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.
(Image source: U.S. Navy)