I agree with the gist of the piece: We shouldn’t encourage people to evaluate work based on the amount of love and passion they have for it, because these are pretty high-minded and unrealistic ideals for most people. Also, you can’t eat love and passion. Focusing on love and passion above monetary compensation is exactly what the greedy overlords who sign our paychecks want us to do.
But I don’t ever remember being taught to “do what I love”. Not by my parents or my teachers or anyone else. Pursue your dreams and set goals for achieving them, sure. But no one ever told me to elevate passion above a pay check.
However, I am lucky. While I have never been passionate for my work, I have never hated it either. I imagine if I did hate my work and I was surrounded by people who couldn’t stop gushing about their “love” for their work, I would be very sensitive to the pressure.
Were you raised to believe that work should be something you love? When did this start being taught, I wonder?
Why wouldn’t you try to pursue a career that you enjoyed?
OTOH, I’ve spent most of my career in technology consulting because I initially had an affinity for computers. And it pays well. But I find that now I absolutely hate it. And most of the reason why is because of the DWYL/LWYD mentality. Technology startups and consulting firms create this narrative of young, brilliant entrepreneurs. People willing to quit their boring corporate jobs because they don’t feel challenged. The expectation often seems that everyone who works for that company should share the same dream with that same amount of passion.
It’s a similar psychological tool used by cults. They tell their people they are special and unique simply by being part of the organization. People who work outside the organization are meant to seem inferior - not as smart, don’t work as hard, lack passion, whatever. Peer pressure will ensure that no one goes home early or slacks off. And then they just have them work crazy hours for crap money.
It’s great if you can do a job you love. But it’s not clear to me why an appropriate answer to “why are you looking to leave your job” can’t be “because the pay isn’t very good and the hours and travel sucks”.
I actually agree with most of what you quoted but I still think the premise of the article is dumb. Like msmith537 I have had a lucrative career in technology because I’m good at it, but not particularly in love or passionate about it. I often think about whether there’s another career that would pay as well and be as low stress, but interest me more or inspire some passion.
I spend a big chunk of my life working and I’d like more from it than to make lots of money comfortably and easily. Of course that’s elitist and privileged. I’m genuinely sorry for all the people working hard and not making ends meet OR enjoying it, but I’m not going to lower my standards in some senseless pursuit of being less privileged.
But here is the key point: but not the same amount of money.
Every CEO wants employees as driven as they are to succeed, and to make their company succeed. But as we all know, CEO pay in America is thousands of times more than the base pay. It’s just greed. They want as much advantage as they can get from their employees, but have no intention of sharing the rewards with them.
I think this attitude is perhaps what the writer of the op-ed is rallying against. There’s a big gulf between “love” and “despise”. Most jobs are going to engender feelings in between these two poles. When a young person hears “I wouldn’t dare do something that I can’t love!” from someone they respect (like their parents), they may tempted to write-off employment that is merely tolerable–believing that unless they are bowled over in constant orgasmic joy, it’s not a good job for them. Even if this “tolerable” employment is well-compensated and is something that they are actually good at.
Personally, I could do work that I despise temporarily if I thought there was a big enough pay-out in the end. And I would do work that I despise if I couldn’t find something else to pay the bills with. I’d just hope that I could fill the other 16 hours of the day with stuff that I DO enjoy. I see no reason why “Do what you love” has to be restricted to the hours between nine and five.
I know society pressures us to define our worth and identity based on our occupations, but I’m really trying to get away from this for myself. My job is just what I do to bring food to the table. It isn’t “me”.
My job isn’t awful and it’s not the most fantastic thing ever, but I don’t hate it and I enjoy my co-workers, so who cares that I don’t “love what I do?” I have a life outside of work and I think that’s what matters.
I know plenty of people who are either relying on their parents or barely scraping by doing without things such as health insurance because they’re not willing to do something not in their field. Many of these people majored in something very difficult to get a job in- not underwater basket weaving, but getting close to that.
I understand that having a day job in something unrelated makes it a little bit harder to pursue one’s dream but when you can’t pay your rent or have serious medical problems that you can’t treat because you’re broke and uninsured* I think it’s time to suck it up and work at Starbucks for a bit or whatever.
*I know someone who has done exactly this. After graduating college three years ago she finally found employment in her field after barely working for three years. She has severe, untreated sciatica and after letting it go for years has to walk with a cane now. ETA: I understand that it’s hard to find a job that offers decent insurance so getting a job may not have offered an option for her to treat her sciatica, but there are plenty of options in NYC for uninsured people, which she refused to go to- so I guess her problem may not have been solved by getting a job.
I loved the theatre and filmmaking. I didn’t love:
Doing things for “this’ll be great exposure!!”
Doing things for “profit cough share”.
Never knowing what would be next.
So I’m back at uni for an MA. I can’t imagine I won’t at least like what I end up doing. I like almost everything I do, I’m easily happy. I did one awful job once, and if that would be for any significant amount of time I’d walk out. At one point I started crying for no reason, while I was mindlessly punching in data. There was no reason, it was just that it felt so inhuman tears started trickling down my face. (The place was also specifically horrible, there was “stuff” but no real reason.) I’d walk out if it made me feel like that.
I agree that that advice was a bit elitist, but then I have no doubt that it was aimed at college graduates, plus some people who could have done college, but found they didn’t need it for their particular career.
But some variation on it is true no matter where you are, what you’re doing, and whether you’ve got any sort of degree or skills, or not.
