Bad career advice: Do what you love

One of the worst pieces of career advice that I bet each of you has not only gotten but given is to “do what you love.”

Forget that. It’s absurd. I have been writing since before I even knew how to write – when I was a preschooler I dictated my writing to my dad. And you might not be in preschool, but if you are in touch with who you are, you are doing what you love, no matter what, because you love it.

So it’s preposterous that we need to get paid to do what we love because we do that stuff anyway. So you will say, “But look. Now you are getting paid to do what you love. You are so lucky.” But it’s not true. We are each multifaceted, multilayered, complicated people, and if you are reading this blog, you probably devote a large part of your life to learning about yourself and you know it’s a process. None of us loves just one thing.

I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex. In fact, as you might imagine, my sex life is really tanking right now. But I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about “what do I love most?” Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself?

So how could you possibly pick one thing you love to do? And what would be the point?

The world reveals to you all that you love by what you spend time on. Try stuff. If you like it, you’ll go back to it. I just tried Pilates last month. I didn’t want to try, but a friend said she loved the teacher, so I went. I loved it. I have taken it three times a week ever since. And it’s changed me. I stand up straighter. (I’d also have better sex, if I were having it. The Pilates world should advertise more that it improves your sex life: Totally untapped market.)

Often, the thing we should do for our career is something we would only do if we were getting a reward. If you tell yourself that your job has to be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid, you’ll be looking for a long time. Maybe forever. So why set that standard? The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money.

The pressure we feel to find a perfect career is insane. And, given that people are trying to find it before they are thirty, in order to avoid both a quarterlife crisis and a biological-clock crisis, the pressure is enough to push people over the edge. Which is why one of the highest risk times for depression in life is in one’s early twenties when people realize how totally impossible it is to simply “do what you love.”

Here’s some practical advice: Do not what you love; do what you are. It’s how I chose my career. I bought the book with that title – maybe my favorite career book of all time – and I took the quickie version of the Myers-Briggs test. The book gave me a list of my strengths, and a list of jobs where I would likely succeed based on those strengths.

Relationships make your life great, not jobs. But a job can ruin your life – make you feel out of control in terms of your time or your ability to accomplish goals – but no job will make your life complete. It’s a myth mostly propagated by people who tell you to do what you love. Doing what you love will make you feel fulfilled. But you don’t need to get paid for it.

A job can save your life, though. If you are lost, and lonely, and wondering how you’ll ever find your way in this world. Take a job. Any job. Because structure, and regular contact with regular people, and a method of contributing to a larger group are all things that help us recalibrate ourselves.

So if you are overwhelmed with the task of “doing what you love” you should recognize that you are totally normal, and maybe you should just forget it. Just do something that caters to your strengths. Do anything.

And if you are so overwhelmed that you feel depression coming on, consider that a job might save you. Take one. Doing work and being valued in the community is important. For better or worse, we value people with money. Earn some. Doing work you love is not so important. We value love in relationships. Make some.

 

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414 comments on “Bad career advice: Do what you love
  1. John Smith says:

    Thanks for this post! I will forward it to some friends.

    • A. Petersen says:

      An old article, but still linked from a newer one. So: I’ll agree it’s a good post in that doing something you have real passion for needn’t ‘necessarily’ be a priority. Especially if you’re trying to develop skills, or discover/reinvent yourself.

      At the same time, time is limited and life is short. If we find something we’re passionate about and rarely get tired of, AND can get paid for it, then great. It’s also slightly ironic that as of this comment there’s a big banner on brazencareerist.com: “How to Get a Job You Will Love”. :-)

  2. Bill O'Neil says:

    Penelope,

    Right on the money. This gives great clarity to the dilemma that (nearly) everyone faces as they look for their American Dream.

    The sex metaphor — perfect! And your candidness regarding your relationship is yet another reason to read you. With regard to that particular struggle, continue working and doing the right thing. Provided you know what’s important, your goal, where you stand on things — you have a great shot at navigating the troubled waters.

