Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Do You Love What You Do?
April 29, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Article Reviews, Career Advice, Recruiting

“By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one’s work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty. Having a job is said to be even more onerous than schoolwork. And yet all the adults claim to like what they do. You can’t blame kids for thinking ‘I am not like these people; I am not suited to this world.’”

This wonderful post by Paul Graham takes a very insightful look into why we pursue certain careers and why we avoid others. Loving what you do is not something that many people have the luxury of saying, or doing. I’ve always believed that a true test of career love is if you’d do it for free. Graham says,

“To be happy I think you have to be doing something you not only enjoy, but admire. You have to be able to say, at the end, wow, that’s pretty cool.”

Graham goes on to say that many people tend to select professions not based on what they love deep down inside, but based on a direction in which their parents steer them, or worse yet, based on the prestige of a particular career. He says,

“Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.”

Loving what you do comes from keep yourself disciplined. Do well at whatever it is that you’re doing, even if you’re not ‘in love’ with it yet. Always be a producer, and understand that knowing what you like to work on doesn’t always mean that you’ll get to work on it. Know proper timing for working on pet projects and working on things that are required. You’ll respect yourself, and your peers will respect you. The love will come eventually.

 Graham described two routes that will lead to loving what you do:

  1. The organic route, which is essentially gaining experience and gradually increasing the amount of time you spend in your job on the elements you enjoy vs. those things you don’t, and
  2. The two-job route, which is working a ‘day job’ to pay the bills and pursuing your love in your spare time.

He says more people tend to work the organic route, because the two-job route requires a deliberate choice. However, my personal feeling is that with the state of the job market today, we will see an uptick in the number of people working a job that simply pays the bills in the daylight hours while pursuing a hobby, or another degree, in the evenings or in their spare time, with the ultimate goal of doing something they love.

A tip to college students: you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life! From Graham:

“A friend of mine who is a quite successful doctor complains constantly about her job. When people applying to medical school ask her for advice, she wants to shake them and yell ‘Don’t do it!’ (But she never does.) How did she get into this fix? In high school she already wanted to be a doctor. And she is so ambitious and determined that she overcame every obstacle along the way—including, unfortunately, not liking it. Now she has a life chosen for her by a high-school kid.”

Want to love what you do? Explore many options before making a definite decision. Don’t lock yourself into one niche before you’ve tested out a couple of others. In my own experience, I discovered within the last three months of college that I HATED what I had been pursuing. Thankfully I was able to find a career path shortly after graduating that I’ve fallen in love with.

Finally, don’t let money be the center of your decision-making. Taking care of your financial needs should certainly be a deciding factor for sure, but would you sell your soul for a price tag? “Much as everyone thinks they want financial security, the happiest people are not those who have it, but those who like what they do. So a plan that promises freedom at the expense of knowing what to do with it may not be as good as it seems.” My advice – work hard at what you love to make yourself worthy of a higher salary. Pay your dues. You’ll appreciate what you earn more when you’ve had to work hard for it.

The takeaway here is this: take some time to figure out what you love. Don’t rush it! Sometimes it may show up nice and subtle, but it might just smack you in the face too. Be open to whatever it is – the old saying goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Be sure to read Paul Graham’s complete article, “How To Do What You Love”.


1 Comment so far
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This is so true! We have tried to teach my step-children that they need to get an education to make a better chance for themselves but to remember that they need to follow what they want to do. My step-daughter was going into a field of medicine partially because of the money she could have made but she would have hated it so now she is trying something else. My step son is taking his passion for history and in college to become a teacher. I am so proud.

Christina Baita

Comment by Christina Baita

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