Loving what you do takes work

Queue the eye rolls and beating a dead horse dismissals.

If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you know I firmly adhere to the notion of doing what you love, and loving what you do. Is is a cliche? Yes. Is it an overused expression? Yes. Is it something people should strive for? Absolutely yes.

Here’s the thing, very few people — a fraction of those who say they love what they do — are literally enthralled with every aspect of their day to day work. Loving what you do doesn’t mean you’re a rockstar. It doesn’t mean you have an infinitely deep passion in the exact task you’re paid to perform. And it doesn’t mean you were lucky enough to stumble into whatever it is you do, like you won some sort of career lottery.

Do I think I’m fortunate to be able to do something I love each day? Yes. Did this opportunity fall into my lap without any sacrifices needed? Absolutely not.

Loving what you do is a choice. Just like shoveling the sidewalk or cleaning your house is a choice. At times you’ll hate it. At times you’ll second guess what you’re doing. But once you make the decision to love what you do, you’ll see burdensome sacrifices as momentary obstacles; feeling more eager and inspired to wake up each day, ready to make progress.

When I was younger, around 13 or 14 years old, I remember talking to my Dad about a summer job I wanted. Lifeguard at our local pool, every kids dream.

I pictured myself donning sunglasses and sitting on my elevated perch, catching a summer bronzing, and socializing with my friends all day. Without a doubt, the perfect job.

His response,

“Well of course you do... Being a lifeguard is fun. Don’t you think everyone wants to be a lifeguard? What makes you so special where you’re deserving of that job?”

He continued,

“If anyone is going to have that job, it’s going to be the kids on the swim team, or the ones who have worked at the pool since they were 10, already paying their dues.”

My Dad wasn’t someone to sugar coat things. He was brutally honest about the way the world works, but he was right.

Why would I think I was so lucky to land every teenagers dream job?

He could have said, “Yeah that sounds great Bryant, why don’t you submit an application?” But instead gave me a firm dose of reality, making sure I understood what’s necessary to attain something I wanted.

Everyone wants to do what they love. Who would say otherwise?

What people fail to understand is “doing what you love” comes with some potentially large sacrifices.

For one, if it’s easy to fall in love with something, it’s likely other people are falling in love with it to. You’re going to have lots of competition.

What does that imply? It implies you need to work hard, honing your skills and making your contribution better than everyone else's. Doing this requires sacrifice. It means giving up your weekends to practice. It means not going out during the week so you can spend evenings improving your skills.

Two, things which are easy to fall in love with, often times aren’t the most lucrative endeavors (at least at first). With lots of competition, you’re not only going to have plenty of people doing similar work, but they’re going to be charging less. Potentially doing the work for free.

What does that imply? It implies you need to be good enough to provide real tangible value. Value that translates into compensation. It means understanding the problem you’re attempting to solve, and being able to use your skills to create measurable results.

How do you do that? Experience. How do you get experience? Taking the time to make opportunities for yourself, and being willing to prove your value, at times at the expense of any real compensation. More sacrifices.

Loving what you do is equal amounts being a dreamer and being realistic of what it takes to hit your dreams. It means being honest with yourself on what you’re good at, and if you’re willing to put in the work necessary to be successful in your chosen line of work.

The starving artist cliche’ isn’t a cute phrase. It means countless artists are literally not eating because they’re making those sacrifices for their work and their happiness. Knowing where you draw that line is important for everyone to understand.

Just as much as I wanted to be a lifeguard, there are people who want to be doctors, designers, entrepreneurs, and musicians — even people who simply want a slightly better job than they have now.

What I believe and to my best to advocate is this:

Think long and hard at what you want out of life. Find something you can put your heart into, and something you’re moderately good at. Do an honest inventory of how successful you’ll need to be, to make a living you’re comfortable with.

Once you figure out whatever your chosen endeavor may be, put all of yourself into it. Work hard, be an advocate for yourself, do your best to create opportunities which launch you forward.

Be humble, be appreciative, and enjoy the ride — you earned it.

If you’re into this type of stuff, definitely checkout our Authentic F&F Journal, where we dive deeper into all things design, development, and remote work.

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