But tempting as it is to live a life of simple aphorisms, life is not one-dimensional. At least not for me. Sure…some folks love their work and could never ever do a job they didn’t love. But does that mean doing what we love for a living is always the right choice for each one of us?
Where work and life intersect
Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist (one of my favorite blog names) is about work and life – the importance of where the two intersect being something we often forget. In her article Bad Career Advice: Do What You Love she tells us why she thinks these four little oft-quoted words can sometimes lead us astray, especially if we get stuck looking for that one magic job we love and maybe miss the bigger picture. For example she writes “I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex.” Hah! Well said.
She goes on to remind us why a job – even one we don’t love – can be a way of loving ourselves:
A job can save your life, though. If you are lost, and lonely, and wondering how you’ll ever find your way in this world. Take a job. Any job. Because structure, and regular contact with regular people, and a method of contributing to a larger group are all things that help us recalibrate ourselves.
Living a multi-textured life
I love the idea of a multi-layered, multi-textured life. We are who we are no matter where we are. Sure…it can be great to fully embrace the work we do – and I argue that we should try to do that anyway, no matter what the work is or how much we love the container.
But doing what we love doesn’t have to be the same as making a living doing what we love. In fact, sometimes turning a love into a regular day-in day-out job spoils it. For instance, I love acting. I did extra work for a while and it was great. But I knew that there were other parts of me that wouldn’t be fulfilled by a career in acting, even if I had been lucky enough to be able to swing it.
And while I can’t exactly say I LOVE project management or business process consulting in the same way I love acting or singing or even watching bad TV, it sure has made for an interesting long-term career for me. Maybe it isn’t exactly love, but it can be deeply satisfying at times, providing exposure to new organizational environments and a level of complexity I do love. And I can always do things I feel more passionate about in my spare time (rather than on some set work schedule), keeping the fun factor elevated and adding to my life as a whole. This may not work for everyone – some people thrive on giving their all to one thing – but for me it’s about the balance.
All that said…following our bliss (or any path that calls loudly to us) can lead to all kinds of interesting things, whether you get paid for them or not. And for some of us it can indeed lead to a career based on things we love. But that doesn’t mean if you don’t make a living doing what you love you can’t still love your life.
What do you think? Would your career advice to someone be “do what you love”? Does determination to find a job we love sometimes miss the point?