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Doing What You Love, Or Loving What You do?…

November 16, 2010 · 115 comments

in Life, Personal Finance, Work

I read a lot of blogs these days, and one theme I see often is that one key to success is ‘doing what you love’.

This point was reinforced when I was reading Squirreler’s post that reveals the secrets of millionaires.  (His post is actually based on an article from US News and World Report.)  Squirreler writes the following:

Do What You Love. I’m working on this one. When I was younger, I thought that it was all about making money, not necessarily liking what it is you’re doing. As I have gotten older, I realize that life is a gift, and we need to enjoy it. The thing is, we need to enjoy it responsibly. With a family and major responsibilities, sometimes we have to be careful with risks to our income streams and just make money. Ideally, though, if we do what we truly love, our passion will shine through and we’ll be successful in the long run. Or so the story goes. I do actually believe that to a large degree, but one must balance this with the reality that some careers do pay more and offer better options than others.

I absolutely agree with the premise of Squirreler’s statement.  Whether it is school, work, or an exercise regimen, you will most likely be successful in your endeavor if you enjoy what you are doing.  (I know I personally could not pay attention at all at school if I was not interested in the topic.  When the subject was boring, I decided to focus on the crossword puzzle that was in the school newspaper instead.)

However, what if it is not feasible to do what you love?  For instance, I love reading and drinking hot cocoa.  As far as I know, there is not a niche market for those two activities.  Yes, you could say that I could try and find a job as a book reviewer or something, but I want to read books that I know I will enjoy.  I know I wouldn’t be lucky enough to get to review the best financial books.  I would be stuck reviewing books on the history of Shakespeare, which would take me about 7 years, and I would end up paying my son to do it for me.   So, I am very particular when it comes to my dream job.

Obviously, reading and drinking cocoa is an extreme example of a dream job.  I do recognize that some people are actually successful at finding what they love and making a living doing it.  However, I would guess the majority of people do not actually do what they truly love, and like Squirrelers says, there is that reality of having a career that pays well and has a promising future.

So, I am going to turn the tables and advise loving what you do instead.   I recognize that is not an easy task, but your attitude toward your job is totally up to you.  I have been in that boat where you don’t like your job.  Deadlines have moved up against my wishes, people didn’t do the work they were supposed to do, you name it.  I got angry and it affected my entire outlook.  However, I could have chosen to view it differently.  I could have focused on the flexibility my job offers and the fact that I get to attend every one of my children’s events.  I could have accepted that I can’t control other people and just done the job at hand instead of taking things personally.

Therefore, this time around with my job, I am really trying hard to like what I do.  (Love may not happen ever…)  I have learned from my 9 months employment hiatus that I need to try and detach myself from work and recognize that  my job is not my entire being.  By doing that, I will hopefully reduce my frustration level and just appreciate the money I make and the freedom I have.  I know I will have bad days, but I realize that I made myself hate my job since I am the one in control of my emotions.  I am not saying that every job can be ‘liked’, but it is at least worth a try.

What do you think?  Do you think you can ever ‘learn’ to love/like what you do?

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Moneycone November 16, 2010 at 7:10 am

It is all about attitude. I can think of so many things I hate about my job and yet, I take for granted all the perks and flexibilities it offers.

You will be happy if you find the job you like, happier still if you can learn to love the job you have!
Great post Kris!


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Thanks Moneycone! My priority is the family, so I do need to look at the fact I am able to work and still do everything I want to with/for them. I just have to remember that.


Andrew @ 101 Centavos November 16, 2010 at 7:46 am

Hmmmm, “loving” what you do at work may be a stretch, but I certainly try to do my best as often as I can (some days are less equal than others).
Good post Kris. It’s simple for gurus to advocate “Follow Your Passion!” and make a comfortable living, but I suspect that for most folks, it’s not really an option. Maybe “follow your likes” would be a better way to say it….


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Andrew – I think everyone would love to love what they do. However, it is not wholly realistic for everyone. So I really am just trying to at least like what I do, and not let any negative feelings from the job spill over into my everyday life.


Nicole November 16, 2010 at 8:16 am

We have the same dream job. 🙂

I like my job quite a bit. Not as much as cocoa and novels, but it does pay a lot better.


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Yeah, cocoa and novels has not paid off well at all so far! We will have to start our own company- Nicole,Kris, cocoa and books.


Nicole November 16, 2010 at 9:20 pm

That would be AWESOME. Ah, if only people would pay me to do things that aren’t technically productive.


The Biz of Life November 16, 2010 at 9:15 am

I can’t say I love what I do at work (but I don’t hate it either; it puts bread on the tables and replenishes the bank accounts) …. but it world be very hard to make a living at what I enjoy so I do those activities in my spare time.


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

That is it exactly. Accept your job for what it is, and focus what you can do when you aren’t working!


Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom November 16, 2010 at 10:07 am

I’m a huge believer that if you change your job to fit you, your job can be much more fulfilling. In the past, I’ve taken the same job and just changed how I approached it and it’s made a huge difference.