    Good luck and thanks for your excellent writing.

  3. Dan McKelvey says:

    What is your Myers-Briggs personality?

    * * * * * * * * *

    ENTJ :)

  4. HR Wench says:

    Now this is a blog post that hits home with me. Good one PT.

    HR Wench

  5. HiTechDad says:

    Good stuff Penelope! I do not love my profession with a deep passion but it enables me to do the things a do love.

    I see something similar in tech all the time. “I don’t want to work on that software project because it is written in (insert language you don’t like). This really just sells you short since for most people it is the end of producing great software that people use that is satisfying, not what language it is written in.

  6. Anna says:

    I’m not at all surprised that you’re an E, T, and J. I am, however, surprised that you’re an N instead of an S. Were your results close on that one?

    And good article. As a recent college graduate, I got a lot of flak from my career services department for not seeking out my “dream job.” My dream job is what I make of it–I don’t want to waste time and money chasing rainbows.

  7. Joe Grossberg says:

    Yeah, whenever I see that, I want to be like: “So who’s gonna do all the stuff that isn’t fun? Oh, you mean they get paid a lot more money, to entice them to take on those jobs? Doesn’t sound bad.”

    It’s a truism in my field (software development) that the unsexy work (gov’t contracts, B2B integration) is some of the most lucrative stuff.

    And the fun stuff (e.g. video game development) is awful. They underpay, they have mandatory overtime, they treat people like crap and — if they don’t like it — there are a hundred other equally-qualified geeks waiting in line to “do what they love.”

    (Oh, and yoga has been awesome for my sex life. And, no, not by virtue of its fantastic male:female ratio.)

  8. Jeff Hunsaker says:

    I never thought about it that way. Thanks.

    There’s a new, 3rd edition of Do What you Are.

  9. Erik says:

    As a new professional struggling to find my way in my chosen career path, it is posts like this that help me to realize that I may actually be going the right direction. Just because I don’t always love what I’m doing, doesn’t mean that I’m not good at it or that I feel satisfied from the work I do.

    I’ve been a subscriber to your blog for a while, but have just recently started REALLY reading it. I’m glad I have. Excellent insight. You inspired me to buy a book or two (including yours!).

  10. Sifi M says:

    I very much agree with the advice. Just doing something to be with people is very good for any idealist who is swimming around in their head trying to decide what their destiny will be. I am INFP, which used to feel a bit like a curse, but I have found a number of niche activities in my company that have made me happpy at work. I run the monthly “call onto the carpet” status meeting, which is an energy drain, but somehow fun! I think people like that I am compassionate and tend to be solution-oriented rather than blaming or dealing in personalities.

    • Dan says:

      I dont think that you need to choose between the things you love,especially since you can combine them!
      You love to write and you love sex! HMMM why not write a book about sex, remember, sex sells!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mebel Murah says:

      yes, i very agree with you

  11. HiTechDad says:

    I just stumbled on this great article as well. Somewhat related in that smart people (sounds like an INTP type which I am) tend to hate money. If you look at money as a tool and your job as the means to which produce this tool then it really helps re-frame your perceptions.

    http://www.onmoneymaking.com/why-many-smart-people-hate-money-plus-crucial-distinctions.html

  12. Alan Wilensky says:

    Penelope:

    You are a freakin’ genius, Gal.

  13. David B. Bohl at SlowDownFAST.com says:

    Penelope,

    Excellent post – right on!

    We can’t always control our destinies, no matter how hard we try. As a result, we put too much emphasis on landing that dream job or starting a business that nurtures our souls (with all the perceived freedom and success that can provide).

    We do, however, have every opportunity and everything we already need to live a dream life.

    David

  14. Colin Kingsbury says:

    I’ve picked bones with your posts more than once, but you’ve driven a few nails home here. Even J.K. Rowling or Tom Brady have to spend many hours in conference rooms arguing over contract details. There’s a show about artists who ignore all those annying little details and focus on the fun parts–it’s called Behind the Music.

