What do you think of the advice "Do what you love for work"?

This is a staple in many self-help books on happiness, success and fulfillment. Screw the money, I got happiness! Let’s run this idea by the Dope and see if it survives.

Here’s more details. The choice is between something you love, but the pay is just barely to meet end’s need vs. something that gives you enough surplus for pleasure and luxuries, but it’s a job that you aren’t interested in (though you qualify for both). If other factors being equal (how nice the boss is, the workplace, transit, work hours and etc.) Which will you choose?

If the other factors are not equal, how will it be different?

My understanding, from admittedly just a couple of years studying psychology at university, is that being paid for something that you previously enjoyed doing can often result in lowered enjoyment of that thing, i.e. your brain starts telling you that the only reason you do it is for the money (extrinsic reward) rather than the enjoyment (intrinsic rewards).

I also think that part of the reason I love doing the things I love is that I only get to do them a limited amount of time, so it makes that time all the more precious. If I could do it all the time, then I would take it for granted.

What if all the things you love aren’t things that anybody in his right mind would pay you for? (reading, surfing the net, playing Sims 3, people-watching at the mall or the Smithsonian)?

None of your answers fit my feelings on it, so I chose ‘other.’ I love love love what I do, and feel like I won the lottery, frankly. But I can’t take my experience and extrapolate that into a universal truth.

Plus the idea itself has become a bit cliched, and people tend to immediately suggest extremes and insist that the idea itself is crazy.

In answer to your question, I’d take the job I love, barely making ends meet.

In your poll, my answer is “works for me but YMMV.”

I think “barely making ends meet” is a pretty vague standard. Do you have to have health insurance to be making ends meet? Cable TV?

I’m not being deliberately difficult. I do what I love–teach–and on it I effectively support my husband because we save his salary (he is going to quit his job when I deliver this baby). We are about as middle-middle class as can be–we have a little house, but all the furniture in it is the junk we accumulated in college–and I think some people would look at our life style and call it “barely making ends meet” and others would look at it and call it opulent.

So it depends. If doing what I love involved a 30% paycut from where I am now, it wouldn’t be worth it. It’s not so much that we’d have to give up new computers every 5 years or the occasional dinner out, it’s the insecurity that you get below a certain income level: no health insurance and no savings mean living life dreading the hammer coming down. I am not willing to live a life where a tire blow out is a Big Deal because I have no idea where $100 is coming from. No matter how much I loved my job, I am too much of a worrier to live like that. But some people don’t worry like I do, and they might still prefer the job they love.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t take a 30% raise to go do something else. More money wouldn’t increase our security that much–it would be more about lifestyle. I’m too single-minded to have a job AND hobbies, so if my job isn’t my hobby, I don’t think I’d have any joy at all. So who cares about the toys?

There’s a reason why it’s called “work”, not “hobby”.
Although I could be convinced to dick around on the internet for a subsistence wage and benefits… :smiley:

I think it is best to work in a job you know you can like, and IME people are often better at doing things they enjoy than things they hate; if you can make a living doing something you love, congratulations! If the choice was between starving or taking a horrible job, I personally want my three squares; in the case posited by the OP, I’d take the enjoyable one (I’ve worked at jobs I hated and found out it is not good for my health - this means that, by working at a job I hate, I am actually failing to meet one of my basic needs).

I think this actually has some sort of official names such as “priority pyramid”: in general, people need to have basic needs covered before we can bother about more-complicated desires; martyrs may be fancy but they’re weird. A search by that name brings up it’s also known as “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”.

I think the perfect way to ruin a good hobbie is to turn it into your job.

Think of it like this. No matter what you like doing, are you still going to love it with 5 bosses harping on you to do it in 5 different ways with none of them being good enough? Are you going to like doing it 15 hours a day to meet some arbirtrary deadline? Or working with or for jerks or having lazy jerks working for you?

It’s an interesting question though. I know few people who do what they LOVE. For many of them, I doubt if they actually “love” anything other than their own sense of acomplishing whatever it is they feel they acomplish by spending their entire lives working the tedious financiaccountechnolegal jobs we all work at.

That’s how I’ve always understood it. I’d be afraid to take a job doing something I loved, for fear I’d ruin it for myself.

I voted “sound advice for some people”. sandra_nz and msmith537 have hit on my reasons for not fully endorsing this idea.

I started playing guitar when I was eleven, and started making a little bit of money at it when I was thirteen. All through high school playing music was a source of joy and money for me. By the time I got to college, I was playing band gigs or solo gigs most weekends, making what seemed to me to be pretty good money for doing something I loved to do. So I quit college and became a full-time musician. Playing music very quickly became an onerous chore rather than the pleasure it had been. It probably didn’t help that I was on the low end of the business, playing bars and dances, but the reality of having to do it every day sucked all of the fun out of it.

I then worked at a bunch of office, factory and construction jobs until I was in my 30s, when I went back to college to become a programmer. At the time, I told everyone I just wanted a job I could tolerate. It turned out a little bit better than that, and it pays pretty well. I don’t love programming, but it is usually interesting, rarely irritating, occasionally tedious, and has been very steady work for me for 23 years.

Isn’t it what most office-job people already do during a sizable portion of their workday ?

I think the more important think is not to be doing a job you hate or you know is bad for your health overall, unless extremely necessary ie paying for Timmys cancer treatments or whatever.

Liking it is a bonus, loving it is winning the lottery. But its not necessary for everyone, the entire picture of your life is more important.


Yes, this. I enjoy my work (editing), and I love study. However, if I tried to make a career out of academia, I am fairly certain I would hate it. My career is adequately pleasant (it doesn’t damage my health and is sometimes quite fun) and gives me time and money to pursue what I really love doing, without that love turning into a chore.

I’ve suspected this is one of the downsides of being a porn star.
Part of the reason for the advice given in the self-help books the OP refers to is that, if you’re doing something you love (or are interested in, or feel a calling to), you’ll be motivated to put lots of time and effort and heart into your work, and you will therefore be more likely to be successful (financially and/or otherwise) at it. Whereas, if you’re doing something you hate or are uninterested in, your work will be a struggle, and you’ll do just the half-assed bare minimum you need to do to get by. I think there is a lot of truth to this, though it is not law-of-nature true.

Absolutely True!! Totally!

If you do what you love, the money will follow. It may not come in the way you expect, but it will come.

In a more practical sense, though, if you love what you do, then you’ll do a better job and thus earn more money. If you don’t like your job, you’ll slack off and not get promoted.

This. Well-stated, Manda.

That’s tough. I absolutely love what I do. It’s something that’s literally impossible to do as a hobby (you know, barring some arrangement where I come to work every day for free, but a company can’t really depend on that type of worker, either). Could I do what I do on a much, much, much smaller scale as a hobby? Nope. Something similar? Not that, either, because it’s the scale that makes it interesting. Now certainly a lot of the separate, individual things the I do like to do personally contribute to what I do professionally, but there’s not a single one of them that I’d want to make a career of.

(I’m a body-in-white manufacturing engineer.)

I think it would be much better advice, and more universally feasible, if it was instead ‘Love what you do for work’. My office job is not a paid extension of what I love doing by any means, but it’s enjoyable enough. I think it’s pretty disingenuous to suggest to everyone that they should be doing something loveable for labour - it suggests that the harder, less fun, but necessary jobs are not something to aspire to.

But I expect self-help authors love spouting such lucrative crap for a living.