"Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow" Doper Success Stories

I’ve got part A down pretty well.

Currently looking for part B. Must be following a bit farther than I had hoped.

What Dopers have had the money follow from doing what they love?

Share your success stories!

Note: Apparently there is a book by this title. I didn’t know that. This Thread isn’t meant to be a discussion of the book.

I don’t have a story like, say, having a hobby or interest that I was able to turn into a business, which is what I think you are looking for and I would really like to hear about, too.

In my case, I will say I quit pursuing someone else’s version of the American Dream and clarified what I wanted. I was a textbook…yuppie I guess: right education, right strategy consulting job, all high powered and shit - on Partner track…and miserable. When consulting began to crash after the dot-com bust I used it as an opportunity to look outside the “acceptable” options and ended up at a small entrepreneurial company doing the types of business things I love. And I have a much better work/life balance. I feel blessed and appreciative and can’t imagine why it took me so long to stay on the yuppie track…

I don’t have a success story myself, but my dad does.

He’s been into cars since he was a kid. When I was growing up, we had a 65 and 66 GTO in our garage and kept our family vehicles out in the rain. Now he’s restoring a 40 Studebaker.

Anyway, in the midst of restoring his GTOs, he stumbled into rebuilding his own tripower unit for the car. Turns out he was pretty good at it and started doing them for his car buddies. Word spread that my dad had a knack for, and really enjoyed, rebuilding these units. I was in high school at the time and saw my dad spending more and more time in the garage.

I put up a simple website offering his services, which exploded like wildfire. He spent his last few months of before retiring ridiculously busy between work and his side business. He’s now retired and making more money than he was working, since he can devote more time to his side business. He goes around the country to car conventions, sells parts, answers questions, and generally has a great time and makes good money.

My uncle had a great story where he was a pilot for Air Canada before it really tanked. As he was approaching 50 (or earlier) they started offering early retirement packages. He had pretty much hit the highest level he was going to reach so he snaged one. I don’t know the exact details of the package but it offered a lot of money upfront and then a nice pension plan. For him, he had always loved construction equipment; bulldozers, excavators, and 18wheelers. So he took the money and went to schoool where he got trained as a truck driver. Then with the remaining he was able to buy a small bulldozer and moved from Toronto back to his home town of Fredericton. There he started offering his services to friends and made a killing. The guy couldn’t be happier than taking his bulldozer out and pushing things around.

His story is the perfect example of having both money and opportunity. I tried something similar but with the opposite results. I went the engineering route, busted my ass through an undergrad, then a graduate degree and by the time I was done I hated it. I ended up leaving it all to become a chef, which worked out well, except that I went from making $65k a year to making $6.50 an hour. The thing they don’t always tell you about starting over, is that you start over at the BOTTOM. So many of these “do what you love” stories fail to mention the financial disaster that awaits. As it stands now, I’ll probably have to go back to being an engineer for a while until I can get the finances straightened out enough.

One word of comfort though was that I couldn’t believe how many other people did exactly what I did. Every time I told someone my story, they’d start by acting shocked, then then tell me about someone they knew that just did the same thing. I really get the feeling we’ll see tons of stories like WordMan’s, where so man of us were pushing into university, and the into a career, and woke up one day at 26 wondering what the hell we were doing. Its all too easy to follow someone else idea of a dream…

Filmmaking is my second-favourite thing. But I was lured into the computer world by the steady paycheque and anual pay rises. I managed to work on low- and no-budget films from time to time, and it was fun. But my day-to-day thing was crunching numbers. Then my job was outsourced.

Found a crappy job in a new town. Not enough work to keep me busy, so I was laid off. But I’d made friends with a local videographer – who also happened to be from SoCal and moved up the same month I did. He offered me a piece of the business.

I’ve made some money from doing one of the things I love – at least, I’ve made money on paper. I’ve been investing in the business by buying two new cameras and a doorway dolly, not to mention ‘investing’ my considerable lighting gear and other things. And the money I’m allowing Pard to defer payment of the money I’ve made so that he can put it toward the film we’re making in (I hope) October. Since I’ve bought two cameras, that means we can – and indeed, have – double-booked weddings. (Weddings aren’t much fun, but they earn money. BTW, we use two cameras per wedding.) Double-booking means double the money, so my investment is paying off for the company. And it looks as if the newest camera will be the one we’ll shoot the film with.

Good point, emack. I have a friend who loves to tell the story about how he and his wife were working 60 hours a week in the finace industry in San Francisco until one day they decided to get off of the treadmill and semi-retire to Santa Barbara. He always leaves out the part about how his wife has a metric shit load of family money and they didn’t really have to work anyway.

