Do you have to love what you do?
Jason Fried

Loving What You Do Doesn’t Have to Mean Loving Every Second of What You Do

Steve Jobs famously told Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

Life is too short to have to reluctantly drag yourself to work in the morning, because you’re dreading the day ahead of you. Too many people do this year after year, which turns into decades, which can lead to insurmountable regret later on when they realize that it didn’t have to be that way, and that it wasn’t worth it.

Don’t make this mistake. If you can’t find joy or satisfaction in any part of what you do, keep looking, and don’t give up and settle. Yes, many successful companies, inventions, and innovations were born out of frustration, and not pure love for the space.

Uber was started by co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp because they were annoyed that they had trouble getting a cab, not because they were passionate about logistics or the transportation industry. My company, JotForm, was started by our founder Aytekin Tank because he was frustrated at the lack of tools available to make online forms, not because he was a data collection enthusiast.

When people genuinely love what they do, their passion goes beyond the limiting scope of being passionate about the product or service that they’re contributing to at work. We are fortunately not confined to that simplistic notion.

Perhaps Travis is passionate about solving everyday problems. Creating products that make life more convenient. Getting rid of the frustrations we deal with when our cab driver says that the “credit card machine is broken.” Allowing people to catch a ride in an area when cabs don’t often frequent.

Helping to protect people from racial discrimination (a study sponsored by Uber confirmed this bias in the taxi industry). Ridesharing companies manage to be more efficient than traditional taxis and also provide equality in pick ups as a driver is completely blind to what that customer looks like, or where that customer is going upon selection. Ridesharing (Lyft Lines and Uber Pools) also reduces congestion and is better for the environment.

I don’t know why Travis is passionate about what he does, or even if he is, but there is more to the reasons behind occupational happiness than meets the eye. There are valid reasons for someone to be passionate about almost every job.

Anyone think you can’t be passionate about being a janitor? Maybe it’s the marketer in me, but I can easily imagine someone being passionate about keeping a school, or office, event space or whatever clean and hygienic. Having a clean and healthy area to study in, work in, and have fun in positively improves people’s lives. Add in being treated well at work, being given great benefits, and seeing the same friendly faces everyday, and you can see how a janitor doesn’t need to be passionate about the cleaning space to love what he or she does.

Loving what you do goes beyond working for a product or service that you’re over the moon about. You don’t need to have a passion for the specific subject matter of your company to be in love with your work. In the same vein, you can be in the exact industry that gets you going, but not in the right role for you.

If you’re passionate about healthcare access and work in a hospital or organization that perfectly aligns with your values, but work in a monotonous role that puts you to sleep, you are still settling.

So, I would argue that regardless if you have a preexisting love for your subject matter or not, loving what you do primarily depends on what you actually do at work: week to week. You will not be exploding with excitement and teeming to the brim with passion on every project and task that you take on. You will not wake up every single day of your live sprinting to the train because you just cannot wait to be at your desk, working away.

That’s obviously not realistic, for any job, anywhere. But, I would not discount anyone’s passion for their job (unless of course they admit that they’re just not into it). Occupational passion can come from a variety of different factors, and they’re different for everyone, depending on their personality, preferences, interests, and when getting right down to it, whatever lights up your reward center in your brain.

Steve Jobs message meant, to me, that you must find that passionate spark for a truly satisfying career, and it can be found in non-obvious places.