Do what you love, for money or not

I’m surrounded daily by college students who are openly eager to find a path or at least a direction for their lives. “What should I be or do…?” they ask. Not that those of us who are older aren’t challenged by the same question, but college students face the question like it’s their job, with a healthy mixture of confidence and angst. Very few, though, seem to persist in the pursuit of an answer that is truly meaningful to them. They are influenced by others – well-meaning parents, teachers, and peers – who guide them toward a practical, traditional response. So, they get a job doing something that doesn’t genuinely excite them, assuming maybe they’ll get back to that big question soon after they get settled in a normal, adult life.

But how many people do you know who truly love what they do, who are genuinely excited to get to their work each day? It’s the rare person who sticks with that ultimate “what should I do?” question and pursues it till they’re living the answer. Yes, you’ve got to pay the bills. But, as Studs Terkel said, “Work is about daily meaning as well as daily bread. For recognition as well as cash; for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying… We have a right to ask of work that it include meaning, recognition, astonishment, and life.”
I don’t think it’s ever too late to find yourself, to start living the life of your dreams. If you’re confounded about where to start the search, I think a great place to start is by thinking about what you have loved in your life so far. And go all the way back to your earliest memories. Remember when you were a child and you could get lost in play or some creative endeavor and time became meaningless. That’s what you’re looking for, those activities that captured you and flowed from you or through you seemingly effortlessly. Anthony Demello offers a great way to approach this:

“You must cultivate activities that you love. You must discover work that you do, not for its utility, but for itself. Think of something that you love to do for itself, whether it succeeds or not, whether you are praised for it or not, whether you are loved and rewarded for it or not, whether people know about it and are grateful to you for it or not. How many activities can you count in your life that you engage in simply because they delight you and grip your soul? Find them out, cultivate them, for they are your passport to freedom and to love.”

So, discount those activities you treasure just because you got praised or applauded for them. What do you love that brings you joy intrinsically, an activity that is an end itself rather than just a means to an end? Go watch Steve Jobs’s Stanford commencement address and hear him talk about the joy he got from learning calligraphy as a young man. Who knew that interest of his would affect the way we all use computers today?

You certainly can cultivate such activities outside of your job, but wouldn’t the ideal be to make such soul-satisfying activities the heart of your work? Don’t give up on the quest to live your dream. Start doing at least what you think you love even if it’s on your own time or knowing that it will only be a hobby. Take action and start acting like you are who you want to be, even if you’re not really sure who that is yet.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Thoreau
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7 thoughts on “Do what you love, for money or not

  1. I agree 100% with everything you said! It’s an incredible give-and-take between money and passion…and hopefully we can all find ways to have them both together. We’ll see.

  2. EJ. Can always count on you for a proverbial smack in the face when I’m freaking out about life. Thanks! I’m going to forward this to my parents… 🙂

  3. Not all roads have to lead to business school, you know, Randall. There are plenty of roads available if you look around. You’ve still got plenty of time.

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