Love What You Do, Do What You Love
A career fallacy has been circulating around our society for quite some time. It goes something like this: “By its very nature, work sucks and is unpleasant. You can’t go off and just do whatever makes you happy. No, there comes a time when we have to face the music and settle into a career that is no fun but pays the bills.” This fallacy is perpetuated by people who don’t love what they do but rather drink from the bitter cup on a daily basis to pay the bills. End result: they become bitter.
I would like to propose a few things in response to this sorry, self-fulfilling worldview: 1) work is challenging, even exhausting, but it should also be satisfying and enriching; 2) doing what you love for work is essential to career excellence; and 3) the world has changed, and having a career that you love and paying the bills can go together.
To a certain degree, loving what you do is about your attitude toward the task. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that people can pick up any task and learn to enjoy it. On the other hand, it never hurts to work on something for which you have a passion, something you don’t have to learn to love, something that naturally flows from your talents and interests. This career option has never been more available than it is now.
Challenging vs. Defeating
No one refutes that work is difficult. In all its forms, it requires mental and physical exertion, time, and some degree of discipline. However, work need not be defeating; it can challenge and enrich us and become a constructive influence in our lives. There is no virtue in the difficulty of work alone but in the positive effect, if any, it has on the worker.
Too many out there believe that just working hard provides some kind of innate virtue. I say if you come home every day with a sore back, a chip on your shoulder, and gripes about your boss, you have wasted your day. You’ve given a half-hearted offering back to the world. You’ve squandered your time and your talents. There is no virtue in going to a job you hate every day. It only creates problems for you, your loved ones, and your employer.
No, this jaded view of work is usually a cop-out for people who opted for safer roads instead of pursuing riskier dreams.
You’ve Gotta Love It
You would be hard-pressed to find a successful person who didn’t love what they did. From Oprah Winfrey to the best NBA players to the best U.S. presidents to the top Fortune 500 CEOs, their excellence springs directly from their passion for what they do. Their occupation may be hard and unsavory at times, but they love it.
Oprah, for instance, started with nothing but her smarts and a love for telling stories and empowering women. That love has propelled her forward to become first a journalist, then a talk-show host, to become a role model, to form a media empire, to become, quite possibly, the most influential woman in America. Go down the list to any successful person and you will find the same thing is true.
Why is this? Because the competitive advantage in any marketplace belongs to those who are thinking about how to make things better when they don’t have to. When everyone else has gone home and is trying to forget the stress of the day, these passionate individuals can’t help thinking about it because they love it. They don’t make things better for the next bonus; they do it because it drives them nuts to see anything less than the best. They don’t work hard because they have to pay the bills; they do it because they have to see it done better.
A New World
The ‘work sucks’ viewpoint is a vestige of the Industrial Age. Just a brief history lesson: during the Industrial Age- which was built on demeaning, backbreaking labor in factories under inhumane conditions-, small middle- and upper-classes fed off the work of a huge working lower-class. This means that, for the majority of the population, work really did suck. They were cogs in the machine with very little possibility of advancement or mental stimulation, much less following their dreams. They worked for pennies a day, were subject to very little protection, and, if they didn’t like it, were easily replaced. They had to put up with this because, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t eat.
Thankfully, we live in a new world. In the U.S., the Industrial Age has passed, as has the Space Age and the Information Age. We now find ourselves in the Idea Age, which is characterized by a huge middle-class with unprecedented access to money and education. This new age thrives on the strength of ideas and innovation. In this new age, work doesn’t have to suck. In fact, businesses will thrive like never before on people who love what they do and can constantly generate the next best idea. Oh yeah, an added bonus: they will get paid handsomely for those great ideas. Those who hate their work, on the other hand, will stagnate and get run over in this new economy.
In short, hating your job is a thing of the past. Doing what you love will become the new norm.
I’m not arguing that work shouldn’t be hard. Whatever you choose to pursue, you should love it, but you also better go hard or go home. Hard work will always be a part of the equation. But you will do yourself a huge favor by choosing something you are passionate about.
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