    As for sex, well, it illustrates quite vividly how wide an ocean often lies between doing something for fun and doing it as a job.

  15. sfordinarygirl says:

    There’s a post on a similar topic on Trent’s (www.thesimpledollar.com) blog.

    Not to sound unpatriotic or anti-American but a lot of American culture is about how you can do anything you want and how the sky’s the limit, but those ideas are misleading. The reality is you don’t know if you’ll like something unless you dive right in and try the job. We should be advocating 20-somethings to just starting working – take a job if it sounds interesting enough – spend less time debating the choices. Who knows what kinds of doors it could open unless you simply try.

    I left journalism a year and a half ago and needed a job. I took some random job off craigslist and I didn’t know if it would work out. while I don’t enjoy my job the industry (international business) itself is fascinating and exciting. and a lot of doors and side jobs have opened up by being in this industry.

    the worst that could happen is the job sucks. chalk it up to hindsight and move on to the next job until you’re comfortable. as long as you have money to eat and you’re close to the people you love, everything else will fall into place.

  16. Tim says:

    In response to yesterday’s post, I wrote on my blog: “I'm a strong believer that if we follow our heart, our own path, money will follow.”

    Being a European, I tend to see “do what you love” as meaning “do what you are good at”, or “do what you are.” You can’t be someone else. It’s better to find a job that suits you than one you might irrationally love.

    • Connie Mish says:

      Well said Tim!! If you solely follow the money, more often than not you realize that the paycheck means nothing and you are not fulfilled. It is extremely important to do what you are good at. Its not always glamorous but its less of a struggle than fitting your square hips into a round hole. Once again…the big B comes into play = Balance

  17. Mike Ambrose says:

    Thank you for writing what’s been on my mind for a while now. I’ve been struggling with this “find your passion” and “do what you love” language for a couple of years. And I’ve come to really disbelieve the statement “Do what you love, the money will follow.” I’ve done plenty of things I’ve loved, and the money stayed far away. I’ve done many things I’ve thought were tedious, but the greenbacks appeared in my wallet and bank account. I think we need a total overhaul of this misleading, possibly damaging Success language.

  18. Suzanne says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Often, trying to get paid doing what you love turns what you love into work. That happened to me. Like you, I always could write. So I became a journalist. And it made me miserable. And then I didn’t write for me for a long time.

    I’ve always been successful as a marketing director. I like it – but I don’t consider it my “calling.” And yet it has lead to some really cool opportunities to help other people. Things that I do consider my calling.

    Now that I’ve finally figured out that you don’t have to get paid for what doing what you love, I now write more than ever. And occasionally I get paid. But that’s not why I do it.

    I can also enjoy my job more, because I’m not expecting it to be some cosmic experience anymore.

    * * * * * *

    Amen. There is something really comforting about hearing practical decisions that people feel good about. I don’t think all practical decisions are honest. Some are based in fear. It’s up to each of us to know what is true for us. Sometimes it’s a lot of trial and error to know what feels right. Trial and error in the practical-job realm are just as important as trial an error in the dream-job realm.

    -Penelope

  19. Samara says:

    I agree with you 100%. I love web-design, but without money how can I market myself to others to make money designing websites? Instead I found a job as an Internet Marketing Specialist (ironic huh?) especially when I was looking for a basic receptionist job. I love my job and I do try to incorporate what I love into my job (designing banners and site templates for our company blog). I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.

    P.S. I agree with the whole sex thing…truth be told people whom do have sex for living don’t love sex…LOL!

    Samara

    * * * * * * *
    This is a great example of the process to go through to find a job. The thing you love to do is often what you’re good at, and somewhere, in the scheme of things, what you’re good at, or a piece of what you’re good at, is what you can get paid well to do. Finding that intersection is important.