I’m lucky in that what I love (engineering) pays pretty well. I’ve been able to steer my career such that I have been able to combine it with my second love which is travel. Of course, that was my plan from the beginning. I can’t tell you how many of my fellow engineering students or students in the classed that I TA’ed hated engineering and did it because of parental pressure or because of future earnings. Engineering is way too difficult a thing to do if you don’t love it.

I tend to think this is one of the “Big Lies”. Like, “if you set your mind to it, you can be whatever you want to be”.

Most of the people who say it, I suspect, are lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to love being a “businessman” or a “self help guru”. What they love is making money.

Problem is, the things we all love doing, you’re not going to make money at.

All those things that people LOVE to do. . .play sports, paint, play music, tell jokes. . .have fun renting crummy apartments with roommates and eating mac & cheese 5 days a week…

You know what I love? Leisure. And I mean QUALITY leisure. A good chair to sit in while I listen to my good stereo and drink good alcohol after eating a good meal.

Here’s my advice: find a job that pays well that you can tolerate.

I think there is some truth to this. Yet, I would position it differently: be realistic about what can make money, and choose something that you enjoy doing within that context.

Also - look for the type of organization that you fit best with. If you like structure and security a big corporation makes sense. Risk and control? Start your own. Bottom line is that you could be doing something you like, but in the wrong setting still not enjoy it.

Don’t expect to do something you love and make money if there is no money to be made doing it.

Don’t expect to ignore your passion and prostitute yourself for a high income and expect to feel good about yourself or your situation.

My new situation is that I fully realize that, within the context of what I can do to make money, I have a great great fit for what I enjoy doing.

I was a decent, better-than-mediocre social worker when one day the director bemoaned the pathetic state of our ability to know who had which clients, or had had them in the past. I had a copy of FileMaker Pro at home and knew that there was a Windows version as well, so I volunteered to set up a database of clients. (I’d been tracking my own in Excel for some time but I told him a database would work better with multiple workers and transfers of cases from worker to worker and whatnot).

In the months that followed, I discovered scripting, subsummary reports (hey, we can do our stats for our funding sources in the database!), lookups from another file (hey, I can track the history of who has ever had a client!), buttons, complex calculation fields (OK, if you input the ZIP code and the street address, the database will figure out the community district for that client and put it here), etc… I was fascinated with it, damn, I can make this system do anything, look at me, I’m practically a programmer or something!

I got chewed on occasionally for spending so mcuh time developing the database & concerns were expressed about whether I was attending to my clients, but after a year all the meals-on-wheels routes and clinical review notes and charting notes and essentially anything that pertained to clients in any fashion had been subsumed into the database, and we networked up the place (in thin coax, remember that?) and ran FileMaker in a multi-user environment, and I did get commendations from the Board of Directors once they realized how much the database was doing for the agency.

When the agency became defunded, I had rotten luck scoring another job in social work and after 9 months began also applying for a job doing FileMaker development, and nailed one fairly soon after. I’ve been working in FileMaker ever since.

Couple of Stories That Are Not My Own
#1: Anne and Rod, a real life married couple with an incredible talent for music use to play cover songs with their band on weekends and make pretty good cash while working regular work day jobs in Corporate America. He is an awesome guitarist and she has a great folksy voice.

After a number of years of this routine, they decided to “Jump and the net will be provided.” They quit their day jobs, focused solely on their own duo-ship and were mildly successful in bars, festivals and whatnot.

However, the problem they encountered was the paper side of life: insurance and taxes. It was a pain the ass to deal with those and pay through the nose for the insurance. They each decided to go back to work ( I’m fuzzy on whether or not in the same capacity as before) but it left them more wiggle room for their music and gigs. And more money coming in on a regular basis and no insurance hassles.

It also helps they don’t have kids.

But, their passion is their hobby which also brings them in some nice bucks and they just released another if I maycd which you need to open just to see her t-shirt, which I want one of.


My cousin and her husband retired to BFE, NC after his 20 years with the Marines. Their hobby before then was photography. They decided to start a traveling business taking pictures of kids at birthday parties and soccer/sports shots.

Everyone in her family rolled their eyes at this. (My family is very uptight in the classic white person way. Self Employment? Independant thoughts?It is wrong, wrong I tell you!)

I thought it was a great idea. ( He has his guaranteed pension and insurance for the rest of their lives, so no worries there.)

Short story long ( their kids are all over 18 now.) they just bought their towns photography business from the retiring guy and are holding their own in this first year of business.

Oh, the money follows, all right . . . At a great distance, and every time I turn around to see who’d there, it ducks into an alleyway.

Throw in a good nap and you and I can be a club. I happen to think that I’d be REALLY good at winning the lottery . . .

