Do What You Love: Idealistic Nonsense Or Good Advice?

By Carlos Portocarrero on 12 November 2009 (Updated 9 February 2010) 19 comments

At one point in our lives, we all pick a path: do we go with a career we're passionate about or do we pick a career that makes financial sense?

Money or happiness?

For the lucky few out there that have managed to do what they love while getting paid well for it — I salute you. For the rest of us, I offer a glimmer of hope thanks to web sensation Gary Vaynerchuk (please note that he uses strong language in some parts):

 

(Direct Link)

Let's take a look at some of the gems Gary drops in the video.

On Passion

Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, "What do I want to do every day for the rest of my life?" Do that. I promise you can monetize that.

Gary answered that question by bringing wine to the masses via his site, Wine Library TV, in his own unique style — and he has managed to monetize it. He's even gotten a book deal out of it. His job is now his passion.

But the question remains — is "do what you love" good advice or are people like Gary an anomaly? Can the average person take what they're passionate about and make a living off of it?

I'm stuck on this question because it just feels too cheesy and idealistic to serve as good advice for young people. It sounds good in theory, but when it comes time to pay the bills, save for retirement, and all the real-world things that are a part of life...it just doesn't jive.

It's terrible advice if you follow it so narrowly. But listen closely to what Gary is saying — there's more to it than that..

On Patience

17 months. I did Wine Library TV. 5 days a week.

Gary started his site on the side — after his day job. It was a lot of work and it probably had some real miserable times, but in the end it paid off for him. Doing what you love doesn't necessarily mean you're doing it at work, it just means you're doing it somewhere. For the vast majority of us, it'll be after work.

On Hustle

And just keep hustling. Hustle is the most important word, ever, and that's what you need to do. You need to work so hard. If you want this, if you're miserable, or if you don't like it or you want to do something else and you have a passion somewhere else, work 9–5, spend a couple hours with your family, 7 to 2 in the morning is plenty of time to do damage. But that's it. It's not going to happen any other way.

"I don't have time" isn't an excuse anymore — working hard and sleeping less can overcome all obstacles. Gary did it for 17 months — what's your excuse?

On Happiness

If you for a second, a half a second, don't believe in what you're doing — whether it's your personal brand or the product you represent — you need to get out now. We only get to place this game one time. One life.

I close with the most idealistic sounding Gary quote in the video because it's the most important thing he says. Start with what fires you up inside. If what you're doing doesn't fire you up, you won't be able to sleep for 4 hours a day for a 17-month stretch. You have to love it to endure that kind of pain.

It takes guts to drop everything else, but in time — with enough work and hustle — it can be done.

Do you know what you want to do every day for the rest of your life?

P.S. I read an interview with Michael Buffer yesterday and his story is pretty amazing. He managed to do something he was keen on (boxing introductions) and ended up world famous and world rich because of it. All thanks to one, itty-bitty phrase — how amazing is that?

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Guest's picture

I think hucksters like that guy (Gary) are full of nonsense. Not everyone can "do what they love" and make money at it. There has to be some sort of benefit for other people or companies in order for you to make money doing something.

Gary has done well with his wine site which is great but the wine industry is huge and full of dollars - if you can grab a slice of it (which is hard) then there is money to be made.

The problem is that people who have success is a field will then try to make more money "teaching" others how to have success when in reality those people probably couldn't replicate their own success in a million years.

If a topic you "love" happens to be a thriving industry (ie personal finance/investments/wine etc) then there is the potential for good income to be made. It will be hard work and you might not make it but the potential is there.

If "what you love" is some obscure field where there isn't much of an industry then your odds of making good money are close to zero regardless of how successful you are.

I like the advice about starting part time - that way you can see if you can make any money in your desired field.

Guest's picture
BD

"Four Pillars" hit the nail right on the proverbial head.

If 'what you love' happens to be a super-niche or over-saturated market with very little demand for your product/services, then you won't ever make a living at it, no matter how much you hustle.

I learned this the hard way. I love art. I thought I could make a living being a graphic designer. Oh, I got by for a while, but found out that in recessions, graphic artists are the first to be cut. In addition, the market has become over-saturated with graphic designers, causing wages to plummet. The few ads I do see for graphic designers are often advertising $8.00/hr wages. Cashiers at Home Depot make more than that. (which I also know, since i had to find SOMETHING in the meantime).

I wish I had NOT taken that glib advice of "Do what you love" back when I was in college, because 'just being passionate about it' doesn't always cut it.

