So they say,
do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Cue the person who wakes up excited for work everyday, eager to start work.
That’s probably not going to happen.
In the world of work, finding work where you enjoy every single element is not possible.
Sorry, I had to burst your bubble there.
Here are 2 myths about finding work you love, but also what might be a better way.
I quit my previous job, wanting to do something that I loved more. I thought that would be writing. I had written a diary since I was 8, for the past 17 years. What could be that difficult about making it a full-time job?
Many things were difficult.
It wasn’t just about the writing. But it was about managing the clients, billing, invoicing, and chasing late payments. All of that made it close to impossible to enjoy what I was doing.
That was when I realised that the conventional idea of doing what you loved was really a bad idea.
Myth: Doing what you love means abandoning what you’re good at
You may be very interested in flower arrangement. Or salsa.
But an interest is not the same as skill. Whilst you may love what you currently do for a hobby, doing it as work makes it a completely different equation.
You have to deal with showing up, whether or not you like it.
As Cal Newport once said in ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’,
you have to get good before you get good work.
All the attraction of what you see in doing something you love, such as the sense of flow, the sense of enjoyment from consistently producing something of high quality, is only going to happen when you’re good at it.
If you’re an amateur, you’ll probably not enjoy it as much.
For the most part, doing what you love, is a very painful affair.
It is work. Chasing your dreams is less about chasing what may be an illusion, but more about recognising what you’re already good at, and doing it at a much better standard.
Myth: Doing what you love means that it will be easy
I don’t want to lie. Being a full-time writer is one of the hardest things I’ve done. It has not been easy at all. Before I ever made a cent from writing, I was writing everyday.
Every day, whether or not I liked it, I had to stare at the blinking cursor and an empty page, and wonder how I was going to create something out of nothing.
The hardest thing was getting started. It was easier to draw ideas on a page, to tell people that I wanted to start a business, without actually starting it.
It’s not easy to love what you do, when what you love is going to take years of practice before it becomes of a standard that people will pay money for.
From Angela Duckworth’s graph above, you can see that moving to ebing a world-class expert will take enormous difficulty. Many plateau and get stuck.
What will you do then? Give up?
Myth: Doing what you love means not thinking about the money
Passion also needs profit. You will be surprised at how your quality of life drops from not having enough money.
Whatever you love doing, ensuring that you’re able to earn an income you can thrive on is important too.
Case in point. In my own experience as a writer, I used to do work for free, or a very low price.
The hardest times came when I sat on the bus, and looked at others who were happily enjoying food in restaurants. They would think of nothing of spending $5 on coffee from Starbucks, which was what I spent for an entire day.
Or $19 on a meal, which was what I spent for 3 days worth of food.
When I went out to meet with my friends, I couldn’t spend anything because it felt that I had to scrimp and save.
I slowly began to realise that this was not a sustainable income and I hated the clients whom I was charging low prices for. I hated doing the work for them and didn’t want to do it anymore.
That’s when I started to raise my rates.
Passion comes with profit.
Whoever says money makes you a mercenary is probably earning a decent income, doing a full-time job that they don’t really want to do, pursuing their ‘passion’ as a side-project.
Until you do your passion full-time, and stare down the barrel of a month without a thriving income, then should you say ‘love what you do, and you’ll never have to earn another day in your life.’
Earning money is work. Making sales is difficult. It requires real work. You can’t just wing it.
So what do I do?
Now that you’ve known the myths, what should you do?
Quit your job
If you want to take yourself seriously, quit your job. There’s nothing more motivating than realising that you have no one to depend on but yourself.
A lot of people talk about the sidehustle, where you work in tandem with a full-time job. It’s supposed to reduce the pressure on you to work. I did that for a year.
But I realised that it didn’t work because I was comfortable. After all, even if I didn’t work on what I loved, I would still get money from my full-time job.
Quitting your job can bring an added pressure to make what you love work. You learn to ask for money. You learn to make something people want, rather than something that’s just nice to look at.
You learn to sell – which is the most vital part of doing what you love.
You need to sell something people want.
Don’t blame yourself for wanting money
I used to think that asking for money was ‘selling out’. But if you want to have a sustainable career doing what you love, you need to ask for what you’re worth.
You can’t just expect people to give you money without you asking for it.
Sometimes, the biggest mindset shift that needs to happen is you taking the effort to convince yourself that asking for money is not wrong. It’s about knowing your worth.
Work at it, everyday
Loving your work, is working your love. You need to work it out, like how you develop muscles at the gym. It is hard.
You can’t just expect to make something happen without you putting in the hard work to hone your craft.
You have to work it.
One thing that has been helpful for me is to do Challenge 44, a protocol from entrepreneur Shane Melaugh.
- In the first 30 days, you produce 30 pieces of content. 1 piece of content every day.
- In the next 30 days, you produce 10 pieces of content. 1 piece of content every 3 days.
- In the next 30 days, you produce 4 pieces of content. 1 piece of content every 6 days.
This protocol helps you get used to publishing perfect and imperfect work, so that you’re more comfortable with producing work you don’t love regularly.
You will get there
When you first start working out what you love, it’s hard. There’s no other way to tell you not to give up.
But what is helpful for me is to write down a letter to celebrate myself daily, writing down the qualities I see in myself and how I’ve demonstrated them in the past.
Every morning, I also write down 3 things I’m proud of finishing the previous day.
When you start, the hardest thing is thinking that what you’re doing is small and insignificant, and that no one really cares about what you’re doing.
But you need to come with a mindset of taking your own work seriously, so that you’re able to push, even when no one seems to care about what you do.
It will be difficult.
Last Saturday, wanting a space to work, I went to a place that was supposedly restricted. Someone came down to tell me that I couldn’t use the space. They told me to leave in 10 minutes. As I was writing on a whiteboard, I forgot the time. After that, another person came to ask me what I was doing.
Well, you cannot use our facilities.
I got it. The contempt in his eyes as he stared me down was palpable.
This is what you’ll get when you try to do what you love. You will be poor initially, not having an office space to work.
You may eat beans on toast for a long time.
But don’t walk away.
You’re going to have 80 years on this earth. Many choose to do small and stupid jobs that no one cares about.
Don’t do that.
Don’t sell your soul to get things you don’t really want, to please people you don’t really like.
Work your love.