To Do What You Love, Love What You Do

For as long as I can remember, gurus the world over have been offering this advice:

“Do what you love!”
“Find your passion!”
“Quit your boring job and find something you totally love!”

This is insane advice. For most of us, not only are we unlikely to find what we love “out there”, but because our biology is in charge, if we do find something we “love”, it’s more likely to be lust or infatuation that we’re actually feeling. When reality kicks in and the realisation dawns that we don’t have the chops to cope, it will be too late for us to realise that we’re not going to make a living from the thing we thought we were in love with.

Having to find what you love implies that you shouldn’t or can’t be satisfied with what you have. Rejecting satisfaction as somehow unsatisfactory is as absurd as it sounds.

“How are you?”
“Fine”
Just fine?”
“Yes”

In a world where large was not large enough and we needed extra large and then big gulp large, “fine” is supposedly not going to cut it.

Look at the French. They are not generally fat, particularly Parisians. They control their portion sizes. So you know, “fine” is just fine and “great” is exceptional, but the word “exceptional” implies that it’s not the norm and should not be the norm, because what then is exceptional other than a Big Gulp and then we’re back to where we started at the base of Mount Elbow in the Range of Obesity.

The success stories are illustrative only in that they exhibit survivor bias. Dave Gilmour slept rough and Freddie Mercury stayed at his friend’s place until they both broke through to become two of the most successful artists in rock and pop music history. The implied lesson in these examples is “if you don’t want it badly enough, you’ll never make it”

Let me tell you all the ways this stinks.

  1. You might for some reason want to marry Her Majesty The Queen. That’s never going to happen, no matter how deep your commitment. Apart from the rather obvious fact that she’s already happily married, well, just forget it, OK?
  2. The success stories appeal to us because of the overwhelming odds against success being bucked by the relentless drive of starving artists. Here’s the problem with this: You don’t hear about the artists who had the same relentless drive, but didn’t become stars!. The counter-argument is that they didn’t try hard enough. I have some snake oil to sell you if you buy that untestable hypothesis.
  3. You might get tricked out of doing something that you’re very good at, that offers up some important service, in pursuit of some crazy scheme. The movies will cue powerfully resonant music at such inflexion points, but the movies don’t show you the far longer list of people who had exactly the same hallelujah moment and who ruined their lives. You could have carried on doing what you were doing, become extraordinarily good at it and loved it just as much, if not more. You might not realise just how much satisfaction there is in service, duty and integrity. Nothing feels as good as giving. Nothing eats away at your soul like selfishness.
  4. Maybe the thing that you are passionate about is exactly what you’re doing right now, only you dare not admit it to yourself or your current crowd, because it’s considered uncool? Maybe you just needed to look a little closer and everything your heart desired was already there?

I’m not for a moment arguing against pursuing your passion. I’m just saying that if you choose to pursue love instead, you will find that you can love where you are and become incredibly good at that too. That’s what I did at PlayStation, but that’s another story.