[02.21.11] Bad Career Advice - Do Something You Love [Featured]

Bad Career Advice: Do Something You Love

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Oh man, this one kills me. It’s so frequently repeated hardly anyone questions its truth anymore. And the sad fact is this: If you do something you love for a living, you’ll probably end up loving it a little bit less.

Let me back up for a second: Yes, it’s a wonderful goal to strive for finding work you enjoy. In fact, it should be a goal for everyone. But this absurd axiom suggests you can simply take what you already love, turn it into something for which you get paid (meaning, you have clients and bosses and deadlines and obligations…) and it won’t ever feel like anything other than that thing you love. This is a blatant, hurtful lie far too many people fall for. And they end up feeling like something is wrong with them, when really something is wrong with the idea they’ve been sold.

When something you love becomes work, it fundamentally—and unavoidably—changes the way in which you interact with it.

Work IS NOT Play

In his book, Hardcore Zen, author and Zen Buddhist Brad Werner says the following:

“…even the best job in the world [is] still just a job. Even Johnny Ramone said that being a rock and roll guitar player was a pretty good job, but that, in the end, it also sucked just like any other job.”

Yep. Ain’t that the truth?

Work is called work because it’s not play. Once you depend on something to put food on your table, it becomes something different. It’s no longer “that thing you do for fun;” it’s “that thing you have to do for survival.”

That doesn’t mean you won’t end up enjoying or maybe even loving the work you do. But it will also be work. You probably won’t mistake it for anything else.

Once you take an activity you love (for me, writing) and start doing it for pay, you involve the opinions and needs of others. Writing for a living means I often have to set aside my personal artistic vision, and simply follow the instructions of my client. I sometimes call myself a “writer monkey” because I feel so caged in. I still write for myself, to explore my own ideas and personal style, and, on most days, I’d say I love the work I do…but these are two different things. The writing I do for work is not the writing I do for play.

Work is MORE than the Work

Instead of focusing on doing what you love so work won’t feel like “work”, take some time to figure out what work means to you. What do you want to get out of it mentally, physically, socially and spiritually? (Get my FREE mini-workbook if you need help with this.) Then, see how your talents match up with that. For example, if I happened to be the type of person who wanted a lot of social interaction at work, my career in writing (no matter how much I love the activity) would be quite a letdown.

Work is about more than the thing you’re doing. It offers nourishment in a number of different ways. So, when you think about finding work you’ll enjoy (work that, hopefully, can be truly nourishing) think about the entire experience.

It’s dangerous to suggest work can be anything other than work. Doing what you love can certainly make it a more enjoyable experience. But you’ll also experience a new side of that activity, and it won’t be comfortable. You’ll have to face the inescapable truth there’s no fooling yourself. Work isn’t the same as play, no matter how similar they might appear on the surface.

I’m very lucky to do what I love for a living. But sometimes, I’m like the gourmet chef who lives off takeout and frozen meals. When you do an activity all day long and depend on it for survival, the playfulness can disappear quickly. Just like in a marriage, it sometimes takes effort to stay in love. At the end of the workday, I have to force myself to write for pleasure after I’ve been writing for eight hours already.

Do I sound cynical? Perhaps a little. But too many people sit around convinced if only they could turn their NASCAR obsession into a full-time job, they’d finally be happy. I encourage you to take a deeper look at the things you love and what work means to you. There might be a happy intersection of the two, but don’t force it.

[This article was originally posted on an earlier date]

Chrissy Scivicque (pronounced “Civic”), founder of Eat Your Career, is an award-winning freelance writer/editor with a passion for two things: food and helping others. Please visit her website and download her FREE mini-workbook called, “How Nourishing is YOUR Career?”

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Chrissy Scivicque

Chrissy Scivicque is the founder of EatYourCareer.com. She's a certified career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker.

19 comments

  1. Hi Chrissy,
    Your job is feeding you but is it really nourishing you. Work is like food. It can be junkfood for the soul of very health & satisfying.
    I can understand what you mean when you imply that too much of a good thing can bad. But that’s a problem I’d prefer to manage than just accepting what’s dished out to me all my life.
    People should strive to do what they love. And if the standard application it’s working for you, you should create a hybrid career that suits your passions, personality, dreams & values.
    Working for clients can suck the joy out of work you love pretty fast. Creating your own content can be the created career choice you can ever make. Even if the enthusiasm isn’t there everyday.

  2. This is very good point. It is important that we must choose work in which we have interest & we love doing it. This will improve our productivity & we will give best output to our company. There is no benefit in indulging yourself in such tasks in which you are being forced to do something. that will only leads to frustration & poor productivity. Thanks for giving us this important info.

  3. This is very good point. It is important that we must choose work in which we have interest & we love doing it. This will improve our productivity & we will give best output to our company. There is no benefit in indulging yourself in such tasks in which you are being forced to do something. that will only leads to frustration & poor productivity. Thanks for giving us this important info.

  4. This is very good point. It is important that we must choose work in which we have interest & we love doing it. This will improve our productivity & we will give best output to our company. There is no benefit in indulging yourself in such tasks in which you are being forced to do something. that will only leads to frustration & poor productivity. Thanks for giving us this important info.

  5. This has to be the worst article I’ve ever seen associated with Career Realism. Don’t do what you love? The author proceeds to tell how they pursued what they love and are mostly happy with it.

    I feel like this is a big level or some kind of an inside joke. What is your solution? Do something you hate or something you can be barely handle? I just reread this article a second time to ensure I wasn’t missing something but it is actually as terrible as I thought. 

    Seriously disappointed in Career Realism right now. Are you just pulling catchy titles or putting the content in the articles themselves first?

    • You read the title and stuck with that. You’d have to read the rest of the article.

