
    - Ability to grow
    - Influence
    - And so on.

    This can make for an interesting topic.

    Take Good Care