    –Penelope

  20. J.T. says:

    Great post Penelope. I couldn’t agree more.

    We live in a society that places more emphasis on our careers as a way to define ourselves as people than any other. The ability to answer the question, “What do you do?” in a way that sounds impressive seems to make more than a few Americans approach their careers all wrong. At the end of the day, the goal is a satisfying and successful life, not just a great career…I hope we continue to see a shift towards people putting their careers in better perspective – posts like this will certainly help. Thanks!

  21. Phil says:

    Good post. I would advise young people nowadays to try to get a job and do college at night. Work for a company that gives tuition reimbursement.

    Getting early work experience and not getting bogged down by student loans will put someone light years ahead of the game.

  22. C says:

    I love this article. I love your writing style too. It is so refreshing. I hope I am not the bearer of bad news but, please do not write about your sex life. Why? There are thousands, possibly millions of sick men in society. Every day a women is raped or murdered by some sick male. I am not anti-male either. Ilove men, but testosterone is a dangerous hormone. Don’t advertise. I hope you have a body guard, an unlisted phone number and address, a security system and possibly own some form of physical self defense. There are too many nuts out there.

  23. C.P. says:

    This post seems to contradict a lot of things you’ve written in the past. Seems that you’re just trying to gain brownie post since people slam you for 98% of everything else you write. Good job–mission accomplished!

    By the way, I agree with Tim, the European.

  24. Ron says:

    I read your article. First let me say I think I understand what you are trying to say. Next let me say it’s the first blog I’ve ever read and by that statement also the first blog I’ve ever responded to. I wouldn’t even know how to go about finding a blog and I can’t imagine learning anything from one. Your blog happened to land in my lap because of a newsletter I received.

    That said, I’ve been basically out of work since Nov 2001. I wasted 2.5 years doing low pay retail, what a bummer (I had to claim I was retired to get that job). I got lucky and worked for 10 months on a contract at a major bank in mainframe (something I love but the job was way over my head). I consider myself totally unemployable even with a college degree and way too many years of experience.

    All your points are noteworthy, however I don’t see any of them helping me. My bottom line is I can’t get a job, I’m terrible at networking and my age and my hearing aids make employment almost impossible. Am I down over all of this, you bet. I like what you said, and if I had a young body, current skills and could hear what the person across the table was saying I just might get a job. In the meantime I’ll keep plugging away at job sites and getting my one call a month. I might add that the calls rarely create an interview and when they do it lasts for 5 minutes because I can’t hear.

  25. Deano says:

    I think some of the seeming contradiction in this post is simply what is left out – in making the point that “non-love work” can be truly useful, especially if you’re spiraling out of control stressing over what you love… You kinda missed the point that for a lot of people, the problem is two-fold: (1) They DON’T know what it is “they love”, and (2) They tend to be unhappy in their job.

    If you’re both of those, you damn well better at least figure out what it is you love, and if that means quitting a job to find out, it’ll certainly be worth it.

    But, it’s also true that, if you can fit your love into those precious few non-work hours, and/or work a job you’re well paid for and good at while trying to start up a business based on what you love on the side, that’s a damn good thing.

    But I strong disagree that you shouldn’t TRY to cover expenses doing something you love. Because those that can have an amazing flexibility: they can more easily excuse overwork without feeling too stressed out by it, and/or they can simply work LESS as they get better at doing the job.

    Not everyone who loves to cook should work in a kitchen, though. The key is to understand whether or not you CAN do what you love as WORK, or if it MUST be an escape from work. Knowing which of your loves/interests fall into which category is the key.

  26. Matt Bingham says:

    Hmmm..Very thought provoking. Do what you are! That is true – because you may not be as good at the things you love as who you are, if that makes sense. So, I love playing guitar…but I’m not as good at that as I am what I do.

  27. Eileen says:

    “The reward for doing a job is contributing to something larger than you are, participating in society, and being valued in the form of money.”