Guest's picture
Rick

I always cringe when I hear a university professor tell an audience to do what they love. It is easy to say for someone who has been able to achieve that but it is not very practical. When I emigrated to the U.S. I thought I would like to be a teacher. I saw that the pay was poor so I became a software engineer instead. I don't love my job but I like it. I have a lot of freedom to do what I love after work and the means to do it.

Four of my five children have followed me in choosing the same profession. The fifth will enter university next year.

As for teaching? I have taught many times at church in seminary and gospel doctrine. It didn't detract from the experience that it was unpaid.

I advised my children to be pragmatic when it comes to work. Your prime responsibility is to earn a living, raise a family and to pay your way. That said, I don't begrudge the idealists, good luck to them.

Financial Samurai's picture

Few are able to do what they love and make a living from it. Hence, it's important to be PRACTICAL, and also do what you love on the SIDE.

I love writing, stirring up controversy, understanding new perspctives, and creating brands. That's why I work, but also created Financial Samurai. It's been immensely fun so far, and when I no longer have to work, I'll just do what I love (write) "full time."

Keigu,

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Guest's picture
GT0163C

I agree.
There are some people who can do what they love and make a good living. There are more people who can do what they like most of the time and make a good enough living so that they can do what they love in their spare time.

And I think I'm like a lot of people that I really enjoy a lot of things but either not enough to do them full time or I just don't have the gifts/talents/genetics to be successful at making a living doing those things. I like hanging out with the high school kids at my church (I'm a volunteer youth leader), doing some teaching, taking them on trips, leading small groups. But I definitely don't have the skills required to go into the ministry full time. I enjoy spending a week or two a year building houses of schools or such for various groups. But I wouldn't want to become a contractor or manual laborer full-time.
I like to read comic books and watch television, workout at the gym, geek out about the weather. But have not desire to go into the entertainment industry, professional sports or meteorology.

And I'm also not willing to sacrifice my relatively well rounded life in order to only sleep four hours for a night for months at a time in order to maybe make something huge happen. Maybe I'm not ambitious enough. I'm okay with that. I'm pretty happy with my life of doing what I like well enough to spend the time required to earn the money I need to enjoy the rest of my life. And, when asked for career advice, I encourage my high school kids to pursue that type of course of action.

Guest's picture

If your goal is to make $, then most of the time following yr bliss won't be practical. That's why a lot of creatives have chosen not to have a traditional family life - we couldn't afford it & our artsy calling at the same time. It is a choice. Of course, very successful creatives DO manage to have families and prosper - but they are a very small percentage - But if you are a cretive you can't LIVE without following your passion(s) - so your goal is to manage somehow. I know - I have.

Guest's picture
Jim

I think it depends on the application.

I think that pursuing a career field you enjoy is a good idea. But we all can't be whatever we want to be and make a decent living at it. Say you love Basketball, that doesn't mean that you should try to be an NBA star. But you might be able to make a living as a sports writer or as a teacher who coaches sports or a manager at a sports facility, etc. So identify what you like, find your own skills and then figure out a way to combine that into something people will pay you money for.

Guest's picture

I believe its true what they say, money cant buy happiness. However if your career cant give you a roof over your head I doubt you will be very passionate about it. Great article here!

Guest's picture

Assuming that you love more than one thing, cross-check those against prevailing (and predicted) wages.

I did that with computers, computers been berry berry good to me.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

I wouldn't call Gary a "huckster" just because he's espousing the methods he used to get where he's at today. That's like calling any kind of coach or instructor a huckster because he's trying to pass on his knowledge to someone else.

I think GT makes a great point: this isn't for everyone. Not everyone can make it happen or even wants to make it happen. It's like starting a business—it takes a lot of work and dedication and even then it might not be a good fit for most people.

But it can be done.

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture
Olivia

My dad was a sculptor, he breathed, ate, and slept it. But he made his living (small though it was) by teaching on the side. At one point he had four different jobs. We managed as a family, and it was an interesting ride, but I wouldn't want my kids to go through it.

Guest's picture
Jasileet

I vote good advice. It's hard to know what to say but as someone who has gone through college, career and is now onto family life I can say that the best advice I can give to college bound students is... Work for the life you want to live.

It's great to focus on a career and agonize over the fit but at some point your life might change. It's impossible to know right away but a little planning goes a long way.

1. What kind of lifestyle do you want?
Material things important? Or is free time more valued? How much a year must you make to feel succesful?

2. Will this change when you have a family?
Will the career you chose transition into something that you can still have what you like and focus on raising a family or taking care of aging family members? Will you feel like you're missing out on life-stages if you have to spend more time working for the next level in your career?

