After years of hearing many business gurus advising you to find your passion, never stop searching for work you love, always rediscover yourself, a wave of skepticism hit the business world lately. The economic decline has put its mark on idealistic research of happiness through work or maybe you just discovered you cannot love what you do entirely.
Which way should you go? Keep the steady job, try to enjoy doing it and become better through creative ways of doing things and innovation or search for different work that brings meaning to you? Should you stick to your industry and strive to become an expert or switch to whatever attracts your heart most, be it photography or web developing versus project management or consulting.
Loving what you do means you should learn how to love what you are currently doing, as no job is perfect.
Steve Jobs didn’t start Apple because he was passionate about technology. Paradoxically, he fits in both categories, as an example of successful achievement even if you’re not passionate about what you do but also as a huge promoter of bringing meaning to your life and following your passion. He didn’t show any sign that he was passionate about technology in his youth (according to the biographies on Steve Jobs) dwelling more on spiritual quests and the likes. Working in technology was more of a financial choice he made, which in the end created the Jobs we know and love.
Why should it work?
- This is an easy question: you are already doing it! Chances are you are experienced in doing it and quite good at it, if you are mid-career. Maybe you don’t feel the drive you need to take a next step, to make that next promotion, to become better at it but you already put years of work into it
- It is an easy path to follow and develop on; all you need to do is just find passion in doing what you’re currently doing and just take the next step
- Success causes passion more than passion causes success, said Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert (full article here). The better you become at doing a specific thing, the more you are caught by it and, in time, it will bring you passion. On the other hand, failing at something you’re passionate about will actually kill that passion
- We’re passionate about things we’re good at, naturally
- “It is necessary to work, if not from inclination, at least from despair. Everything considered, work is less boring than amusing oneself.” (Charles Baudelaire) Even though I don’t entirely agree with Baudelaire, there is a point to his statement: there are different things we learn through work (being organized, having objectives, building structure, planning etc.) that we cannot learn any other way, so working is better than not working at all, even if on something that we don’t love
- “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”, according to the career adviser Penelope Trunk (the full article here). Doing what we love might not accomplish this important objective of working.
Why wouldn’t it work?
- Did you ever manage to make yourself like something that didn’t come natural to you? I haven’t managed to make myself really love accounting and finance, even though I found it interesting to discover a company’s financial health by reading their balance sheet. But you cannot make me do that balance sheet unless you tie me to a chair and won’t feed me until I do J
- The biggest counterargument is, of course, personal dissatisfaction. Being stuck in a job you don’t love, doing a 9-5 work that has no personal meaning to you or doing repetitive work that makes you mind go numb are not motivating and will not bring personal satisfaction
- It’s very difficult to find within you the strength to excel in it and become the best at that work. On the contrary, you’ll try to escape it as soon as possible to be able to do things that you really like
- Dedication to work and loyalty are difficult to reach if there is no motivation or passion for what you do
- You all have natural “talents”, inclinations towards a certain field or activity but you tend to go with what your parents, school, society teach you or just follow the money. There are many distractions in your lives from what you like or would like to do and so many times you end up doing jobs that don’t fit you or don’t refer to your natural talents. The consequence is job dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Not pursuing a path that doesn’t bring you satisfaction and doesn’t make you enjoy life is a good choice. As long as it’s planned correctly and the transition to other area is done smartly, it might be the best choice you ever made.
How to learn to love what you do? It is a tricky question. Trying to see things out of the box and approach everything with new eyes and creatively is always an option. Obviously, if the field you work in was never in your interest, you cannot grow in love with it overnight but there could be aspects of it that you enjoy doing. Build on those aspects, expand them and move in a direction that makes sense with your background and builds on it. If you are already experienced in a field, it’s really difficult to start from zero. Think upside down, see if you can change your responsibilities in your current job, or change industry. Whatever change you plan to make, try to fit it in your already developed experience and knowledge.
How do you think you can get to the point where love what you’re currently doing?
*Photos from Frank Chimero’s lesson plan, created for a lecture given at Portland State Universy’s design department in October, 2009, titled, Love What You Do, (http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/love-what-you-do-frank-1;