Do What You Love. (It’s Not Easy)

by Nate St. Pierre on May 7, 2012

The “do what you love” message is probably more prevalent in our little blogging/social media/web-based business bubble than in any other medium. I see, read, or hear it literally dozens of times each week.

It’s a good message. Few people who have achieved great success (however they define it) have done it without loving their work. But very rarely do I hear the second part – that it’s not easy. Not easy at all, in fact. Much more common is the tacit implication that if you do what you love, the money (or other success) will follow. More realistically, however, success comes as a result of doing what you love, defining the outcome you want from it, applying a sound strategy, and working really hard at it. If you want a couple of real-life examples of people who talk the talk and walk the walk, check out my friends Chris Guillebeau and Gini Dietrich. You’ll learn a few things.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been looking for the career version of “what I love” for over a decade now, and I still haven’t found it. Don’t get me wrong – throughout my 14 years of ups, downs, and more reboots than I can count, I’ve gradually discovered what I enjoy doing, what I’m good at, what others need, and how all that fits together to give me something worthwhile to do. But I can honestly tell you that I’ve never been able to say “I love my job.” Certain aspects, yes. But I’ve never been completely comfortable with where I am in life. To this day, I’m still trying to figure out how to put all the pieces together in a way that makes sense for me. To that end, I’m announcing the next step in my evolution on Wednesday, so watch for that.

When I was 14 years old I started working for my grandpa as a janitor at his family business in Milwaukee. He would drive me home after work sometimes, and we’d chat about family and work and life . . . all the good stuff. But I remember I was always frustrated when he told me to just do what I love, and my life’s work would be enjoyable instead of a chore. I would acknowledge the truth in that, but I would also tell him that he was one of the lucky ones – he knew what he wanted to do from a very young age, and followed that path all his life. Not everyone is like that.

I’m now 20 years older, and I was hanging out with my grandpa again last night. He asked how I’m doing in my work, and I told him that I’m getting closer. Still not there yet, but I’m working on it.

And here’s another thing that my grandpa and I will both tell you: even when you know exactly what you want to do, and you figure out how to go about it the right way, it’s still not easy. Accomplishing valuable work that you love is often anything but. Just ask anyone who’s raising kids.

We all do the best we can. We struggle to find the right thing. Then we try to do it the right way. Life takes its twists and turns. Something changes, and we start all over again. First we find our footing, and later we find our way. We do what we love, and hopefully we succeed.

Worthwhile and rewarding, yes.

Easy? No.

(Image source: U.S. Navy)

  • Just bought a framed typography poster that says Do What You Love on it to hang in my apartment and I am constantly reminded that yes, that is the route I hope to take, but no, it’s not easy. And that challenge seems to be even more exciting than the alternative. Good timing reading this.

    • I agree on it being more exciting than the alternative. I think for me, once I understood that success is never easy unless you’re incredibly lucky or incredibly good, life became a lot more interesting (in a good way).

  • I am so glad that you wrote this.

    So many times people ask me about my “dream job”, or if I love my current job – and I never know how to answer. When I’m at a loss for words about it, I feel like I’m one of those stereotypical quarter life crisis 25 year olds that doesn’t know where they are going in life. Which… in some respects that’s probably too. That doesn’t mean I like it though. It makes me feel like something is wrong with me. 

    One of the things I really wish as I was preparing to be a youth minister was to know how hard it would be. I guess you can never really know, and maybe they did tell us and I just chose to listen. But even now as I read articles by youth ministers and such… they always seem to downplay just how hard the hard stuff is. While there are so many aspects that you do love – there are so many that you don’t.

    I also wonder about which “love” a person should go to. More often than not, a person may love writing. But they also love photography, science, reading, etc. Which love should you go after?

    Reading this made me think of a phrase a friend of mine says. When he talks about what he wants to do, he talks about “dirt worth wearing.” Every single job/career in the world is going to have dirt. There are going to be things that you don’t like, and things that are going to be hard. But which is the dirt you feel is worth wearing?

    • Ooh, I really like that “dirt worth wearing” phrase. I totally got it as soon as you said it. Thanks, Emmy (and Emmy’s friend). 😉

      Some people have told J. Money and I to write a book about the Love Drop experience, but I fear a book like that would be something of a downer for most of it, with spikes of awesome in between. Even the good stuff is hard, my friend.

      • I hear ya! I can’t tell you how many times people have talked to me and been all “your job must be so rewarding,” and I’m just like… “Um… sure!” Not that there aren’t rewarding moments. But they are much further and farther between than people realize.

  • Yes. Yes. Yes. I am doing what I love & it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are the work challenges, but equally important are the personal + emotional challenges. It’s the best + most rewarding job I’ve ever had, but damned it’s also the hardest.

  • Peliroo Corrice

    Glad you wrote this.  (Wish I had time to read more blogs. :/)
    I just said those words to someone waiting at a crosswalk yesterday.  I do one of the things I love, and feel lucky.  But it’s not all of the things I love.  And even if you are working for yourself at something you love, which I have also done, the business part of any job gets in the way (unless you like business, I guess.)  

    My parents both told me the same thing your grandpa did.  I think it should really be amended to “Do what you love so the day to day responsibilities are easier and the rewards greater.”

    • Yep – dirt worth wearing, see Emmy’s comment below. 🙂

  • No, it’s not easy. I was just telling this story to a friend. About a year ago my dad said to me, “I’m so amazed at what you’ve accomplished. Not that we didn’t think you’d be successful, but we thought you’d do it writing a book.” Of course, he didn’t yet know I was well on my way to writing a book when he said that. And that’s the thing, even if you don’t love every aspect of your job, if you’re doing something that allows you to include your passion, it becomes easier. I love to cook and ride my bike. But if I did either of those every day, I’d hate some of it. Even when you’re working your passion, it’s not easy or fun all the time.

    • Yeah, I’m gradually learning to find and understand the things I love about what I do, and then figure out a way to incorporate more of those things into what I get paid for going forward. Slow, but steady, my friend!

  • michelle

    it’s like the great secret. there will always be a struggle, but doing what you love makes the struggle worth it 🙂

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