    I think the above things are all overrated and not that appealing. For me, what matters is the money and what it can buy. If you can find something profitable that you also enjoy doing, then great.

    By the way, the MBTI test didn’t tell me what I can do, only what I can’t do, and I already knew that. I have some of the characteristics of my MBTI type, but I’m not particularly strong in the strengths.

  28. Chrissy - The EA says:

    I wish I had read something like this when I was going through the quarter-life crisis you so eloquently described. It would have helped me get over that feeling that somewhere there was a “perfect job” that would fulfill every dream and desire and would be something I dearly LOVED. That idea is such a heavy burden! Thanks for the wonderful insight – it’s given me a lot to contemplate.

  29. K says:

    Brilliant.

    Before husband/kids, I worked in International Development and really did do what I loved for a few years. I traveled all over! I was making the world a better place!

    But when husband/kids came along, doing what I loved became a huge hassle. Who wants to go all around the world when you have a newborn?

    So, now I work part-time in a job-share and do what I (mostly) like, in an office that I like, with a boss whom I really like and most importantly – with a schedule that I love.

    Now I do volunteer work to fill the “save the world” need and take as many vacations as humanly possible to fill the “travel” need. But what I truly *love* is the flexibility that my current job offers to do these things.

  30. Norcross says:

    You’re absolutely right. I have a real passion (sometimes obsession) with computers. I love them, to the point that my wife allots me at least 1 hour a weekday (3 on a weekend) for personal “geek” time, where I can do whatever I want with my computers and not be interrupted. But I couldn’t imagine working on them for a living. Frankly, I’m not objective when it comes to them. So if I were doing what I love as a job, then I would (a) become (more) consumed with it, (b) probably become so specialized that I miss the big picture, and (c) eventually burn out and have nothing else to look at for enjoyment.

    Not to mention, my love of computers and technology has helped in my actual career (investment management), since I can utilize what I know to streamline procedures, increase efficiency, etc. Doing so just got me a promotion into management (office with a window AND a door), and a rather sizable raise. Which I can then use to purchase more computer toys.

    As for the marriage / sex life, well, we all have our issues when it comes to that.

  31. Sandra says:

    Great post Penelope.
    I’m an ENFP. and I love that book. I’ve talked to you before about wanting to get out of public education, but the funny thing is that according to my personality type, teaching is a good profession for me. LOL.

    But apparently so is copywriting, marketing and journalism. I think the underlying commonality here is that in all of these careers you have to be perceptive when it comes to people and you have to be able to communicate effectively. So does this all boil down to the cliché “I’m a people person”?

    I absolutely agree with your statement that we are multifaceted and I’ll even take it a step further that most of us are good at more than one thing.
    A good friend once advised me that teaching takes place in more than just the K-12 classroom. The same can be said for any of your readers’ personality traits.

    • Sharon says:

      This is an old post, but I really want to reply to it. I am an ENFP, and I am a teacher (in the middle of my second year). I really like teaching (when I am able to do it) but I am not good at “classroom management” which means I cannot teach, since kids misbehave so much, which ultimately makes me a bad teacher. It could be the school I am at, but then again maybe not. I am starting to wonder whether or not this “do what you love” thing is a load of bull. What good is doing what you love if you aren’t good at it? Better to look at the things you are good at: Doing what you love should be the last filter that a career goes through when you look for one, not the first. Case in point, fine artists: How many people are REALLY fine artists, and how many people are actually waiters who think they are fine artists? If they had chosen a career that is flexible, allows them time to work on their art AND makes money, then they could do art on the side. But instead they struggle as waiters. The sad thing is, there are so few articles like Penelope’s.

  32. Sam Davidson says:

    This is a great post, with great advice for anyone, no matter their age or current position.

