In defense of doing what you love
And no, it’s not a ridiculous goal to aim for.
During my time in university, I ran into several professors and mentors who found the age-old adage of “do what you love” to be outdated and unrealistic. After 20, 30, or even 40 years in the workforce, they had reached a point where they decided that work is work, and waiting to find a job that you love equates to living in a fantasy.
I absolutely, wholeheartedly, unequivocally disagree.
Giving up on the idea that every single person (including you) can find a way to produce income through something they’re passionate about is the same as giving up on yourself, your life, and your chance to be happy.
Now, I understand that it’s not always that simple. Sometimes the job you have is all you can get at the time and the money it’s providing you is desperately needed. That’s fair, and I get it. I am in no way saying that we should all immediately quit our jobs to start seeking some undefined career path just because (although, you’re more than welcome to).
But man, to completely give up on the idea that a job like that exists for you, that you deserve it, and that you could spend your days loving every minute AND making money from it?
I may be a little biased, because I love my job as a freelance marketer and copywriter. Even on long days, when the To Do list never ends and no amount of coffee can cut through the 2pm post-lunch sleepies, I am still grateful to be busy and to have the opportunity to do work that pumps me up like crazy.
I had to be intentional about ending up in a career I am passionate about. I have had countless jobs over the years: bagger at a grocery store, nanny, administrative assistant, handbag saleswoman, online english teacher, corporate intern…
None of them set my soul on fire.
Call me a dreamer, but I knew that was what I was shooting for. The people in my life who I have aspired to emulate have all loved their work, which led to them being both 1) incredibly successful and 2) overall happier people. Most of us have heard the Confucius line:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
How many of us have really stopped to think about that idea?
If you have a job you love, it won’t feel like work. You won’t dread doing the thing you spend 40+ hours per week doing. It will bring positive energy into your days instead of negative. The money will be a great bonus, of course, but even without it you would have enjoyed the work anyway.
Why on earth would people not want to do everything in their power to find that career and run with it?
This means different things for everyone. Personally, I don’t care much about money and never have, so that is a secondary consideration for me behind the #1 holy grail of taking on projects that excite me. Others may care a lot about money (which is totally fine by the way) and choose their job based more on compensation and what that funding allows them to do with their lives. Each of us is different and there’s no right way of doing things. All I will say is this: realistically, somewhere out there is a job where you can make exactly as much money as you want while doing exactly what you want to do. It may take a lot of searching and some hard times to get there, but I bet it will be worth it.
Why are you ranting and what is your point?
Great question. I promise I’m getting there (and thank you for listening to my tirade). I wanted to be more specific about why I love my job and how I think it can apply to other people across the board. So, here’s the big answer:
It’s because I freelance.
SURPRISE! Of course I tied it back to that.
Now, there are downsides to any job. Freelancing is no different. It’s far less stable, you pay your own taxes, liability usually falls on you instead of an employer, etc. However, we as humans are innately prone to seek out (and enjoy) situations where we can make our own choices, and a freelance career is entirely made up of you deciding to do whatever you want.
It is proven that having choices (or control) of your life constantly feeds (or strengthens) your striatum, the part of our brain which is also responsible for motivation and drive. In other words, just having the ability to make your own decisions gives you a life of purpose.
People choose to freelance for a multitude of reasons, but for the most part, they all come back to one thing: a custom-built career.
Whether what you want is more freedom and flexibility, or to work with only the clients you choose, or to take on projects in a highly specific niche, freelancing lets you do it all.
You may have to give up some safety and stability to get there, but what you end up with is a career that is entirely designed by you.
According to a 2017 Gallup study, 51% of our full-time employees here in the US don’t feel engaged at work, meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum.
Another 16% are “actively disengaged.” They resent their jobs, tend to gripe to co-workers and drag down office morale as a result.
If we group these statistics together, that realistically leaves us with 67% of the US workforce who don’t like their jobs.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure I’m not spending a single day of my precious time on earth in a job that makes me feel that way.
Real world example: Monitive
Now, I want to tie this all back to an easily digestible example from my own life: Monitive. I was referred to Lucian Daniliuc (founder and CEO) by another client back in March 2018. We met for the first time via Skype; him sitting in his home office in Timișoara, Romania, and me calling from my hostel in Cape Town, South Africa.
Have we ever met in person? No. Regardless, he continues to be one of my favorite clients to work with and has given me countless opportunities to work on exciting projects that help me develop professionally and personally.
What makes Lucian so fun to work with?
He LOVES his job.
No, seriously. I know most startup founders are pretty passionate about their respective companies, but Lucian is fired up about uptime monitoring. His obvious excitement has rubbed off on me, and even I (a “non-techy” as we call it) get all bubbly when someone asks me about Monitive.
Passion is infectious, and Lucian is a great example of this.
On top of his own love for his job and his company, Lucian hires other people who also love their jobs. Here’s the interesting part: aside from Lucian, Monitive is made up of entirely freelancers. Lucian hasn’t needed to hire any full-time employees, so the whole team is comprised of people who have designed their own careers.
We’re a big job-loving pile of uptime monitoring freelance fanatics, most of whom have never met in real life.
So why does Lucian choose to structure his team this way? Let’s ask him:
“Since our customers are from all across the world, it only made sense that the team who is building this next-generation uptime monitoring service should be composed of people with different cultural backgrounds, mindsets, desires and passions. Along with this, it’s much easier to find people that are passionate about their work when distance is not an issue. Finally, it has proven critical for us to be able to scale costs up and down according to income or financing. For us, the internet has been excellent way to bring people together towards a common goal, even though online life (e.g. social media) has been known to have caused distancing or isolation. If anything, our team being far apart has just made us even more intentional about lining up our goals and maintaining open communication.”
On any given day, Monitive could have calls happening between team members on three separate continents. This makes our purpose feel bigger; as if the team being global makes our goals global as well.
Freelancers are expected to be 43% of the workforce by 2020. Even more impressive? A McKinsey Global Institute study found that an astounding 97% of contractors reported they were much happier than their permanent counterparts.
Freelancing is by no means the only way to have a job that you love. Whatever it is that lights you up, find a way to do that as your source of income. If you aren’t sure where to start, contract work can be a great option for beginners in the “I want to love my career” club.
I know it worked — and continues to work — for me.