The “Do What You Love” Mirage

I am inspired by having read an article called “Do what you love mirage” by Denis Basaric. It begins…

“Do what you love” is advice I hear exclusively from financially secure people. And it rings hollow to me. When you need money to survive, you do any work that is available, love does not play into that choice. Desperation does.

Please read it before you go on.

Welcome back.

This article puts a very important cycle within my life into words. I believe, as Denis says, that a lot of times, we get the cause-effect relationship mixed up when we think about loving what we do.

I love what I do. Well, a lot of it. But Denis is right: I didn’t choose what I do out of love. I chose what I love out of doing. Some examples:

  • I love mathematics. But I most assuredly did not always love it. I learned to love it through working hard at it.
  • It’s the same thing with writing. I love it, but I didn’t always. At first, writing was unrewarding drudgery, which is how most people I meet seem to feel about it.
  • I love public speaking, but I sure didn’t love it when my speech class made me sick to my stomach three mornings a week for a whole semester my freshman year.
  • I love being an Oracle performance specialist, but I sure didn’t love being airlifted into crisis after crisis throughout the early 1990s.

I could go on. The point is, my life would be unrecognizably different if not for several really painful situations that I decided to endure with the resolve to get really good at what I hated. Until I loved it.

In retrospect, I seem to have been very lucky in many important situations. Of course, I have. But you make your own luck. Although I believe deeply in the idea of, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” that is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the power that you have to define for yourself whether something that happened was lucky for you or not. Your situations do not define your life. You create your life based on how you regard your situations.

I could have rebelled against Jimmy Harkey and hated math for the rest of my life. Lots of kids did. I could have rebelled against Lewis Parkhill and never become a writer. I could have refused Craig Newberger’s advice to take his second speech course and never become comfortable in front of an audience. I could have left Oracle in 1991 and found a job where they had more mature products….

One of the most important questions that I ever asked my wife before our engagement was this:

If you were forced to wash cars for 12 hours a day, just to make a living, could you enjoy it?

This is a “soulmate” kind of question for me. My wife’s attitude about it is, for our children and me, possibly the most valuable gift in our lives.

Loving what you do can be difficult. I think Denis hits the nail on the head by suggesting that,

By doing good work, you just might find out that what you are doing, is what you are supposed to do. And if you don’t, quality work will get you to where you want to be.

I hope you will find love in what you do today. Do it well, and it’ll definitely improve your odds.


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