Even cavemen probably said ‘do what you love’ once upon a time.
It’s an idea that has existed for a long time. Parents tell their younglings after high school “do what you love little Freddy. You’re going to change the world when you do, darling” (ohhh cute!).
I subscribed to this advice too. I tweeted “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Then this tweet below slapped me in this face.
Steveo is onto something. How many people really start out working for money and land in the rainbow fantasy land of “I’m doing what I love” on day one? A few perhaps. But not many.
According to research, 70% of people don’t love what they do. No surprise we’re surrounded by angry Karens who take their frustrations out on life by not replying to emails or playing the silence game.
The idea of ‘do what you love’ is the problem.
Why most of us can’t start with ‘do what you love’
In an ideal world we’d all start doing work we love right after our formal education is complete and we’re done making schools and universities a fortune for overpriced lessons you can find in the library. Yet we don’t. The answer is simple.
We’re still figuring stuff out.
Finding what you love doing isn’t like going to the supermarket and selecting what type of sourdough bread you’d love to eat. The journey takes time. Often, it takes years of doing the same tasks to figure out if the work you’re doing is good.
Remember: once we find work we love, we’re supposed to do it for the rest of our lives. So we don’t just randomly pick any form of work and hope for the best. The same way you don’t get married to someone for the rest of your life and hope they’ll be okay to sleep next to.
Love takes time.
This is Steve Adcock’s formula for doing work you love that I’ve edited for simplicity.
Work a terrible job first
Jobs teach you what you hate.
They expose you to lots of new experiences. You can follow random people around to see what work they do. At a job you build a network of people around you. Once you find work you love this network acts as foundational support you can lean on when things go haywire — and they will.
Without any money coming in, you simply drown and can’t move forward until food and shelter are sorted. A job helps you start to earn money while the do-what-you-love jigsaw is assembled in your mind.
Use and abuse a job to flex your money-making muscle.
What you’re good at may not be what you love
If you’re good at one type of work but don’t love it, doesn’t mean you should simply discard it.
I’m good at sales jobs but I don’t love working in sales. I used sales jobs as a way to earn a living while I figured out my life. Through the process my boss challenged me to write on LinkedIn. That idea sparked a new path in life. I did it every day for several years. That’s how I found my love for writing.
Sales paid the bills when writing couldn’t. Even though I don’t work in sales anymore, I use the persuasion skills in my writing.
A skill that’s not your one true love isn’t a waste.
Take your 9-5 skills and do this
A job gives you money to stay afloat while you figure out what work you love. You can take those same skills from your 9-5 job and sell them twice.
Use social media to market those skills. Become a gun for hire.
I could sell my sales skills through consulting, contracting, or freelancing if I wanted to. Every business needs to sell. But not every business wants full-time employees. Where do you find new customers for your 9-5 skills? Easy. The customers of your employer, or by going on LinkedIn and searching for companies in your industry.
Don’t pitch potential customers an ad for your services. Nope. Flip it around. Turn your pitch into a question. It sounds like this:
“Hey Miss Customer, we’ve been working together for a while now. I’m looking to use my skills and industry experience to help other businesses after hours. Would you happen to know anybody from another business who might be looking for that?”
You could then be cheeky and say “you’re not looking to hire someone just like me, are you?”
9-5 skills you develop can be sold more than once. Buy back your time by creating multiple income streams. With more time you can focus on finding what you love.
Build up your cash
You’ve got a job. You’ve sold your skills beyond one employer. Now it’s time to build up your cash.
Cash buys you time to experiment with different love-inducing projects. We rarely fall in love with a field of work on the first date. We need to sleep with work we think we love to see how we feel. We need to have lots of idea orgasms to figure out if they’re the one.
Take mini-retirements to test the depth of your *LOVE*
What I did is take mini-retirements. Writing looked my one true love. She was sexy as hell. She took my breath away twice a week. In between various jobs, I spent entire weeks and months just writing.
Time doing the one thing I love allowed me to test my relationship with writing. We had fights. We had days where the idea machine was empty. We endured jealous critics who told us our love for each other wasn’t real.
And… we survived each mini-retirement. Eventually I had enough experience with writing to know she was the love of my life and we should get married and have idea babies.
Test work you love with a mini-retirement. Take annual leave to experiment with the work you think might be the one. Take longer gaps between changing jobs to gain more insights. Use money you’ve saved up to buy unpaid time off from your 9-5 job.
Work you fall in love with rarely happens after a one-night stand. Give love for one type of work a chance to grow on you.
Tell your boss adiós amigo
This is the final part where Steve Adcock recommends going all-in. One of two scenarios can occur at this point:
- You have enough money to do what you love, even if it doesn’t make you a dollar.
- Or through after hours experiments and mini-retirements, you have a way to make money from solely doing work you love.
Now is the time to quit the work you don’t love, for the work you do love. It’s time to say adiós amigo to your boss.
I’ve done this. I don’t recommend being an ass about it. Be nice. Respect what they’ve done for you. Remember that without them you wouldn’t have had the time to experiment and find work you love. They probably helped you reach this point. If anything you should be grateful for their existence in your life. (Plus being nice creates hidden opportunities later on.)
There’s nothing wrong with doing work you hate until you find work you love. Conventional advice suggests work you love will happen in a heartbeat. Reality shows us it takes years, sometimes a lifetime, to find work we love doing. That’s perfectly normal.
Retirement isn’t where you’re financially free or sit on the beach in your swimmers for the rest of your life snapping Instagram selfies.
Retirement can happen much earlier in life. You can start by doing work you hate. You can experiment your way to find work you love. Then you can retire at 30-something from boring work and go all-in on work that inspires you.
What if real retirement is simply doing work you love?