“Do what you love.”
Especially if you’re a millennial, you’ve probably been given this advice before.
The do what you love motto trended hard throughout my childhood and adolescence. School teacher after teacher advised us to follow our passions and the rest would magically take care of itself.
More recently, though, there’s been backlash to the ‘follow your heart and the money will follow’ strategy—likely because many educated college graduates have found themselves without a clear career direction. How many people do you know with graduate degrees working in coffee shops or bartending, spewing entitled “avocado on toast" attitudes in the process.
This Forbes article, “Why 'Do What Makes You Happy' Is The Dumbest Advice You Can Give Someone” (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2016/02/29/why-do-what-makes-you-happy-is-the-dumbest-advice-you-can-give-someone/#488567655340) argues that not only does turning your passion into a career not always lead to financial success, but when you turn what you love into your job, sometimes you even lose your love somewhere along the way.
I don’t agree with this article at all.
Well, I think it probably would have been good advice for working adults in the 1960s and 1970s when career options were more clearly-defined, yet extremely more limited, than today.
But this is certainly not the case anymore. Look at the world we live in now: It offers limitless possibilities in terms of potential career choices—certainly more than the baby boomer generation had. Baby boomers had easily comprehensible, straight-forward jobs: “I’m a teacher, a doctor, a carpenter, and electrician.”
But today when you ask people what they do, sometimes their answers just lead to more questions.
“What exactly is a brand consultant?”
“You what? You make money from being an Instagram celebrity?”
“You bought your house from the profits you made selling angry cat travel mugs on Amazon from your home?”
The point is, whether you’re an entrepreneur or are looking to get hired, I truly believe it’s possible to do what you love and make a good living doing it.
The book Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker delves into the concept of success. Barker argues that most of what we have been taught about being successful is plain wrong.
One thing Barker wrote about being more successful that really resonated with me was: “Know thyself and pick the right pond.”
This makes a lot of sense: Know yourself, find a niche, and then combine a passion into a career in a way that works for you.
Last year, a friend of mine called me up and told me he had been fired.
“That’s awesome!” I replied.
“What?” he exclaimed. “Awesome?”
“I have known you for 5 years and all I ever hear from you is how much you hate your job. You have been miserable for a long time, always threatening to leave, but you never do. This is going to be a blessing, you just wait,” I said.
Fast forward a year and he has created a self-sustaining tech business from home fixing electronics, is bringing in more money than his previous job that involved a one-hour commute in heavy traffic each way, and is much, much happier. He took the time to figure out what he wanted, to get to know himself and his strengths, found a niche doing something he enjoys and went with it.
I see this all the time: People stuck in a job (or a relationship for that matter) and they’re not sure how to get out of. I have been asking people at the gym during the last week how many of them enjoy their careers. So far, more than 50% of them have replied at least somewhat negatively. When I ask if they would ever quit, most look dumbfounded and say things like:
“Quit and do what?”
“I can’t. It pays the bills.”
"I want to leave, but I don’t know how.”
“I’m scared to leave.”
“I don’t know what else I would do.”
Now I’m not suggesting all those of you who dislike your career should give notice tomorrow (as a gym owner, a temporarily unemployed clientele doesn’t seem like it would be in my best interest), but if you’re in the “I hate going to work everyday" camp, take a hard look at what your life could be like if you took a risk and started doing more of what you love.
Short term pain for long-term gain, perhaps?