Follow your heart or your head?


You’ve probably debated that one in your love-life on several occasions. But when it comes to work there really is a lot more at stake….certainly more than just your heart. You may have been told “do what you love” as a young ‘un growing up in terms of a job. You’ve probably also heard the old “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” What rot! In any job you do, there will be an element of something you don’t like and that feels like work. If you’re a writer for instance you will have to be good at marketing and sales because you will be selling your writing to anyone who will listen.

Unless doing what you love is being an investment banker, a teacher, a sales rep or something else quite practical then you will probably never make a living doing what you “love.” Why? Because what you love is usually better as a hobby, not a living. Most people love to play chess, (Bobby Fischer made a  living off it, but you’re not Bobby Fischer – and in the end, he didn’t make it as Bobby Fischer either); some love to play hockey (unless you get drafted to the NHL, forget about it); or dabbling in visual arts (if you’re Warhol or Picasso by all means…. if you’re Van Gogh don’t bother….he sold one painting for $50.00 when he was alive).

There are some people in this world who do make it in the least likely of industries, against all odds. These people are celebrities and they comprise about 2% of the world’s population. Or they may be only local celebrities in your home town (something my brother used to call “lame celebrities”), making a moderately good living as broadcasters, anchors, talk show hosts, sports scouts, or some such thing.

By now you may know that I am an avid of Penelope Trunk. She has a great blog entitled Bad Career Advice: Do What You Love.  Here is an interesting quote from a blog she linked to the aforementioned blog: A job cannot make you happy, but it can save your life. People spend so much time looking for that perfect job, the perfect boss, the salary that will finally make them feel secure. But in fact, the impact a job can have on your life is overrated. 

Ultimately you have probably already worked for a great boss in a great job with a great salary and haven’t recognized it. Why? Because people place a lot of pressure on their career path to define who they are as people. That’s asking a lot of a job. I always wanted to have that incredible, special job that other people envied and wished they could have. I heard over and over as a teenager and 20-something that I, being special for some reason, would find it. I never did. I’m just an ordinary elementary schoolteacher. Big deal.

What makes me feel good however is my volunteering in my community. Currently I volunteer for two great organizations and I am considering a third. These are not organizations that take up an inordinate amount of time or else I wouldn’t be able to do all three. And I like them. A lot. Or I wouldn’t volunteer for them. But as much as I love the work, I cannot get paid for it. It’s worth almost zero to the community but it’s worth a great deal to the organizations who recruit their volunteers. If I wanted to get paid doing the volunteer work I do, I’d be looking under rocks to find an employer because no one will pay me for this kind of work. Yet I love it so I do it. For free.

Along that line, there is a way to do what you love, almost for a living. If income isn’t your biggest priority  then why not do what you love? You could be a writer, a blogger, an actor or some such thing where most people just don’t make a good living. If you don’t care about that and you can survive that way, then by all means, do it. Eventually you may change your mind but if you’re young enough, single and have no kids, what the heck?

Having said that, here’s a weird piece of information: Clay Collins referenced a 1956 psychological experiment  that showed people are more likely to find intrinsic motivation when they’re paid very little to do a task. When the monetary compensation increases, suddenly the money becomes the motivation, and as a result, it feels less enjoyable. Human beings are so complicated, aren’t they?

Does this mean that your passion can’t make you an income? Not necessarily. But the old sarcastic adage “don’t quit your day job,” was coined for a reason. Perhaps doing both what you love and what earns you an income is the answer. Or a compromise somewhere between the two. Or maybe what you love has to remain strictly voluntary. That’s for you to decide. Just make sure if you decide to quit your current job that you do so with a strong safety net in place – financially, emotionally and socially. You can bet your decision will be affected by the people who are important to you. It’s really not a step you make by yourself. And that’s one of the things that makes doing what you love so difficult to accomplish.







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