How many times have you heard this? Or this?
Two of the most oft repeated, and driven home, ideas in modern times are be true to yourself and do what you love. But just because they’re oft repeated and driven home doesn’t mean they are actually true. The problem with both statements is they have just enough truth to sound really plausible—and yet they are both simplistic enough to be dangerous when taken raw.
Or maybe it’s just that I’m a grumpy old man who’s been in a bad mood for the last couple of weeks, and misery likes company. 🙂
Let’s try to put some reality into the do what you love statement.
Sometimes you’re just not very good at what you love to do. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist. And then a musician. Apparently there are no real jobs for artists or musicians with my somewhat mediocre skills in these two areas. I just have to face it—I’m never going to be a professional basketball player, either. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you love something, you just don’t have the skills to master it.
Sometimes there’s just no market for what you love to do. I know it’s cruel to say in the modern world, where everyone deserves fortune and fame, but there really are things you can love to do for which there is no market. Don’t despair, though, there’s still some use for those things you love to do—they’re called hobbies. There’s nothing wrong with them, honestly.
Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place or at the wrong time. If you have a passion for making buggy wheels, you’re in the wrong place or the wrong time. Trust me.
So what can we do about this whole loving your work thing? Maybe a more realistic take might be—
Do what you’re interested in, and think there’s good support for in the market.
Expect to do things you don’t like no matter what you do. Even the best job in the world will contain some stuff you love to do, and some stuff you don’t. If this doesn’t include the job you’re in now, just wait. 🙂
Do something you’re good at.
Do something that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. Some people really enjoy making other people happy. Other people really enjoy building something interesting. One note, though—if what you really enjoy is being noticed, give that dream up right now. The sooner you can do things because of their intrinsic worth, rather than for the attention you might get, the happier you’ll be.
Learn to like whatever it is you do. There are always interesting things about any job you can find, whether it’s the people, the weather, the work itself, or something. Find at least one such thing and try to develop it into a passion that will carry you through the things you truly don’t like. For the rest, learn to be content even in doing what you don’t necessarily enjoy.
Learn to learn and to grow regardless of where your job is taking you. This last one is important as a person, rather than just in a commercial sense. If you can’t learn to learn, other than “just to get the job done,” then it doesn’t matter what you choose to do—you’re never going to love it, and you’re never going to get rich from it.
The advice here might not be as catchy, upbeat, or happy, as the pretty pictures above, but it’s much more realistic—and you might actually find you really do love what you do, and work isn’t truly work all the time if you start from a realistic view of it.