Resources I’ve found VERY helpful over the years are the Kolbe assessment (I did mine through a job a number of years ago) but here’s an example:

I’ve also really benefited from Martin Seligman’s work in positive psychology and working with your strengths – test here (the character test):

And Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton…

I’ll stop there since I get kind of passionate about this. 😉


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Jacq- thanks for all the resources, I will have to read through them.

I totally agree with you, if you can make your job fit what you like, then life is much easier. Having that 9 month break really provided some new perspective for me. It is the exact same job, but I am just approaching it differently.


retirebyforty November 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

My job pays quite well and the only thing I love about it is the paycheck. Well, I do like one or two activities at work, but those just get overwhelmed by all the other negatives. I am past the point of loving what I do and now I just need to plan a good exit strategy without burning any bridges.
My guest poster wrote about doing what you love and I am quite jealous, but I am making this my goal as well.
Once I have a big enough nest egg, I wouldn’t have to worry about working in a job that I don’t like. 🙂


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Well, you have a great plan to retire very young. So you are using your job for good purposes- to save enough money to pursue what you really want out of life. That is great. Nobody says that work has to fulfill your every need. It can also be a means to an end.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 16, 2010 at 10:15 am

So many skills are transferable that I personally feel that it is worthwhile searching until you can find a job that is an authentic utilization of your passions, skills, and personality. I’m sure I’m coming off as an idealist, but I just refuse to believe that it is impossible to find a job/position that you love for most people. However, I’ll admit that sometimes you may have to do what you love part-time 🙂


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Shawn, ideally, I agree with you. Take my husband for instance. There is no way he could just toss aside his current job and pursue something he loves because he has a family to support. There is different stages in life where things are more possible. Not to mention the grass is not always greener.

I guess my point is, if you aren’t able to ‘do what you love’ right now, then try at least liking what you do for your sanity’s sake.


Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I see your point Kris, but you are assuming that doing something he loves would be less profitable, when much data shows it would be more profitable. Often people are able to do this by creating a transition for themselves. For example, a great career coach can often help one navigate this process. I’m not saying that there aren’t exceptions, but I am saying that a lot of people sell themselves short and are all the more miserable because of it.


Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Shawn, I agree with you, but only to a point. If my husband was just starting his career and the economy was booming, I think it would be a lot easier for him to transition into a new career and make enough money. However, in this job market and with his level of experience, I don’t think it would be practical to assume he could just hop into a new career and make the same amount of money.

As a side note, my husband does not hate his job by any means. I was just using him as an example as he has been employed in the same industry for almost 20 years.


Sandy L November 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

I personally am too practical to blindly follow a dream. The only way to really excel is to learn what you are good at and dovetail it into your career. I am a great problen solver and project manager. Let’s pretend my passion was fashion. Would I be a great designer? Probably not. But I could use my skills to organize a new product launch.

I don’t sit at home organizing things for fun, but I enjoy my jobs more when I can utilze my strengths to get stuff done.


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I do love when a project plays to my skills. There are different phases of projects I love too,so I might like my job one month, and dread it the next. So, when it comes to the parts I am not loving, I just try and thing ‘this too will pass’.

For myself, my passion has become writing. I always wanted to try it, and I find that I love it. Could I support a family on it? Heck no, but I can try to get to that point.


Khaleef @ KNS Financial November 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

Great point! Our attitude toward our job is the one thing that we have complete control over. We need to make sure we are doing everything possible to enjoy what God has blessed us with. Especially with so many people who would LOVE to have any job right now.


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm

You raise a great point Khaleef. I think back to when I was really frustrated with my job. When I told people that I worked part time, made a decent wage, and got to work while sitting on the couch in my family room, they thought I was crazy to not be in heaven.

I am now trying to just think of all the positives this job brings and appreciate what it provides the family. Plus it keeps my brain working, and I need all the help I can get in that area! 🙂


Crystal @ BFS November 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

I’m doing way better this week by taking advantage of the benefits of my job (blogging time and flexibility) and trying to ignore the stinky stuff (like the projects I’m putting off). I don’t think this can be a long-term strategy, but I’ve had a much better week, lol.

If I do ever come across a job that I truly love showing up for, I will let you know. Right now, blogging is my addiction and I am going to try really hard to develop it into a full time gig!


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

BFS – you are trying to make your dream come true, and sometimes you gotta put up with some other stuff to get to your dream. However your job is giving you flexibility, even if it isn’t the most fulfilling. You also get great benefits. I know you are frustrated with the price increases but you still are getting a pretty good deal on the benefits, comparatively speaking.

Keep having a good week!


Freddie @ Real Estate Investing November 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Interesting I would come across this article now. Just started reading the Zappos CEO book “Delivering Happiness”. He talks about after selling Link Exchange to Microsoft in 1999 and walking away from a large chunk of that money that it wasn’t about the money. It was about the enjoyment of doing something meaningful to him.

The Squirreler’s statement and your feelings are inline with this book 100%. It seems like creative people have to be involved with something larger than themselves in order to really unleash their passions onto the world. And this only happens when someone really enjoys what they are doing.


Kris November 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Freddie- I will have to pick up that book, it sounds really interesting.

Thanks for commenting!