3. How do you like to spend your free time?
Is this something you can marry into your work ideal?
(Keep in mind, for some people, separating work from non-work things is the only way to keep from becoming over stressed.)

Ultimately, depending on the lifestyle you'd like and where your focus is, you'll have to ask yourself if it's better to make money doing what you love or is it better to do something you're good at and enjoy your time off your own way.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

I think it may be feasible to "do what you love" if one of the things you *also* love is marketing and promotion (and you are really, exceptionally good at it). In Gary's case, I think it was also helpful that he was passionate about something his family already owned a successful business in. If he were a complete introvert whose family ran a chain of car washes, would he have gotten where he is today?

The other (and I guess related) thing to consider is that making a successful living in a field that you love is not exactly the same thing as "doing what you love." I assume Gary's business is driven by his love for wine, but I bet he doesn't spend the whole day drinking :-). Let's say you have a passion for cycling: the number of people who make a lucrative living riding bikes is, I imagine, vanishingly small. Of course, you could open a bike shop or be a mechanic or write books about cycling, but at that point you're not really "doing" cycling as much as being a bike-related salesperson or tinkerer or writer. Which is probably a fine combo if you also like selling or tinkering or writing!

Guest's picture

Even if you're doing what you love, in order to make a living at it you have to be dedicated and energetic about it. If you like blogging, basket weaving, beer brewing, or whatever you still have to treat it as a job if you plan to make money.

JD at Get Rich Slowly has said that he loves blogging, but that it sucks when he has to do it all the time. Doing anything as a job will suck because you HAVE to do it, so pick something that pays well and devote yourself to becoming the best at it.

The reason work sucks is because it's something you're forced to do. Once you retire and have enough money to live without working, then work becomes not so bad. You know in the back of your mind that you can quit and go do whatever you want anytime you want to. Nothing is making you be there.

Guest's picture
Mia

You shouldn't do what you hate (eg. work in a high-stress environment when that drives you crazy). But the advice to "do what you love" should be taken with a large grain of salt:
1. Try very hard to make your career "something that you love". Work your butt off (but don't go deep into debt to try to make it work, be realistic about it's potential for success).
2. If that does not work, do something that you like, or at least don't mind. Do something that gets you motivated in some way (eg. a job that challenges you, or that 'makes a difference').
3. It is a balancing act - what is your priority? You can do something you LOVE that earns you little money, therefore you work hard and spend less time with your family and worry about finances. Or you do something that you DON'T LOVE, but it earns lots of money, and you get to work less (or retire early) and do the things that you love in your free time.

Guest's picture
Linda

I'm going to disagree. If you love what you're doing then you'll be happy no matter what situation you are in. The goal of this world is not to see who has the most money or the most toys. It's to love your neighbor as yourself, it's to help and serve others, to raise a loving family that can function in society and return the love and giving.
Our society has made the goal of a family to be financially strong and in the meantime the wife and husband are both working, the kids are at daycare and the home is no longer a place of love and comfort. It becomes a battleground of money and helping little Johnny get every game and toy that come on the shelf. Shuffling kids to 15 different activities, getting food on the fly. Where are our priorities?
You can absolutely love what you do. You get a smaller house, a smaller car, less clothing and electronics and pursue what you love. Nothing in this free country of America prevents anyone from setting a goal and going after it. If you work hard enough, you will achieve it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I love sex and cocaine. So drug dealing pimping is the way to go?

Guest's picture

We all have only one shot at this life and so it is extremely important that we spend our working life in a worthwhile manner thinking in terms of legacy. Life is like a storybook , with a beginning , a middle and an end. If we work on something we love then we can have the best of endings. The intrinsic reward of expanding our soul by doing what we love is reason enough. If it doesn't pay the bills then we should work out a strategy to set aside time for our real work while at the same time doing something we reasonably enjoy in order to pay our bills.

Guest's picture
Bettsi

I don't know what this means in relation to this post and comments, but the best job I ever had was as a house cleaner for an agency. The homeowners I cleaned for appreciated what I did for them and my time off was all my own. Even my work time was my own, because my hands were busy, but my mind was free. And I loved that!

Now I am working 10 hour days thinking about things I hate and even when I get home, I can't turn off the "work" in my brain. But to make any less money at this point is not an option for me at all. I have two teens, a roommate with three daughters and five pets and a mortgage that all depend on my income to remain the same or higher.

My only way out at this point is to somehow get totally ninja with my personal finances in the hope of funding something (anything) that might make me happier. That seems to be easier said than done, given the time and energy that is getting sucked into my sucky job.