All around I keep hearing that we should do what we love however it seems to me that a far more pragmatic approach would be to learn to love what we do. There is good reason for this. When I think about what I love to do, it typically is unproductive and involves spending money. I think many of us are the same in that regard. If I were to simply do what I love to do, that would be to spend, spend, spend and spend some more. My accountant would not be happy. Nor my bank manager. Nor my starving family (just kidding). It is therefore far more important to learn to find aspects that we love about what we do and failing that then find something that we can do that we can learn to love.
Someone recently asked my what I love to do, and that they would gladly pay me to do it if I love it. Instantly, and perhaps a little cheekily, I wanted to say: “sleep in, be brought a cooked breakfast, then go back to sleep”. Perhaps that is not quite what they wanted to hear. Maybe they were referring to the all too familiar tones of, I love my work. It is satisfying because I’m making a valuable contribution. And so it is. If you are making a valuable contribution you are doing exactly what I was saying in my opening about learning to love what you do.
Another example of the fallacy of the idea that we should all do what we love comes from another person who is really keen on insects. The problem with that is there is very little commercial reality for his passion, and although world-wide I’m sure he could carve out a niche for himself he might consider that the work and effort required to do this may be better spent tapping in to a commercial reality. Now, don’t get me wrong it wasn’t me who did the research on that market, it was him. But I tend to believe that he would have some trouble making a living in the insect market because it is extremely rare to find people that are willing to spend much money on insects, or information about insects. Learning to love something that is a hobby that does have a commercial reality is a different matter entirely as many who produce products for the lucrative golfing niche tell me.
Learning to love things that we must do is a worthy goal because it is with passion for our work that we are able to contribute not only to the work that is getting done, but to the energy of the team in which we work and the environment of people at our workplace. It gives us the wear with all to work around sticky problems and the persistence and determination to see it through past the challenges and obstacles that in my estimation define the value of the accomplishment. To quote Brian Tracy’s Pheonix Seminar:
“If there is nothing standing between you and your goal it is not a goal at all it is merely an activity.”
And this is true of all great accomplishments. Great accomplishments are in my opinion defined by the massive obstacles that needed to be overcome in order to achieve them. That’s not to suggest that timing, and a degree of luck (or randomness) is involved, it seems it always is. Roger Hamilton refers to this as timing, the ability to sense the correct moment, to see the gap and move quickly to get through before it closes.
Renzulli in his work on intelligence and great achievement determined that three factors contributed to a person become eminent in their chosen field. Exceptional intelligence, exceptional creativity and the focus of this essay, exceptional commitment and motivation. It is not so important to do what you love, as it is to love doing what you do and ensuring that what you are doing is contributing positively outside yourself.