. . . but those jobs are hard to get. :frowning:

As it is, I enjoy what I do for money–but not as much as I enjoy, say, a Saturday that stretches before me free and unencumbered by any sort of obligation . . .

I always wanted to be a science fiction writer when I grew up, but figured it was too difficult. After bouncing from job to job (and realizing the the ones I really liked involved writing in some form), I started submitting manuscripts. Eventually, I had some small success.

Additionally, the first time I saw a computer, I loved it. Years later, in one of my technical writing gigs, I started using PCs. Got involved and became a computer guru simply by working with them and observing. Eventually got a job and a career in a college I&TS department, moving from User Services, to webmaster, to instructional technology (i.e., Blackboard) coordinator. I love it.

Ultimately, you will suceed in doing a job you like, simply because if you like something, you’re going to learn how to do it well. And if you do a job well, you’re likely to get hired doing it.


Another story, that is the opposite of what you want to hear.
My neighbor, a right decent lady who is wonderful in everyway that a neighbor should be, had a crisis in her life a few years ago when she realized that she and her husband could never have children. (Adoption was not an option for whatever reason.)

Anywho, she asked me what I would do if I couldn’t have kids. ( Mind you I was newly preggo’s with #1 but hadn’t told anyone yet.) and I said, " Well, If it isn’t meant to be I have to figure out what I want in life and whether or not Mr. Ujest and I were meant to torture each other for the long run…etc…and then I would do what I love…what ever it is…(for me it is travel, writing and books.)

She hated her job as uber assistant in a big company and decided to go and get her Masters. It took her about 4 years with a near divorce because her husband ( who is a great guy, but a butthead at times) was upset because after nearly 4 years of making his own meals most of the time was tired of it and dammit…he needs some cooking ( He is also 7 years younger than his wife and an only child.)
She was two classes away from quitting her Masters in HR ( if that is the offical title) to cook for her constantly shift-changing husband. ( !!!) Mr Ujest and I had a little talking with her and her husband seperately about sticking to the plan and whatnot and don’t be a butthead at this stage of the game, comprende?

So, she’s one class away from the Master’s and she is " I hope I like what I am paying all this money for…" and I had a sinking feeling that she would not like it.

So, she gets her diploma. Gets hired by some phone company ( not a Major One, but one of the upstarts) and immediately hates her job. I mean the kind where she starts smoking again after 20 years of smoke free and needs (eventually) anti depressants because it is eating her alive. Yeah, good times.

The councelling the Ujests give our neighbor ( and we did say the exact same thing to her and her husband individually (my husband and I and both of them seperate, if that makes sense) was, " You are nuts. Quit and look elsewhere. No job is worth the cost of your health and mental happiness. You can work some BS level job to float some income in until The Big One comes along. Don’t Worry…"

She couldn’t. Can’t quit a job and start looking. Financially, she could if she didn’t have a shoe buying habit that was insane ( at least 100 pair of black shoes and counting!)and a catalogue shopping habit that was nearly out of control. It didn’t help that her husband has a need to have a new car every 12-18 months. ( He works for Ford.) and they always have two car payments going on.
Took her at least 4 years to get another job. She has it handling HR for a local family green house that has several locations. 4 years of her soul being sucked out of her in a company that was bleeding employees…she wasted four years of her life…I cannot comprehend it at all.

Mr. Ujest and I know she is in the honeymoon phase of this new job, but I know it is a matter of time before she hates it again.
She is a wonderful person, but she has baggage and will never be happy in HR.
( she doesn’t do well with conflict.)
Some people are never happy.

One problem is, as a couple people mentioned is that even if you COULD eventually make money at what you love, you often NEED money NOW.

Even given my earlier doomsaying, my wife is doing what she loves. She used to be a salesperson somewhere (making better’n $30K per year with bennies and pofti sharing) while she made jewelry in her spare time. Well, after I took a job, she was able to really pursue what she loved. She quit her job. We were able to invest in some equipment and handle the start up costs of her business.

Basically, her business years have been. . .loss, small loss, break-even, small profit, small profit. Even though she has a completely viable business model that a lot of people have had success with, that doesn’t mean you can survive on it. That was 5 years of completely full time work. She’s probably made about $.10 per hour over the last 5 years.

However, her business is fun for her, and I can kind of live vicariously through it as I toil for the man.

Hopefully, money follows. Time will tell. The point is, there are serious, practical, real-world limitations to the maxim “do what you love and the money will follow”.

I loved the ideal of doing what I was meant to do from the start! I wanted gto be Jacques Cousteau since I was a young lad. Born and raised in Connecticut, I was a certified Diver at 11 years old, and ever since I can remember I loved digging in the dirt or prowling around the depths with my buddies looking for treasure. I’d certainly consider myself and amateur archaeologist, but it has remained a simple hobby.

