Do What You Love (or Love What You Do) for Income in a Job or Career

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If you are currently in a job or pursuing a specific career, you know it can be very rewarding – and also very difficult. It's tough to get a career going in the first place. It requires commitment, determination, and persistence.  Even before that, you had to decide what career or profession to pursue.

If you’ve already made that decision, how did you make it? Was it something you just "stumbled into"? Did you feel obligated to go into a particular field, perhaps due to a family business situation or to meet your parent’s expectations? Did you need to get into something quickly just to "make a living" and provide for yourself and your family? Or did you choose your career based on a personal life-long passion?

The question is, are you doing something you love for income as a job or career?  Do you even love what you do?

Regardless of how you got into the career you're pursuing or the job you're in, there are three basic scenarios for how you feel about it:

  1. You feel great because you are making a living doing something you love (it involves your passion in life)
  2. You feel great because you love what you do for a living (but it’s not something you truly love – in other words, it’s not your passion in life)
  3. You feel bad because you are not doing what you love AND you don't love what you do

For the purposes of this article, I'm going to focus on the first two - and specifically the difference between doing what you love and loving what you do. Number 3 is an extremely complex and serious issue, requiring much more than can be covered here (like perhaps coaching or my ebook, Be Happy at Work, which I'll show you how to get free at the end of this article).

Doing What You Love versus Loving What You Do

As far back as I can remember I wanted to become a doctor. When I was 5 years old, all I wanted for Christmas was a dissection kit, so I could study the anatomy of frogs, lizards, and other creatures I could find.  (I know - I'm sorry - I was just a kid and didn't know any better. I feel terrible about it now, but back then, it was my passion and I didn’t appreciate what I was doing to these living creatures).

As I got older (around 10 or 11), my passion continued to grow. My favorite show on TV back then was Medical Center (yes, I watched TV back then - no more today). It was a weekly show and my parents let me stay up that one night a week to watch it.

Later, I went into college as a "pre-med" student and after a long, difficult, intense several years of study, I finally got into medical school. And it wasn't on my first try. No, it took me two years of the most intense work and effort anyone could imagine. I basically had "no life" for two years while I worked night and day (literally) to get into medical school.

It’s a long story, but to make a long story very short, I finally got in. And I loved it. In fact, my four years of med school were some of the best, most memorable years of my life - even though it was incredibly difficult.

I then went through the very tough, sleep-depriving internship/residency training and went into private medical practice. And guess what? I didn't love it!! In fact, I grew to actually despise it.

So, again to make a very long story a bit shorter, after about five years in private practice, I decided to make a career change. It's something I had to do. I went back to school (business school), got my M.B.A., and entered the business world as the medical director of a small pharmaceutical company. I even took a significant cut in my income (more than 50%) to make it happen. And, over the next 19 years (1989-2008), advanced in my career to spend 15 years as the CEO of two biotech companies, one in Irvine California from 1996 to 2001 and one in Vancouver Canada from 2001 to 2008. It was a great job and a very good career. I was good at it, and I grew to love it.

Why did I tell you all this? Because ... this is an example of a situation where I pursued my long-term passion (to become a doctor) but when I got into the practice of medicine, I didn't love what I did, so I made a career change, went into something I wasn't truly passionate about (pharmaceuticals) but learned to love what I did. I talk much more about how that can be achieved in my ebook, Be Happy at Work, but for now let me address the "doing what you love" part.

Some people (unfortunately relatively few) have the required combination of (1) vision, (2) opportunity, and (3) commitment to pursue their passion as a means to support themselves and their families financially. And yes, all three are essential.

In my case, for example, I had the opportunity and the commitment; I guess I lacked the full "vision" to see what my TRUE passion was, and what it was really like in the medical field (which I found out quickly I didn’t love). Much of what I saw was the superficial glamor and prestige conveyed on "Medical Center". And it's not like that at all - especially these days.

Also, it wasn't until I discovered my "mission in life" - which is to be a positive, creative force for health and happiness - that I realized why practicing medicine was not for me (since I was only fulfilling a small part of my mission).

Many of the most visible examples of people doing what they love are sports figures, actors, dancers, writers, photographers, and musicians.

These are activities many of us (including those doing it for a living) either do – or would do – for free; and many of us even pay to do some of these things. You know what I mean. It’s like the person who dreamed all their lives about becoming a Broadway actor or dancer (had the vision); went to school on loans, scholarships, or their own cash to learn to act and dance (had the opportunity); and then spent years and did hundreds of auditions (and lived through hundreds of rejections) to work their way up to Broadway (had the commitment). [Important note: some of you may be thinking right now that this also involves “luck”.  Well, that’s for another article, but in my opinion “luck” is merely what happens when opportunity meets preparation. In other words, if you have the vision and commitment, when the “opportunity” presents itself – and it will – you’ll be prepared and “luck” happens].