  33. some programmer says:

    There are 2 kinds of successful people- some who start out very small doing what they love,often working unnoticed for many years. This takes great faith in oneself. The other who follow the tide and let it take them to their riches (quite a few oil tycoons, large retail/hotel chain owners are in this category). Van Gogh never made any money from any of his paintings in his life. Should he have got a well paying job instead of painting ? JK Rowling too would have spent months working on her first book, without having the certainty if it would sell. So sometimes, you need to have the courage to do what you love.

    My own experience has been to know which way the river is flowing, and know which way you want to go. Let the river take you as far as it can towards your destination, and jump off and proceed on your own.

    Like Joe Grossberg, I loved graphics programming, but there were no well paid jobs in this field, so I compensate by doing this for free (participate in open source projects) in my spare time, and letting my programming skills ( which really are a side effect of my love for graphics) help me make a living !

    Guy Kawasaki’s blog has some advice on doing what you love as well:

    #9 Pursue joy, not happiness.

    This is probably the hardest lesson of all to learn. It probably seems to you that the goal in life is to be "happy." Oh, you maybe have to sacrifice and study and work hard, but, by and large, happiness should be predictable.

    Nice house. Nice car. Nice material things.

    Take my word for it, happiness is temporary and fleeting. Joy, by contrast, is unpredictable. It comes from pursuing interests and passions that do not obviously result in happiness.

    Pursuing joy, not happiness will translate into one thing over the next few years for you: Study what you love.

    • Amina says:

      For the record, I don’t think Van Gogh should be considered a role model of a successful life. Perhaps he would have been happier, more fulfilled and successful if he did something different. He painted “Starry Night” in a metal institution, he cut off his ear and mailed it to a prostitute he was in love with, he shot himself in the stomach and bled to death for 3 days in field. His paintings may be beautiful but he was a miserable failure in most elements of life that actually matter.

  34. Sophia Oh says:

    I am a Pilates teacher and have been for 4 years. I can vouch that you should follow what you love!

    Teaching Pilates and yoga has been the first time I’ve really enjoyed and believed in my work. I’d tried other jobs before that but none of them gave me that feeling of discovery and worthiness. I trained for most of a year in the Authentic method of Pilates and since then I’ve taught in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and United Kingdom. Do what you love and you’ve got a great chance of enjoying your job and being successful!

  35. Arlene says:

    Penelope, you are SO right! The sure way to make yourself miserable at work is to need way too much from it–identity, validation, AND (whew) pleasure, in addition to money, structure, and skill growth.

    I’ve been astounded for years at the persistence of this “advice” and even more astounded that anyone actually follows it. It ignores reality (both personal and economic) to a degree that is almost cruel.

  36. Danny says:

    For the most part, I agree with this very practical advice. However, I need to say something about going after your dream. I’m guessing that most of your readers are younger and have still have plenty of time to sell their soul to standard workforce. That being said, take a few, even more, years to chase your dream. Penelope did it with her dream with Beach Volleyball and if timing of the sports popularity would have been better (It’s going to be big by 2015), maybe a couple inches more of height and some good performance enhancing supplements, she would probably be finishing up her career collecting money from athletic sponsors for wearing their tattoo on her arm.

    So what about your dreams? Are you a potential Rock Star? Artist? Future President? Model? Pro Athlete? Give it a try because it sucks to be 40 and wondering “what if.” I am a musician and I never gave my love for music a fair chance. I realize this now that I’m older and not a day goes by where I don’t wonder if I could have made it. You see, I got my first intern job in a Date Center between 10th and 11th grade in high school. I was making $12 an hour at age 15 when my friends were making $3.25. The next summer, they called me back and paid me $14. So now, at age 40, I have been in I.T. for 25 years, “like” what I do, have a fancy title and make a decent living. You know what? I would trade it all for one hit single.

    Oh, I almost forgot. Penelope, what’s up with all of the lack of sex comments. You are so Hot!!!!! I know I would sacrifice half my 401K for you! Run away with me!!!!

  37. Rich says:

    Great advice (or un-advice). I took the advice to do what you love. Quit my high paying job that bored me and took a 70% pay cut to do what I love…coach football.