One year into college I showed an aptitude for Psychology. After switching my major from Archaeology to Psychology early in my sophomore year, I really excelled in the field. Having worked with my hands for many years, I soon realized my discipline was moving towards how people feel about their surroundings and work environ. Eventually my schooling lead to environmental psychology. Where I eventually received my Phd. And this eventually lead to my teaching at the collegiate level. As a young prof I was making great money, and enjoying what I was doing. However, I was missing something. I was neck deep in theory with little application to the real world. So I started my own design business where I consulted with everything from Office Set-up and design to childrens rooms. I loved it.

My wife and I were making a good living, no kids, and trying to stay under the Yuppie radar. Now I live in the desert southwest and am working as a principle at a medium sized environmental planning firm.

My wife and I live a comfortable life. But I must say we earned every bit fo what we have.

Thankfully we know the value of a dollar, and know what it is like to not have two pennies to rub together. ***If there is one thing I could tell the younger dopers out there, it would be that your dreams come true but only with patience and hard work! Nothing goes unrewarded, just certain things take time to be rewarded! Oh yeah and keep that credit score up there too! ***

To give the down-side of my dad’s story I posted earlier, here’s my own.

I put up my first website when I was 15, in 1995 or so. I knew it was what I wanted to do as a career. I’m artistically gifted as well, so I graduated high school and moved to Chicago 3 weeks later to pursue an education to make me a web designer. I fell into multimedia/animation and absolutely loved it. I graduated at age 20 and got a job at an advertising/marketing firm doing animation/illustration/web design. Hated it.

With encouragement from my dad, I quit to go freelance. I kept it up for almost 3 years, barely making a penny for all my work. I was an awful salesman. I kept part-time jobs just to pay the bills, and sunk a lot of cash into this “business” that wasn’t working.

In retrospect, I was way too young and inexperienced and because of the 3 years of miserable brokeness, I’m scared to try anything so bold again. Now I’m a web designer for an insurance company.

I like it just fine, but I still have dreams of “doing what I love and letting the money follow”. I’m toying with the idea of starting a t-shirt company in my free time, or having my girlfriend write a children’s book that I can illustrate, or writing/producing animations for the 'net that will earn money… ya know… somehow. I’ve always got ideas going, and do have confidence that I won’t be tied down by “the man” forever. For now though, it’s okay. It pays the bills and affords me plenty of free time, and has paid off almost all of the debt I acquired in my failed business attempts. And the 3 years of hell taught me valuable lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed a thing, but I still look forward to change in the future.

Geeze…if someone can figure out how to make a decent living playing video games and smoking pot please let me know…I’ve been doing it for years and have yet to make a dime. :wink:

I think the “Do what you love…” thing is a myth. I don’t mean in the conventional sense of an untrue story, but rather, the anthropological definition in that it’s a story that is told to reenforce certain socially desirable behaviors. But what is interesting to me is that it seems to be a particularly American kind of myth.

Everyone has heard of the story from that actor… I don’t even have to name which actor, everyone knows it’s an actor, or maybe a comedian, anyway, they claim that they wanted to go to acting school and their parents told them they better take typing or engineering or something else as a safe option. Well, as it turns out, they never used a single thing they leart from those typing classes. On the other side, we have the popular image of surburbia, the place where dreams go to die. The husband working at a mid level manegerial job he doesn’t enjoy, the trophy wife bored and disillusioned, the kids shuttled off to private schools and soccer games to try and relive lost dreams. All of it is myth.

But on the face of it, how true can it actually be? How many people play professional college level football? How many of them actually then go on to achieve success at a pro level? What happened to the rest of them?

How many people open up a restaurant because it was their dream? And how many of them are still around after the first 3 years? How many aspiring writers are there and how many have any hope of financial independance during their career? How many “artists” or “inventors” or “entreprenuers” are there out there and are even a remote fraction of them “successful” or even happy with their choice in life?

And even if you succeed, following your dream can be just as constricting as the safe route. What about the chef who entered his profession to cook great food and rises to the top, only to find that being a chef is more about PR and negotiating prices and delegation. Does he dare admit that he’s actually unhappy? Of course not, the role of a dreamer is just as strictly defined by social convention as that of an achiever. Nobody wants to admit the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is actually tin. Not to themselves and not to the world.

If you look at the numbers, saying “follow your dream and damn the consequences” is about the same as telling someone who has cancer to reject modern medicine and pray to god to heal you. Sure, some people who do that have a miraculous recovery, but a whole bunch more end up dying a painful death. But if you put enough blinders on, then you can make any behaviour seem rational.