Crush Your Career Goals

Everyone Says It’s Important to do What You Love. But is it realistic?

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do what you love
Table of Contents  
  1. It Doesn’t Pay
  2. You May Come To Hate It
  3. You Might Be Really Terrible At It
  4. Here’s Real Advice

Everyone says it’s important to do what you love. But is it realistic? And would you even really want to do what you love doing for fun for a living?

It’s such a hackneyed old cliche: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But it’s not realistic for all of us, and maybe not even desirable.

It Doesn’t Pay

Maybe the most cringe-inducing way of saying do what you love is “follow your bliss.” WTF does that even mean? Nothing. It means nothing. Which is why you only hear it from societal dropouts just before they ask you for a cigarette.

If I only did what I love, I would sit around on my ass watching cycling and drinking red wine. So far I have not found a way to monetize this. Not from a lack of trying, mind you.

Maybe you love something a bit more lucrative, like making jewelry or building furniture. And maybe you even make a little money at it! Selling things on Etsy, Amazon Handmade or at craft shows, perhaps sell a few of your creations to family, friends and co-workers. But you don’t make enough to do it full-time.

There’s no reason to feel bad about this. And there’s nothing wrong with being afraid to take a big risk, quit your steady job for something very, very uncertain. Just because you can’t make and sell furniture full-time doesn’t mean you’re less talented than everyone who does.

Hard work and preparation are always keys to being successful, but sometimes it takes a bit of luck too. Being in the right place at the right time, meeting that one person who has the ability to help you do it full-time. And sometimes it’s flat-out better to be lucky than good. Some things in life are happenstance and you can’t really control or manipulate that.

Also, there is nothing wrong with liking and making money. Money buys freedom and peace of mind. Just because you aren’t building sustainable housing for Syrian refugees or playing bingo halls with your shitty garage band full-time doesn’t make you a sellout.

You May Come To Hate It

I take great pleasure in going for a run every morning. It is usually the best part of my day, even on a good day and always on a crappy one. So if running is so great, why do I have no intention of ever running a marathon?

Because in order to successfully complete a marathon, I would have to train for a marathon. And then run a marathon. Phillippides is the first person to have done it, after which he promptly dropped dead.

I’m afraid if I did that, I would come to hate running. I would resent it, all the pleasure would be sucked from it. And I would lose what is the best part of my day. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take no matter how fun it would be to walk around all smug with the finisher’s medal around my neck.

Maybe for you it’s cooking. What pleasure to plan, shop for and prepare a meal while you have a glass of wine and sing along to Motown songs on Pandora. (That’s what I do; I recommend it.) And what pleasure to share food that you’ve created with people that you care about.

Now imagine doing that in the pressure cooker that is a professional kitchen. Most of us have watched Kitchen Nightmares or read Kitchen Confidential by Tony Bourdain. It is not romantic to work in a professional kitchen. It is constant stress and it’s why the restaurant industry has the highest percentage of employees with substance abuse problems at 17.4%.

So you get a job in a restaurant or worse, start your own, and what used to be a hobby you love becomes a job you hate.

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You Might Be Really Terrible At It

Just because you love doing something doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Nor does it mean you have to be good at it.

We’ll take singing as an example. Some people who love to do it are really, really bad at it. And some of them know this so they just sing alone in the shower or to give everyone a laugh at karaoke. You can spot them at karaoke because their go-to song is Don’t Stop Believin’. (Point of order. The lyric should be “born and raised in East (or West) Detroit.” There is no South Detroit. Detroit is divided into East and West by Woodward Avenue. This always gets my goat, as a Michigan girl).

But some people have adamantium-clad delusion. Years of their mothers bullying relatives into letting them sing Wind Beneath My Wings at family weddings have only reinforced the delusions of adequacy.

These are the poor souls who go on those stupid talent shows and humiliate themselves for the entertainment of the television-watching masses. Those contests are modern day freak shows, only the freaks don’t realize they’re the freaks.

If you love singing but can’t, sing your heart out. But not where the rest of us can hear, please.

Here’s Real Advice

Don’t listen to dirty hippies. You don’t have to follow your bliss in order to be happy. In a perfect world we could all make bank doing what we love. But that’s not realistic. So instead, let’s lower the bar a bit. Find a job or career that you don’t hate. Most of us, at one time or another, have been in a job we hated. It is soul-destroying and no way to live.

But living on pity tips from old ladies in bingo halls is no way to live either. Find a job that gives you enough money and time to pursue the things you do love. Always be ready to pounce on an opportunity to turn that into a career should the chance arise but if it doesn’t, you will always have that thing you love to do.

Featured Image Photo Credit: “Magician” by ThaQeLa on Flickr

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.

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