Squirrelers November 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Kris –

Glad my comments within my post helped to stir up some thoughts on this topic. And it’s an age old topic, or at least for many of us it is.

There is definitely a reality component to the “do what you love” side of things. As you mentioned, one could enjoy drinking hot cocoa but will that provide for the family? Heck, I really like blogging but it’s not my full-time work. Supply and demand in the marketplace is reality.

The question is, can one’s passion for a particular endeavor translate into demand? I think that if one really likes what they do, and is fully engaged, success can be more likely to happen. If you’re a mercenary, you can still be successful but it takes more energy and doesn’t come naturally.

Plus, if you’re doing what you love, boredom and burnout are less of an issue.

As I get older (and supposedly wiser, though who knows:)) it seems as if I value financial responsibility, savings, and cash flow more and more. But I also think that the way to get there and sustain it is to do what you love that also has some demand in the marketplace.

Sipping hot cocoa all day? Nah. Opening a hot cocoa online business? At least it’s an idea that could lead to something. Someone’s probably doing it now, for all we know….


Nicole November 16, 2010 at 9:24 pm

But I don’t *want* a hot cocoa online business. I wanna sip hot cocoa and read books that I get to pick and I don’t have to write about.

Nah, I’ll stick with being an economics professor– it pays better and it’s not so bad.


Khaleef @ KNS Financial November 16, 2010 at 10:03 pm

You’re an economics professor? That was my dream job until about a year ago!


Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Macro? Micro? I may not remember much in life, but I will forever remember the supply and demand curve as it has been drilled into my head. I also remember my Macro Econ professor deemed the economy ‘unlovely’ at one point. I found that quite unique for some reason.


Khaleef @ KNS Financial November 16, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Yeah, everyone seems to remember supply and demand. It’s funny, because when I learned it we covered the demand curve first – but everyone says “supply and demand”.

I always took offense to it being called the dismal science…until I went to grad school!


Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:54 pm

It is the ‘unlovely science’. (You may need to reference my response to Nicole to understand..)


Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Squirrel, that is the issue- finding a niche for doing what you love, and making people pay you money for it too.

You are right in that as you do get older, your wants/needs may change. The ideal career in college may no longer hold that allure. But, you may feel like you have to plug away at it because it is what you know. The dream would be to have the financial security to walk away from the ‘work’ you do to pursue something you love. But that is easier said than done.

I am with Nicole in the comment below- I just want to drink the cocoa…


Money Reasons November 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I wish I could get to a point with my finances where I could work at job/career that I truly have a passion for!

We’ll see, maybe some day 🙁


Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:17 pm

MR- you are at that point already to a degree. You are debt free, which is more than what most people can say. Start planning now!


Evan November 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I really think it is a state of mind. If you are negative going to work everyday you are going to be miserable! Not that you are doing it, Kris, but how frustrating is it to listen to someone hate on their job but don’t even put out a resume!


Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Evan, I totally agree with you. You can make yourself miserable hating your job, and make all those miserable around you. I cannot stand when people don’t like their job and try to drag you down with them. I am not saying people can’t have their bad days, we all do. However, when you are bitter and angry day in and day out, it affects everything around you.


Nicole November 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I just want you to know that I’ve had this song stuck in my head all day and it is all your fault.



Kris November 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Hooray for me! I was a little nervous what the song was going to be. I didn’t know of any hot cocoa songs. Now “love the one your with” will probably keep me up all night…


Get Happy Life November 20, 2010 at 3:38 am

It is quite hard to fulfill both conditions at once – personally, I happen to love what I do more than do what I love, because doing that might leave me without money and small chance to get the previous job anyways.
So because my salary is highly above my expectations, I feel very secure and love what I do.


Kris November 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm

GHL- you have the perfect attitude. Sometimes it is easy to lose perspective when work is frustrating. Keep on loving your job my friend!


Deidre @ TransFormX January 31, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I’ve been lucky to have experienced both situations. When one finds themself in a not-so-great situation it IS a challenge to find something that you like or even love about it; which is a very Zen attitude to have 🙂

A saying that I love and use often is: ‘Find the Good’. If we go out of our way to ‘Find the Good’ in a situation we end up with a completely different perspective and grow in the process.

Great post as usual Kris!


Kris January 31, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I have never had a dream job per se, but if blogging were my profession, it would be close.

I have never loved my paid job. However, I have found that I have to try and at least like it because the alternative is to be miserable. Who wants that?


Olga March 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

I so agree, esp. with your converstaion with Roshawn. I try to figure out thankfullness to my job of 18 years for what it does give me, while doing what I love (and getting paid for it too) on a side, hoping to transition into it full time by the time closer to retirement:)


Kris March 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Olga, sounds like you have a good plan! I hope it all works out perfect for you!


Holly March 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm

That is so true! It is really hard to decide wheither you’ll work because you enjoy what your doing, or you do if for the money. Usually the people who do it for the money do it to support their family. But it’s hard to go to work day after day if you hate what you do. But it’s difficult if you love what you do, but can’t make ends meet. It’s definately a contrast! But just like you said, you have your bad days you just find something that you can live with and will bring you long term happiness. I think that’s key.


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