Have you ever heard the saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” Although on the surface that quote rings true and profound, I consider it to be problematic. First, it suggests that working is bad. It‘s easy to regard work with negativity, but to work is simply to exert physical or mental effort to produce a desired result. Anything worth having in life requires work… even relationships.
But the biggest reason this quote nags at me is because it gives us the illusion that our passions should be our careers when it isn’t always practical or possible. Maybe your passion doesn’t make for a prosperous business or your financial or life circumstances don’t allow you to pursue it. You can have passions that aren’t your job or your career and they don’t have to pay your bills.
Likewise, you can enjoy your work even when it‘s not “what you love.”
Even when you are lucky enough to do what you love for a living, there are plenty of things you will have to do (invoicing, accounting, scheduling, etc.) that you don’t like or enjoy. There is always boring and tedious work in every business, no matter how much you love your job.
The other day a friend of my dad’s posted a picture on Facebook of them together shortly before my dad died. In the comments he wrote that he wanted to live like my dad did because he lived and died knowing why he existed.
Knowing why he existed. That phrase struck me.
Indeed, my dad always had a clear purpose—to study and teach human behavior and personal development—and he devoted his life to that. That purpose fueled his speaking and writing career. But even when my dad had a regular job at Xerox and Cargill, he studied and taught human behavior on nights and weekends. He used his skills in the job he had. He lived and breathed those principles long before he got paid to talk about them.
Do you know why you exist? What moves you? What brings you joy? What inspires you? What do you think you were put on this Earth for?
I have a friend who loves to act. He may have dreamed of performing on Broadway, but his life circumstances kept him in Miami. Instead, he works as an IT professional and stars in community-theater in his spare time. He has taken part in more plays than we can count and is now producing them too. Maybe he’ll own a theater one day or work in the field full-time — but even if he doesn’t, he still does what he loves.
A girlfriend of mine is a stay-at-home mom. One day in conversation she said, “I was born to be a mom. There is nothing else in the world I’d rather do.” Parenting is her purpose.
You might exist to bring joy, laughter or inspiration to the world; Or to be an entrepreneur; or to love animals; or to play an instrument; or to be an athlete; or to do a little bit of a lot of things. Share your gifts in any capacity you can. Whether you do it after work, while you work, or make it your work doesn’t matter as much as it does that you do what you were born to do. The real tragedy would be for you not to enjoy your passions or fulfill your purpose, just because they aren’t your profession.
A Moment of Clarity
Don’t worry about not having to work a day in your life. Instead, know why you’re here and commit to living your truth no matter what. You can do what you love and work.