“Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life” is a popular and pretty stupid motto. I think it was written by someone who was either high or who was trying to sell some books… or by someone who was high while trying to sell books. (I am opting for the latter because it seems funnier to me.) Genesis (the first book in the Bible, not the band) says that part of the curse is that work will be hard and sweaty, thorny and then we will retire into the same ground that we fought with to grow apples… Tell me again why we ate that damned apple? (Shoulda’ checked the fine print first.)
I think loving your job is overrated. What if someone gives you the same empty advice (“Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”) about exercise: “You can get fit by doing what you love and it won’t feel hard at all” (Crap). Or for childbirth: “This will feel great because you love your baby” (way more crap and a whole lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth!). I have never given birth, but being next to a woman who gave birth twice, that was enough to make me retire from the whole thing! Love is continuing to do your ‘job’ even though you feel like throwing up and want to punch the person who got you here.
What is important: Loving yourself while doing your job! In my job I have to do things that I really, really don’t like doing. That is part of being a professional and doing a thorough job. I find meetings boring and I am not very good at reviewing other people’s timesheets. I don’t really like routine and being “confined” in an office is annoying sometimes. But if I avoid all of that I will be pretty lame at my job. What I love about my job is that I am growing, developing my skills, gaining some rich experiences and that I get to work with people who are really good at what they do. By working through the stuff that I dislike I have learned not to give up when I am confused or irritated or bored or sick of the grind. I have learned way more about myself by doing the hard stuff… and I have learned that some of the stuff I used to avoid I now like to do and I am actually good at it!
One of the most important career longevity skills is not being afraid to reinvent yourself. I have worked for my current employer for nine years and in that time, I have experimented with many different ways of doing my job. When I get bored, that is a sign that I need to do my job differently… rather than quit and go somewhere else. I realized a long time ago that it is not my employer’s job to make me happy or to entertain me. I read books that inspire me, teach me a little about skills that I want to develop, or help me to think differently. I write down what I am learning and I practice one or two new things in my job. I have worked on skills that develop my communication, listening, public speaking and teaching, becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, working with people who don’t want to change, entrepreneurial thinking, leadership and just being myself.
Unfulfilled potential inside of you will always call out to you in the form of longing, desire or a sense of dissatisfaction… It’s the process of improvement that makes you feel good about yourself, more than the end result.
Mirror check: What might be holding you back is you. Think about it – what is the ‘story’ that you tell yourself about your work? Do you tell yourself how you are chained to your desk, confined to your office (I said that earlier, oops!), kept down by the man, fighting the grind or that you need freedom to work for yourself? If you put these statements together, the story they tell is that you feel that work is like jail, you are confined in a time out, you are being ground up, put down and robbed of your freedom. Tell me again, how is that story helping?
How might changing your story change how you work or at least how you think about how you work?
Honestly, if you don’t change how you think about work, even working for yourself may be like a jail sentence.
Some jobs should be like a one night stand: leave it behind rather than move in together. When you are ready to leave, make a plan and exit. My only caution is don’t avoid the hard work. If you work hard on yourself and you feel you have learned all that you can, then go. Just be mature enough to admit if it is a pattern of leaving jobs when it is boring, hard, not fun or if you hate the politics.
I will leave you with a few questions that may help to build a richer or a new story. If nothing else, it makes work more interesting.
• What do you like about who you are becoming?
• What have you learned in the last 30 days? Who have you shared that with?
• What do you enjoy about the people you work with?
• What skills or experiences are you picking up that make you better at what you do?
• What keeps you fresh?
Any value we create that requires us to spend our time, focus and energy – whether in the context of occupation, relationships or parenting – is work. Humans, it seems, are wired to find satisfaction by adding value through toil.
Todd Henry, Die Empty
Keep it real.