The “Do What You Love” Debate

There are three kinds of people in this world.

There are people who will tell you you can do ANYTHING if you work hard enough or love it enough. These people, mostly they are liars. They will urge you to “follow your dreams no matter the cost”. They will say that if you are unhappy at work or in school you should quit and pursue the thing you love to do. They will push you past all obvious untalentedness to the front of the American Idol audition line. They will support you right into the ground. And by support, I don’t actually mean they will pay your bills, I mean they will tell you “better luck next time” when you inevitably fail and your water bill is due.

Then there are the people that tell you Steve Jobs is wrong, that all those quotes are meaningless because work is SUPPOSED to be hard. And it’s SUPPOSED to suck and there aren’t enough good jobs in the world and somebody has to scrub toilets. We can’t all be Jay-Z or Mary Kate/Ashley/that new one Olsen ( I have no idea why these people came to mind BTW). They will say that spreadsheets are necessary, passion is overrated and you need to get off your whiny butt and get a job that is mediocre at best and pretty darn sucky at worst.

And then there are people like me. I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t going to be the rockstar/movie actress/Miss America finalist I thought when I was 10. But I also realized/assimilated that I didn’t HAVE to pick just one thing.

My mom is an admin-student-lawyer-flutist-small business owner.

My dad Rick is a programmer-salesperson-editor-manager-playwright.

My dad Mike is a navigator-statesman-ROTC instructor-special needs teacher.

In my family, education came before making the big bucks and being a good person came even before that.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right and if you’re not going to do it right, don’t bother doing it.”

That statement is a far cry from “Do what you love”. It’s also a far cry from “Suck it up, life’s tough.”

I’ve got the distinct feeling that there is a great place somewhere in the middle of those two statements. And not just for me, for lots of people. Sure I’ve had jobs that didn’t inspire but looking back, I think it was mostly because of my attitude. I recently watched the movie “Horrible Bosses” (yes, it finally came to the dollar theater) and the protagonists’ decision to kill their bosses rather than quit and find something better for them scared the crap out of me. (Also my latent crush on Jason Bateman was totally revived).

To play devil’s advocate, it’s probably easier for me to see opportunities as I live in a state with relatively low unemployment (especially in these troubled times) and with a pretty low cost of living too. But I still think that there are career paths that do not involve crazy bosses and the homicide of such.

Since I think better in steps, perhaps this is how the process could look:

-Attempt to do what you love. Get your education in something in which you show prowess and talent and then support that with continuing education (via conferences, professional associations, mentors, internships, social media and awesome sites like this one).

-Get a job (or create one) that at least touches on those skills. Be damn good at it!

-If you give it your all and you cannot make yourself (and your team/boss/colleagues/company) a success within the role, then move on!

I don’t believe that everyone can “do what they love”. I also don’t believe that you should waste the best years of your life doing something you hate and that kills you a little inside year after year either.

Do what you like, do what you’re good at, adjust your attitude and eventually you’ll be loving what you do.