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Do What You Love or Love What You Do?

By: Steve Johnson

8/13/2008 - 120 Comments

Should you do what you love or love what you do? This is the question I have been pondering.

The personal finance blog, ‘Gather Little By Little’ recently wrote an article titled, Do the work that you love to do, that has inspired me to write this article.

The idea is that finding what you love to do is very important and will bring fulfillment to your life.  The article is very good and I agree with it, but it only conjured up more ideas and questions for me, like: What priority is finding what I love to do?

  • Is it more important than providing for my family?
  • Is it so important that I should wait for it?
  • How long does it take to find it?

Finding a Career

Starting college is a time when a young person faces a lot of changes. Most people don’t know what to major in because they don’t know enough about what they would actually be doing on the job. This lack of information and the large number of changes and options that a young person is confronted with usually cause them to stall. They hesitate to make a decision and comfort themselves with the fact that they have several years before they have to make a decision to graduate.

But, delaying this decision is also very risky and costly; because the longer someone waits the farther they may be headed down the wrong path.  A college degree is very expensive these days and the longer you take classes that you may not need the more money you spend and the less you are earning.  I helped my brother get his classes lined up so that he could graduate within four years.  Each additional year would have cost him $20,000 (for tuition, books) + $50,000 (in loss of salary) = $70,000 x %5 for 30 years = $288, 129.49 in his lifetime.

The idea of waiting to find the perfect career is not a reality but a dream. Very few people ever get to do exactly what they love to do and most of them that claim they love what they do have either learned to love their work or have found their work after trying many things or getting themselves into a financial situation where they can change jobs into something that is less stressful and has more meaning in life.

If a young person is struggling to find a career that they like, then I suggest parents get involved and help them.  There are a lot of ways to help a young person find a career, like taking them to visit several jobs so they are get some real life examples. Another great method is to experiment with summer and part-time jobs that are related to a career that they are interest in.

A teenager likes to do lots of things and what they like to do changes as they grow older. I don't think it’s practical to let your teenager get a college degree by default. Parents need to sit down with their kids and help them get a degree with a corresponding market.  Helping a young person find a starting career with a good job prospect is perhaps the most important thing to do during the college years. After they have a good job and pay off their debts, then they can do whatever they want.

Love What You Do

Life is short and I don’t think anyone should continue working at a job that they absolutely hate unless they have to – and even then, they should only do it for as long as necessary. But everyone needs to work, so you might as well learn to ‘love what you do’.  If your job provides for your family and you have been trained to be able to do your job, then what’s not to love?  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have goals to move into a better job with time and there is always someone that would gladly take your job.

It Will Probably Take Time

For most people, it will take 40 years to find something that they absolutely love to do. That’s why it’s sometimes easier for someone from an older generations to say, ‘Do what you love’, but they can only say that because they have spend a lifetime doing many things before discovering what they really love to do. It's more likely that they are now in a better financial situation and no longer have to depend on a boss firing them to feed their family. That alone can reduce anxiety and improve your attitude about your work.

In the end we all find time to do what we love to do, the question is whether we get paid to do it or not. And there is always something more fun that I would love to get paid for, like going to the water park or taking a week vacation. We all like to consume things and will always need to pay someone else to produce the things that we like to consume.  People get paid for producing things not consuming things. My advice is to ask a different question, instead of asking ‘what do you like to do’ ask ‘what do you like to produce’. The answer to that question maybe a short cut to finding your perfect career.

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