…and doing what you love

The single best piece of career advice I ever received was from my former boss.  At least, I remember it being from him.  It could have been from a book as well.  (If you know which book this comes from, leave me a note in the comments, okay?)  But let’s assume it was my boss.  His advice was that you should figure out what that one thing is that you would be willing to do every day, even without pay.  Then you figure out a way to make money with it.  Of course then I quit to try and follow his advice, so I’m pretty sure he regretted giving it to me 😉

Loving what you do is attainable for anyone.  It pretty much comes down to attitude.  You can choose to learn to love a job.  Sometimes that’s hard and you might even decide it’s not worth the effort, learning to love it.  That was the case with me and teaching.  I couldn’t get myself to learn to love it.  For me the effort required was more than it was worth.  But it is possible.  If I think of the number of people I’ve met in menial jobs they couldn’t possibly have chosen, but who do those jobs with a commitment and passion that puts me to shame, then anyone can learn to love any job.  It only depends on how much you need to learn that love.

Doing what you love is a whole different kettle of fish.  To start with you have to figure out what you love.  That’s not as simple as it sounds.  Some people discover their passion early in life.  They know from a young age what moves them.  Others, like me, spend most of their lives knowing they’re supposed to love something, but never quite figuring out what that something is.  For us it’s hit-or-miss.

Once you figure out what it is you love (or at least pick something to give a try) the challenge is to start doing it and get good enough at it so you can actually make a living from it.  That’s a lot of pressure because getting good at something takes consistent hard work, no matter how talented you are.  

You start doing what you love because you must, and that ruins it.  You start to push yourself, striving for perfection, eyeing the competition.  You’re never satisfied with your work, it’s never good enough.  Your work, your art, that thing you love, becomes a chore.

Gigi, from Anchor it down, summed it up very well in her comment on my previous post:  “I used to have phases of hating what I thought I loved doing.”

I’m in a phase like that now.  Writing is a chore.  Just churning out this blog post each day takes monumental effort.  I haven’t even looked at my novel in days.  I’ve started two short stories and gave up, frustrated, a few hundred words in.  My studies are not going much better and I’m not even managing to focus on the new book I’ve started reading (Firestarter by Stephen King – how distracted must you be if you can’t focus on a SK novel?).

But it’s a phase.  And phases pass.  If there’s one thing worth pushing through for it is doing the thing you love.  I’m not sure if I really love writing, but it’s definitely something I can learn to love.  I shall push through or go insane doing it.

I want to finish with a quote from the essay Fail Safe by Debbie Millman as a bit of encouragement for myself and, perhaps, for you reading this:

“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”