As a senior in college, there has been a lot of riff raff about doing what you love. I’m sure in a few short months there will be a slew of graduation speeches proclaiming this exact message. Find what you love and do it — urging us budding work force-ees to find a job that does exactly what you love to do.
This piece of overused advice is misleading for a large portion of society. Granted I don’t have the wisdom or experience of the older folk who have been part of the game for a much longer time, so perhaps my views will change as I mature into a respectable member of the work force.
Constantly doing what you love, kills what you love
As a simple example, take a song that you love (You make my dreams come true – Hall & Oates), now listen to it 100 times today, and the next day, and the next day, and so on. How long will you love this song for? What if you listened to that song only once or twice a day?
While listening to music is not exactly analogous to work, the concept is the same. Turning your most enjoyable hobby into work is a sure-fire way to banish all the love you ever had for that hobby. This has happened countless times in my life: go full bore into some new technology, do it non-stop, and 6 months later I find myself burnt out.
Save what you really love for extracurriculars. You know, those projects you can’t stop thinking about during the day; the ones that stop you from sleeping at night. A little moderation will keep the fire burning inside and make those moments when working on that which you love even more special.
While I’m a strong believer in the fact that if anyone practices something long enough they can become skilled enough to make a living off of it, that kind of practice takes a long time. I’m just now starting to realize that I probably can’t go travel after school or go slacklining in crazy corners of the world. Why? Simply because I don’t have the money. I’m going to have to work first in order to make that money, and it might be work that I don’t absolutely love.
If not pursue love, then pursue what?
This is a question that has haunted me again and again. After much pondering, I believe there are 3 requirements that can give me a rewarding and happy career.
- Do something that’s meaningful to you
- Don’t do something you hate
- Make enough money to pay the bills
Meaning – Doing something meaningful is sustainable. If I believe I’m making a real change or truly believe in the cause of my work, I hope that that will lead to a rewarding career. In ten years, I want to proud of what I’ve done for society. I want to be able to talk about my work with passion and explain to people how I helped make a difference.
Hate - It’s all for naught if you hate your job. I could be saving the world’s poor or teaching the world’s young, but if I despise waking up every morning, then I surely will not have a rewarding career.
Money - Unfortunately, money does play a part. Plenty of studies have shown that happiness is increased when you can at least pay your bills. The amount of money you need varies from person to person, but as much as graduation speakers hate to admit it, your job needs to satisfy your basic needs.
While finding a job that you don’t hate, that has meaning, and that pays you is not an easy task, it’s a much more sane and grounded one than aimlessly pursuing a job you absolutely love regardless of the consequences. However, if you’re lucky, you might get it all, someone must’ve done it.