      The problem is that generally when one hears “do what you love” they look at it as if there’s a way to take what they do in their spare time and make money off of it, and if they don’t or can’t, they made a mistake.

      By suggesting that “do what you love” is wrong or misguided also doesn’t mean you should “do what you hate.”I entirely agree with the article that as soon as you’re forced (by way of needing a pay cheque) to do something it almost by default immediately changes into something that cannot be entirely pleasurable. Just because you love playing guitar doesn’t mean you can become a professional musician, or that you love watching the NFL means that you can get a job that pays you to watch the NFL, or that you’d like any NFL-related job you could get just because it’s NFL-related.The author uses the example of how what they write for pleasure is not what or how they write for work. You could look at it at the core level and say “they’re still writing,” but that’s naive and missing the point. To think that if you like writing all writing should be considered pleasurable is just wrong.

  6. Apparently, I missed this from its original post 6 months ago. Good points I actually agree with in the article, such as how work needs to “nourish” us in a number of ways–but the title and context is based on a straw man image of what “doing something you love” actually means to anyone advocating it.  If you define do what you love as meaning you will be smiling and humming a tune all day long in a job you love without challenge or frustration, then yes, it’s not an idea to follow. But that’s not what it means, at least not when I use it, my clients use it or all of the authors I’ve read mean when they use it.

    In fact, much of the article does describe doing what you love, including what the author says about her own work–in spite of it being difficult at times or less fun than doing it for 2 hours a week. That’s still doing what you love–meaning, in my understanding, that you are passionate about the work, it allows you to live your values, uses your skills and lets you become more expert with them and has a sense of purpose or meaning for you. In addition, work can often be like play in that it involves a state of “flow” and creative action To take the concept of doing what you love and make it seem silly and then dismiss it is not furthering the discussion. 

    • Margaret, I worked for over 15 years in JOBS, not careers. Those jobs paid the bills while I grew my business – which was (and still is) my passion. No, it is not a smooth path to find what makes you happy and use it for employment purposes.

  7. I agree 100%… there is a difference between enjoying your work and killing your hobby. I love history so i started out as a history major in college. It wasn’t 1 semester before I figured out that if I try to turn this thing that I enjoy on the side into a full time- make money proposition, I will hate it…

  8. The quote you are using part of is from Confucius: Do what you love to do and you will never work a day in your life. This presupposes not something short term like sex or dining at a great restaurant. But if you love writing then work towards getting a job writing. It is meaningful work. Like many doctors say they love helping heal people, but yes even that can become drudgery at times. But isn’t it still better to focus on what you really want to do – maybe requiring many intermediary steps than something you are not passionate about? RichardSPearson author of 5 Necessary Skills to Keep Your Career on Track

  9. Agreed. If we really followed this advice, wouldn’t prostitution be a more common choice? I think we can see how that job might ruin the enthusiasm.
    I learned the truth of what you say when my husband got a job as a sea kayak guide. After working on the water all week, the last thing he wanted to do was go for a paddle. He loved his job and loved paddling all the time, but he no longer did it just for himself.
    As a full-time editor, not only do I not write for myself anymore, I don’t even read books for pleasure anymore. Still love my job – but always tell people to consider what doing what they love will do to the thing they love.

  10. I happen to be the guy who liked to cook and wanted to be a chef. I never finished culinary arts school but I have had jobs in the food service industry, including being a cook in the Army. I have found that I like it more as a hobby that I do when I am inspired than something I do for a living. That being said, I would like to find a job where I enjoy what I do. I believe we all have to make a decision on which things we want to do for a living and which things to do as a hobby. Cooking for me is going to stay a hobby. After all I don’t want to be the chef that gets takeout just because I don’t feel like cooking anymore. I want takeout because I like it and I’m too busy doing something else I enjoy.

  11. I am past the age when most folks retire, and I own and operate a successful internationally known company. I love wat I do – making money is a bonus! My passions are meeting and helping people, Interpersonal discussions, providing advice, and creative writing. I do all of the above as a professional resume writer and speaker. You CAN find a career you love and it will no longer seem like “work.”

  12. Excellent article. Another dimension of the “do what you love,” and “find the perfect job” ideology is that it creates unrealistic and unfulfillable expectations in people who are looking for work. Then when they can’t find their “dream job” in ten days or in five easy steps they become discouraged and half-hearted in their search efforts. The ideology sells books and promotes speakers but does more harm than good to job seekers. Not to mention promoting a false and immature outlook on work and life itself.

    Galen Tinder

  13. I love it! I just finished re-reading a book called Finding Work You Love, literally, just this am and it was a refreshing viewpoint in your article-which happened to be the first thing that popped up in my inbox right after finishing the book. Life is funny that way. I really enjoyed your article and I agree and I basically think that the author of the book I just read feels as you do, just another way of presenting it. Its interesting how over the past few years there are more and more books and articles linking ‘passion’ and ‘work’. For me, it is really knowing what I value. While I am aware of my talents and limitations, it is the ‘surroundings’ that make all the difference for me. I value commaraderie, respect, less ‘micro-managing’ having worked independently for the past 20 years, and working in teams with people who are excited, creative and ‘passionate’ about not only what they do, but how they do it. Transalation: meaning with integrity, quality and providing the best solutions for their clients. Once you know yourself and what type of environment you thrive in, thats a great start. But as you said, at the end of the day its still work.
    Thank you for the insights.

  14. Interesting article, and a valid point. I think the phrase ‘do something you love’ has gotten confused with the more accurate sentiment over the years – what you should be doing is something you feel ‘passionate’ about. So whilst it may not be the best idea to become a chef in a busy restaurant because you love cooking – as you may then start to really hate cooking – it may work out really well to do something based around food, because you are passionate about that. And then you can still keep cooking as your love and something you do at home to relax. Make sense?

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