You’re going to spend maybe 80,000 hours at work during your lifetime. How you feel about what you do matters. Among those jobs that pay enough to life on, it is worth trying to gravitate towards jobs that you like more and hate less, relative to the other options you have.
And I think that’s really what it comes down to. Few of us really get to “do what we love” for a living. I like going on hikes and long bike rides, and debating politics on the Internet. Barring the extremely unlikely event that I can become one of the few bloggers that actually gets paid to blog, there’s not a living to be made that way.
But what I do as a government statistician ain’t bad. I wouldn’t do it just for fun, because it is work, but I get to solve interesting problems and, increasingly, supervise others in doing so. It’s way more fun than anything else I’ve ever gotten paid to do. On the scale of work, I’m doing something I love. On the scale of life, there’s still a hell of a lot of other things I’d rather be doing instead.
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?
Private Joker:** “Do what you love. Love what you do”** sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you’ve got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: “Life is a shit sandwich, and every day is another bite”, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Do what you love should be one factor among many. We all have to pay the bills, so ignoring money is foolish. On the other hand, you’ll be doing this activity for 40+ hours a week, so it ought to be something you can at least tolerate.
Overall, I’d say you have to look at:
Money (and risk, for those on commission or self-employed)
Culture of the workplace (which I’d see covering everything from whether you like your co-workers to whether you like the work schedule that’s available)
Location (i.e. if you have to work in Silicon Valley or Wall Street for your job, does that fit the rest of your life plans? Or maybe you have to travel away from home.)
Aptitude (both skill for the job and enjoyment of the job).
If you can fit all of those together, you’re certainly going to be a happier person overall. Most people probably need to compromise on a few items. Hell, even having two out of four is pretty good. Putting any one item above the others without thinking them all through is a mistake. If you still have the urge to do something, make it a hobby - join a choir, start a blog, tend a garden, fire up the BBQ, etc.
From the employer’s perspective, there’s a different list of criteria for evaluating an employee. But it’s still a list in much the same manner. The employer exists to make a profit, and they need to find and hire employees who are profitable for the business. Whether the employee likes their job is only one criteria. And it’s certainly not the employer’s job to make sure every employee finds personal fulfillment at work. Give them a paycheck and let them go home to family and hobbies.
Except what I’ve seen in the technology industry is that companies expect you to work long hours for demanding clients. But they also expect you to have Mark Zuckerberg levels of skill and enthusiasm for the work. They love to tell themselves (and their employees) that “this is a great place to work (with great people)”. But if you objectively look at the facts:
demanding, unrealistic deadlines
no real career growth (a few superstars get occasional title bumps. Everyone else must toil through an “up or out” grinder")
no profit sharing (what do I care that the company grows to 1000 or 10000 people? You can barely manage it at 500).
…there really isn’t anything “great” about it, other than the assumption that the employees love computers and dressing like teenagers as opposed to working adults.
Maybe I should have said it shouldn’t be a company’s job to do that. To me, the whole thing is one giant sign of dysfunction. There are certainly companies that try to be your whole life and it’s pretty much my opinion that you should run like hell when you see that coming. Even if you do truly love what you do, you’re not going to do your best work without a little break from it now and then.
I do really love my job, but I think teachers are often subjected to a more sinister form of this same argument: it’s supposed to be a calling, not a job. I can’t tell you how many administrators of all levels have said things in meetings like “Are you here for yourself, or for the kids?” with the clear implication that anyone who went to work for themselves was basically one step up from a person who mugs old ladies for beer money. And the teacher’s unions are as bad as the administrators: they always fall back on a “it’s for the children, really” argument. Administrators will question your dedication to children if you don’t want to coach cheerleading, are late with your paperwork, or don’t grade papers on your unpaid maternity leave. They will certainly question it when there is any dissent about pretty much anything. It’s very, very frustrating.
I don’t think you have to love what you do, but you have to love who you are, and where you work can shape that. I also very much agree that it’s more important to do something you are good at–but it’s hard to get good at something if you don’t find it at all interesting.
No. I don’t like people, especially groups of people, and I don’t value being valued as a member of a group. I do work which makes me the most money possible with the least stress and effort, and I enjoy my free time, which I spend mostly alone doing exactly as I please.
I won’t stay long at jobs I dislike, but I’ve never really loved a job. There’s nothing to love about leaving home to go do things to please someone else. Got to make money to live, though. I accept my 6-8 hours 6 days a week spent working as an unavoidable part of life.
For quite awhile now, it’s seemed to me that if techies could get behind the idea of a union, there’d be no sector easier to unionize. Sure, you’re replaceable because ultimately, everyone is, but you’re still a good deal harder to find a replacement for than someone putting stuff on shelves at WallyWorld or making beds at the Sheraton. Not to mention, your replacement isn’t going to be an adequate substitute for you on Day 1; there’s gonna be a bit of a learning curve. So it’s gonna be tough for management to just call in a bunch of scabs and pick up where you left off, if you should go out on strike.
So if I may ask, why don’t tech workers unionize, in order to get normal working hours, if nothing else?
I was raised with this ethic: “Those who dont work, dont eat”, so I found a useful profession. For 25 years I hated it and bided (?) my time imagining and planning what I really wanted to do. When I got enough wherewithall and ideas together I split and never looked back!
NOW I am happy doing what I love, but it took going thru hell to get here.