    All of the things that I loved about it (teaching, competition, planning, relationships etc) turned to stress points. The worst part was, I had no escape, because it was what I loved to do. Adding the stress of making a living off my passion turned my passion into an unbearable emotional cancer. My health began to fail as well (I am in my late 30’s!) I went back to my old job after 2 seasons.

    Now I put my hours in at the office, and use my passion as a release and realize the enjoyment I had before. It was a rough lesson to learn, but one I will not soon forget.

  38. Danny says:

    That was Data Center above not Date Center. Although, that would have been cool too!

  39. Dave Atkins says:

    Right on. If you can find a way to love what you do, great. But the search for the perfect job assumes once you find it, you are done. Like everything in life, you don’t usually find it as much as you find your way and make it great.

  40. thom singer says:

    Ms P-

    One word…decalf. You are all over the map on this post, I am not sure what you mean, but I think I agree with you.

    I think that folks need to look at this from the other side…it is not about “doing what you love”….it is NOT DOING WHAT YOU HATE!

    There are lots of things I love to do, and many fit into my job. But what I not longer do is the crap that I hate doing. There are other people who can do that, and they are happy to do these tasks.

    True, we need a way to earn a living…. but if you are stressed out and unhappy then do something else. However, if you love (or atleast like) the tasks that make up your job, then the stressful times are no big deal.

    • Debby says:

      Thanks Garry South Beach is anything but the next best thing it’s been aournd for quite awhile. I brought it up for discussion because it’s been a popular topic among friends while discussing low carb diet plans South Beach seems to be a popular choice. I already shop cook low carb, and of course have learned to order out low carb, which was a bit of a transition for me. It would be interesting to see if I could stick to a more structured plan vs just doing it on my own or if I’ll ever get to a point where a plan accountability would be beneficial.

  41. Mark says:

    It is funny that you mention pilates. A few years back I decided to chase the dream, I quit my job as competitive facial hair artist to become a pilates instructor for a large corporate health initiative.

    The mantra should not be “Do what you love” but “Do what interests you”. Doing what I loved did not pan out because of too much other bureaucratic B.S. that went along with it and it ruined my love of pilates. Now I am back in the rat race doing my facial hair art, it brings stability, creativity and is a real growth area. Just do it, is correct.

    • elena says:

      competitive facial hair artist? this is the boring job you quit to become a pilates instructor? i don’t even know that that means.

  42. John says:

    Excellent post!

    Another point to consider it that doing what you love as a hobby or avocation may not be what you’ll like doing as a vocation. I love playing classical piano, but if I have to work on a particular piece because that’s what the orchestra I might be playing with wants to play it definitely becomes WORK. Then you have to get on the stage and perform when and where you promised you’d be. No excuses for a bad performance. The next morning you wake up and get to read how some music critic thought you did your job! I’ll stick with being an amateur and LOVING IT.

    I also love to ride my bike. I’m a serious road cyclist. But if I had to get up every morning and train in the wind, rain, up hills etc. whether I felt like it or not because it’s my JOB I might not love it anymore.

    Everything changes when you do something you love as a profession.

  43. Dan says:

    Thanks Penelope, this article really hit home.

  44. Chris says:

    My ex-step-grandfather is a passionate music collector, mostly jazz. His basement is filled, floor to ceiling with records (those old, black, round things) and CD’s. He’s got encyclopedic knowledge of recording down there. Once in awhile, he would be asked to guest host a local jazz radio show and he was so good, the station owner offered him a job. He turned it down. “If I HAD to go do a radio show every day it wouldn’t be fun anymore.” Smart man.

  45. Stephen S says:

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop reading your work. Even when I started ducking any column that clearly telegraphs that it’s going to be about your marriage, counseling, and so on, I keep getting taking unaware by side references to same. Argh. This is a shame, because I value much of what you have to say otherwise.

