Doing what you love is not enough
‘Do what you love and you will succeed’. Not only we have heard this from Steve Jobs, but also from many others and many people who get to hear this automatically start to wonder if they should quit their 9-5 jobs and go and start doing what they love. Some people who are unhappy and frustrated in their current jobs actually go and do exactly that, but sadly many of them end up struggling to make a living and find themselves either highly frustrated or going back to conventional employment. In my experience, that piece of advice although true, it is certainly incomplete. Here are a few of my thoughts taken from my own experience:
Your hobby is not your passion
We have to establish the difference between a hobby and a passion. The fact that I like doing something (playing the guitar for example) does not mean that this is my life’s passion or that I can make a career out of it. We all enjoy doing many things, but few of those things are actually a passion. So, what is a passion?
A passion is something that we love doing so much that we can’t stop ourselves from doing it. It is something that we want to learn and master and normally find ourselves spending a lot of time on. It is something that we strongly believe in and we can stand up for. A passion is something that goes beyond just a like. A hobby gives us pleasure and entertains us. A passion gives us life, take us to states of flow. Hobbies we have many, passions we have very few and for many people there is only one passion. Do you know what your passion is?
Loving something is not enough
Discovering our passion and what we really love to do is not enough. If we want to build a life doing that we must be good at it. Let me share an example with you, I love singing and I’d love to be a pop star, but I have a little problem: I am not very good at singing. Just because I love singing it doesn’t mean that I am going to succeed at pursuing a career in the music industry. Not only do I not have the raw talent needed to succeed, but there is a lot more to having a singing career than just singing.
I can well imagine what you are thinking now, that the example is not relevant because I am basing this belief on talents that you are either born with or not, whereas with most other things one can become good by practicing and working on them, take painting or sculpting for example. True! and that’s precisely the point I am making here: we have to be good at that passion if we want to pursue a career at it. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, tells us that to achieve mastery and true expertise in a field we have to accumulate 10,000 hours of practice. Where are you on that journey?
Being good at something is not enough (Part I)
We can love something and be incredibly good at it but for us to make a living out of this, it has to make money. What that means is that there have to be people who are prepared to pay for what we create or do. If we spend our lives doing something we love but that no one finds value in, we are very likely to end up being broke. So, when you think of following your passion it is important to think not only whether you are good at it but also to ask what the value is in what you have to offer.
Being good at something is not enough (Part II)
We can love something, be incredibly good at it and people can be prepared to pay for what we have to offer, but to build a successful career or business we need to be good at business. We have to be good at selling what we do, at promoting ourselves, at creating processes and procedures that support the creation and delivery of our products or services. We must be good at admin, networking and building a brand. You don’t have to do those things all by yourself, in fact, it would be silly trying to do so, but you do need to hold the full picture, have the vision and be persistent and patient whilst others help you to build your dream.
Many people start pursuing a career thinking they will be able to do what they love doing for lots of time and earn money doing that. It turns out that singers only sing for 10% of their entire careers, footballers play football for only 10% of their work time, speakers and trainers only speak 20% of the time. 80% of the time is taken up in building that stage time. So, if you think you want to become a full time singer, footballer or speaker, I invite you to be realistic. My intention of course is not to discourage you, quite the opposite. However, I do want you to make an informed decision so that when you start to cross the bridge towards your dream, you know what is ahead of you.
You must love the pain too
Wishing for something does not mean that you really want it enough. We have to want something really badly! Many of us wish we had a ripped super fit physique and believe me, I have tried and tried many times for years, but if I am really honest to myself, the frank answer is that I am not prepared to go through the entire lifestyle change, dedication and work that it requires. I go on and off but I am not really 100% committed to the results. My desire for having an amazing body is there, but it is certainly not the most powerful and motivating thing for me. There are other things which I end up giving more priority and effort to. Body builders, conversely live and breath bodybuilding, gym workouts, protein powders, diets, recovery naps and everything fitness. Is this what you do with your goal and dream too? do you live and breath your goal?
If you catch yourself thinking of your dream, working on it in the evening, at weekends and even during holidays, if you wake up dreaming of it, then that’s a great indication that there is something there that you must take seriously. When a real passion is there one cannot stop oneself from engaging with it one way or another.
So the question I have for you is this: What do you want so badly that it makes you endure the pain, effort and work that is required? What are you prepared to tolerate to achieve your dream? That passion or dream has to give you an amount of pleasure or satisfaction (emotional or financial) which is bigger than the pain and effort that is needed to get there.
Your ‘What’ is not your ‘Why’
The other thing we have to get really honest about is what really drives us to do something. I hear so many people saying that they are teachers, coaches or trainers because they love helping others, that they want to contribute. Yes, that’s plausible and respectable and it is probably what most people like to hear, but the more I reflect on this, the more I realise that for a lot of people the real drive to do something is what that something gives them or how it makes them feel, and not the ‘what’ itself. I believe we are pursuing an emotion or an experience and the ‘what’ is just the vehicle to get that feeling, emotion or experience.
I believe we are individuals whose purpose is to be able to fully use all our talents, ideas and creativity and to be experience that state of ‘FLOW’ as much as possible. I believe that being in flow is what gives us a sense of purpose. That state of flow is really about us as individuals and in a way it is a selfish state of being; a state that if it happens to help many others then even better, a double win!
Different people may choose to pursue the same career or dream but for very different reasons. Many people dream of becoming recording artists and pop stars, I was one of them myself for years! Some of them want it because they love singing and they want their voices heard all over the world, others because they love making lots of money without having to work so much, other because they want the fame that comes with it, some like the expensive and glamorous lifestyle and others love the experience of performing in front of an audience when playing live or on tour. What they are all seeking is a particular state or experience, their real dream or driver is not ‘being a pop star’, but in living the experience that that gives them or the journey of getting there. The dream of becoming a pop star is really the vehicle which take us to a feeling or an experience.
So, when you think of your dream, what do you dream of? What are the emotions, feelings or experiences that your inner self is craving, and more interestingly, what other vehicles can you chose to get the same feeling, experiences and emotions?
On our search for purpose, we might start with what we like doing or what our dreams are, but we have to go deep within to fully understand what we really want and what we are prepared to do to get those feelings, emotions and experiences we are craving.
Choosing to just do what we love may be a great starting point, but certainly it is not the full picture.
Ditto. Great article Ernesto!.
I would probably also add up that there seems to be a growing number of academic research and evidence suggesting that people ‘experience’ purpose (as another key indicative factor of success) when they feel the work/trade they do have a positive impact on others, this has started to become some of the building blocks of the field of positive psicology, and one of the reasons why a growing number of people is leaving corporate jobs to pursue careers where success is not measured by economic returns, but rather a blended outcome of a financial income and positive fulfilling experiences at a personal level. Here’s one of my favourite talks on finding purpose as a starting point…. Best wishes and thanks for the post
A life of purpose