Do You Have to Love Your Work?

September 13, 2013 |

Are you sitting down?

If you’ve followed me for any of the 18 years I’ve been writing this newsletter then you may be stunned by what I’m about to say.

You don’t necessarily need to love your work in order to lead a happy, fulfilling life.

catchastarLet me be clear…

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue satisfying work. What I am saying is that misconceptions about what it means to find a “calling” or “passion” undermine a lot of dreams.

This is especially true for people who identify with the Barbara Sher concept of being a “scanner.”

Unlike “divers” who pursue one interest and specialize, scanners have many diverse interests. They like shopping for bargains and they like coming up with ideas for inventions and they like pet photography and they like teaching classes…

As a consequence scanners are easily bored with repetition. They lose interest once they’ve mastered something. As such scanners have a hard time sticking with one thing for fear that if they say ‘yes’ to one thing then they must say ‘no’ to their other interests.

Are You Really a “Scanner”?

Some people really are true Renaissance souls.

However, there’s a far more common reason why people jump from passion to passion never really following through on anything.

Somewhere along the way we got the idea that in order to qualify as a “true” calling that our work should never feel like, well, work.

Let’s take the analogy of finding and then maintaining a healthy relationship with a mate. Done right and the two of you will be together for many happy years to come.


But buy into the eternal passion myth and you’re headed for disappointment.

That’s because when you’re in the courting stage all you see is how amazing your beloved is. Perfect really. You want to spend every waking moment together and each moment you do is more incredible than the last.

At some point, however, some of the magic is bound to wear off. Habits you once found endearing, begin to grate on you and the intensity of new romance starts to fade.

goldenheartClearly we haven’t found our soul mate after all. So you part ways and the quest to find the real Mr. or Ms. Right begins anew.

This same cycle of euphoria followed by eventual disillusion happens with work as well.

To be a “true” passion, we believe our work should feel like play. Not just sometimes, but every moment of every day. Not just some parts, but every part.

Pretty soon you’re bound to run into something that’s difficult or unpleasant.

You need to figure out how to set up a website or navigate import-export regulations or actually get out there and talk to potential clients or market our business or like me, deal with the hassles of flying to speaking gigs.

Heck, that’s no fun!

You think, “Apparently I haven’t found my passion after all!” So you quit and the search for your “true” calling begins all over again.

What’s The Solution?

By all means, you should enjoy that initial passion phase. After all there is nothing like discovering a long lost love for painting or antiquing or inspiring people.

Just realize that maintaining a satisfying relationship with your new livelihood will require commitment, effort, compromise, and a willingness to ride out the inevitable bad days or sometimes even years.

Believe it or not, this is actually really good news.

Because once you understand that you don’t have to feel passionate about the work part, means you have more options.

operaFor example, I had a client who loved to sing opera. He was actively engaged with a local opera company and wanted more practice time than his demanding job allowed. But at 54 and living nowhere near a major city never mind New York, the guy knew he was not going to earn his living singing.

So the goal shifted instead to finding a means of self-employment that would allow him to pursue his passion on the side. Think of it as the self-employment equivalent of the Barbara Sher concept of the “good enough job.”

Instead the good enough business is one you create so you can afford to sing, ballroom dance, train service dogs, or whatever it is you really like to do, on the side.

This is important because people have become so enamored with finding a passion that they miss out on perfectly good business opportunities.

buildingTake Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams for instance. The two friends saw a need for affordable office space for women business owners in Manhattan. So they founded a company that leases private and shared workspaces.

Are Adelaide and Amy fulfilling a lifelong dream of being property managers? Probably not.

What they did do was to recognize a need and built a profitable business designed to meet it.

And, as importantly, they built a business that allows them to have control over their life and time. And isn’t that the whole point?

Still digging in your heels on the passion thing?

Then you might want to take a little trip to the Texas State Fair. That’s where you’ll meet food vendor Abel Gonzales Jr. Abel is perhaps most famous (or to some, infamous) for coming up with the idea for fried butter. (Check out the list of other creative fried food winners.)

onionringsHow passionate would you be to spend 24 consecutive days in a food trailer toiling at a fry station in the Texas heat for 15 hours a day? Not so much, right?

Okay, so what if you knew that in those few weeks that Abel makes enough money to take the entire rest of the year off to do whatever the heck he wants?

Now what were you saying about “passion”?

Creating your own job truly is the next big wave. Scroll down to learn how to best prepare to make YOUR own job.

Is doing work you enjoy preferable? Absolutely. But as B.C. Forbes remind us, “Don’t forget until it is too late that the business of life is not business but living.”