    Not that you’re likely to take this advice, but perhaps another venue for your writing on this subject would help people like me enjoy your work? Clearly you ‘love’ to bring up these subjects; maybe it shouldn’t be your ‘work’ here?

  46. Jerry says:

    Penelope –

    I liked it but was somewhat confused.

    Why choose one thing you love? Why limit yourself? Why not choose more than one thing? Yes, we all become sick of even the things we love after a while. Everyone needs a break. But that’s why we love the things we do – we keep going back to them.

    My grandfather told me, “Do that thing you would do even if no one paid you to do it”. But, also being an ENTJ and a borderline Type A, I’m not stopping at one thing. There’s too much to see / do / experience. Myers-Briggs shows tendencies, and that’s as good a place as any to start.

    Doing the thing or things that fulfill us most may or may not involve work. Hopefully they don’t. Hopefully we understand ourselves well enough to find them, whatever they may be.

  47. Steven says:

    Read the article… agree with the points… your fans and comment geeks (no offense) write really long responses… I can’t read them all, though I wish I could… I have no social life cuz of work and I’m 30… I’m tired… waiting for retirement…

  48. Mathias Ricken says:

    I have to agree and disagree with your analysis, Penelope. On the one hand, I think it’s a bad idea to make your one and only true passion your job. If you do that, you will just have your professional life, and if that goes sour, you will have nothing to fall back to in your free time.

    But on the other hand there are times when you have to do what you like, and that really needs to be the deciding factor. I firmly believe that you cannot finish graduate school unless you study something you’re enthusiastic about; if you choose a career requiring an advanced degree just by how much money you will get, you are probably setting yourself up for failure.

  49. Tiara says:

    As Tim, Jerry, and a couple of other commenters have pointed out, this assumes that there is only one thing you love. Aren’t you what you love? Is it a crime to love more than one thing?

    It can be stressful to work at one thing that you love and have that stress make it something you hate. I’m taking Creative Writing in uni because I love writing but now I can’t stand it! However, it’s not the writing I can’t stand per se; it’s being judged on my writing, writing for an assignment or academic purpose. I prefer writing as a means of expressing myself and letting my thoughts go – which is at complete odds with university writing.

    So when you end up with a job you “love” but turn out to detest, see if there’s something about the framework of the job you’re actually detesting. Maybe you don’t like to be dictated by others. Maybe you don’t like having to micro-manage things. Maybe you’d rather work on the fly, on your own schedule, instead of a pre-determined one. Maybe you are anti-authority, or maybe you like a lot of authority. Maybe you only like it in small doses (I love Jelly Belly jellybeans but I can’t stand more than 2 or 3 at a time).

    Barbara Sher has a great series of books about Scanners – people with more than one passion trying to juggle them all. She argues (and I agree) that trying to pick one thing is futile. Rather, a Scanner should make space for their passions, no matter how small. Sometimes some passions don’t need to be expressed the whole way – for example, you may love both sewing and painting, but while you’re passionate about the business of fashion and get to express your sewing skills that way, you may be content with just painting a picture a month and no further.

    I think an issue many of us are facing is that if you are good at something, or you’re passionate at something, you HAVE to go ALL THE WAY with it. You *have* to make money, or you *have* to be a successful expert, or something. A lot of budding craftsters, for instance, tend to focus too much on making things they can sell – rather than just enjoying the process of crafting. Just enjoying the process has become underrated.

    In short: You can’t separate what you love from who you are. They’re integral to each other. Trying to do something you don’t love (and therefore isn’t what you are) will only tire you. However, there are different ways to express your love for something, and you can love many different things, so it’s up to you to find that balance that works for you. Whether it becomes a hobby or a job or something in between…that’s your call.

  50. Tiara says:

    haha, another way to put it:

    People don’t respect amateurs anymore! Everyone has to be a professional at their passion, apparently…

    …but says who? Why can’t amateurs get respect?

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