Now, let’s get back to the difference between doing what you love and loving what you do.

It’s like when I asked my very good friend, Jeff - who earns his income by being a draftsman - if he loves what he does, and he said “well, yes”. Then I asked him if he was doing what he loved in his job? His initial response was, “it’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

“Oh, no, no, no”, I replied. It can be completely different.

So I asked him in a different way ... “if you could make the same amount of money as you’re making now as a draftsman, doing anything in the world, what would it be?”

Without hesitating for a second, his answer was, “surfing”.  I happen to know Jeff’s true passion in life (other than his wife, Patty) is surfing, so I knew the “right” answer for Jeff to be doing something he loves would involve surfing.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love what he does as a draftsman, because he does. It’s just not his passion in life. He probably wouldn't do it for no pay (at least not full time).

It’s the same for me with biotech. It’s not my passion, but I have loved the jobs I've had in my biotech career.

And after over 20 years in the pharma/biotech business, I left my full-time CEO role and am now, in addition to consulting and participating on Boards of biotech companies, I am also pursuing one of my passions, which is helping people live happier, more fulfilled lives by writing and “infopreneuring” (which continues to be consistent with my mission in life of being a positive, creative force for health and happiness). This picture is me at the launch of my first book, BeHappy! in New York City.

Achieving Your Desired Career/Job Outcome

Whether you are in a job now or plan to pursue a career in a specific field, the objective is the same: ideally, it is to do what you love. Many times that’s not feasible or practical. Usually that’s because the opportunity is not there. For example, if your passion is golf, but you’re not good enough to become a professional golfer, it might not be the best decision to pursue that career. Or perhaps you’re a sales person for a software company, which is unrelated to your passion and desire to be a television sports commentator, but you have a family to support and have no experience or qualifications for sports commentary. In this case you might not feel you can afford to spend the time (probably many years) and money (surely tens of thousands of dollars) to make the change right now. Again, the "opportunity" might not be there right now. It doesn’t mean it can never happen, it just means it may be delayed.

If it’s not the opportunity that’s lacking, it’s then usually because your "commitment" to go through the tremendous sacrifice that is likely required is not as high as it needs to be to succeed. For example, if your passion is playing music but you’re not prepared to spend the countless hours of practice everyday to get good enough to “make a living” at it, you may never be able to break into the music business and support yourself.

In both these examples, as in most situations, there is always a way – even if it’s just to use those passions in some other area of your life (and maybe even making a few bucks in the process). But, it may be secondary to your primary job or career. Also, we have all heard the stories about those people with such a high commitment level that they have made the opportunity appear. They go to school at night or on weekends learning the new skill required. They pursue their dream of being a doctor, for example, at the age of 50 - doing whatever it takes to make it happen. Nothing is impossible. We've all heard the saying, "where there's the will - there's a way". That's so true.

Again, though, the ideal is to do what you love. Some experts coach that this is not only an ideal, but a requirement. They say you must pursue your passion if you are to be successful and happy in life. I don’t fully agree. Because I have been there … and have been both successful and happy - doing something that was not my passion. Now, I have an opportunity to explore my true passion through my book writing and this website. I view it as just another path on my life’s journey. Yes, my opinion is that the ideal of doing what you love as a career is not essential for you to be happy and successful. What is necessary, though, is for you to love what you do. And that’s possible for anyone and everyone.

This topic - loving what you do - is a process that can be found in my e-book called "BeHappy! at Work", which you can get by clicking here.

I hope you now know the difference between doing what you love and loving what you do. And if you haven't yet chosen a career, or if you're in the process of deciding what to do with your future employment options, explore the possibility of entering something that relates to your passions.

Have a vision. Explore all the opportunities. Once you have made a decision, make a commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve success in the area you love.

If, however, you are in a job or career you don't like, then make sure to get the ebook, BeHappy! at Work for just $3.75 by clicking here.

Or, you can get it FREE, along with a FREE autographed copy of BeHappy! and a FREE copy of my other ebook, A Guide to Healthy Living, by clicking on the "Order Free Now" button below.  Yep, I'm giving away all three books free right now. 

BeHappy! my friends


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If the information on this site helps you and you'd like to make a donation to (to help make others happy), please click on the button below to make a contribution. The amount you donate is entirely up to you. A portion will used to contribute to the happiness of others and is greatly appreciated.


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