23 Apr 2014
Do what you love. It’s a seductive little phrase, clear and urgent in its call. It promises a path to happiness, a simple test to run against every decision you make that will guide you to a fulfilling, meaningful life. It’s an imperative — a command, not a request.
It’s also total bullshit.
Now, I believe many of those who preach that you do what you love do so with the best of intentions. But “do what you love” — and it’s cousin, “quit your day job” — presumes many things about you: that you have sufficient wealth, time, and emotional support to single-mindedly pursue a career; that you have access to a network that can and will enable you; that the work you love is valued in today’s capricious and frequently stingy economy. It presumes that you are among the most fortunate people on the planet.
And maybe you are. But imagine how the “do what you love” edict rings to those who are not.
At its best, “do what you love” is a friendly pep-talk to the dissatisfied elite. At its worst, it’s exclusive: the ugly side of the American dream, the one that judges those with the least as being the least deserving. If only they had the will or ethic to pursue their dreams! If only that was all it took.
So here’s some advice that’s considerably less sexy than “do what you love” but ultimately more useful: do what you can. Seek out the roles and skills that both suit you and are sufficiently rewarding in compensation to make your life work. You may find you end up loving part of that work, and if so, grand. But remember there’s plenty more space in your life for love, and your work neither deserves nor is likely to support the most of it.
Your love is bigger than what you do.