Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do what you love and the money will follow

One of my clients recently forwarded an article from a group named “Recourses” about work-life balance and following your passion.

It’s very interesting but actually comes across as a bit of a rant suggesting that following your passion is a great way to starvation…. The article isn’t signed, but my guess is that the company is small enough so that if you are a regular, you pretty much know who the author is.

I think my client sent it to me because I have asked her several times, “What would you do for free?” as we have focused her career search. So here comes someone with a dramatically different point of view, or it sure looks that way to begin with.

The first clue is that he frankly acknowledges that he personally “loves his work”. So how does that fit with the idea that we shouldn’t follow our passions?

I think the part he is actually objecting to isn't that people want "to love what they do", but that many times people don't include market realities. I love music... really really love it, but making a living at it would be more than a stretch.

The challenge isn't so much identifying things that we are passionate about, but things that we are passionate about and that people will pay us to do. He's also ranting about people wanting their job to be all of the good and none of the rest. He's right about this as well, heck even musicians need to practice. The man who invented classical guitar as a legitimate discipline, Andres Segovia would practice a new piece for 2 years before he performed it. When the great Seattle Sonics point guard, Gary Payton entered the NBA, he was amazing at getting to the basket, passing and controlling a game, but he had no outside shot. He spent the next several years shooting 500 shots 4 days a week and 300 on the other 3. He did this on his own time. Was it his favorite part of the day? Probably not, but it was necessary if he was going to be as good as he hoped and it was necessary if he was going to be able to lead his team. I love being a Career Coach, but part of being a coach is writing, which I actually hate,  I also know that I need to continuously research the job market to stay current and to have deep enough pockets to last long enough for it to become a viable business.

The point is that every job has both good and bad. The author uses his own childhood, growing up on a coffee plantation as an example of what it means to work hard at something you don’t care much about. In fact his example of the coffee farming is in many ways apropos, as I do know people who are passionate about coffee and who grow coffee because of this. They know exactly how hard it is and bust their tails doing it. The consequence of this passion is their coffee regularly wins awards, sells for $36 a pound and sells out every year.

Another piece not being acknowledged is what the job market is like right now. Employers have choices. A consequence of this is that they are choosing the very cream at every opportunity and frankly, if you aren’t passionate about what you do, it’s much harder to be part of that cream.

I repeatedly ask my clients “What would you do for free?” The reason is that in today’s market place, if we hope to keep up, then we are studying our profession on our time and our nickel. No one does this when they aren’t passionate.

Going back to the coffee plantation analogy.  My guess that his farm was moderately successful, but the people making more than a simple living are the ones continuously learning and improving their product.

So will the money follow just because you are doing what you love? Maybe…. Will the money follow if you are doing things you don’t like? Probably not. The key in both cases is what you do or don’t do to prepare and doing what you love makes that preparation much much easier.

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