Do you need to really ‘love’ what you do?

Kae Tempest

I recently read Kae Tempest’s short, but highly-thoughtful book On Connection. Not only are they searingly honest about their shortcomings, but they also explain how important it is to just be ‘creative’ and find a connection, at the expense of all the other trappings that may or may not come with the process.

Then I read Lauren Pope’s excellent post celebrating the last 5 years of her business. In it, she says: “work has been a joy. This time last year, I said that my business feels like a gift I’m giving myself, and I still feel the same way… I love what I do”.

Although slightly different, both these examples echo the same point – that ‘the thing you do’ should be something you enjoy, rather than a way of making shedloads of money or acquiring oodles of fame.

Over the years of working, I’ve often heard people deride the notion that you should love your job – “it’s called ‘work’ for a reason”. But while it’s not always easy to find a job you really do adore, that shouldn’t be a reason not to try.

That’s why ‘purpose’ is such a big motivating factor. Kae Tempest never shies away from the fact that what she does can be and has been extraordinarily hard at times, but the joy of creating and performing, along with the connection they get from audiences, is motivation enough.

Similarly, Lauren says: “Most of all, I love that I get to help my clients make the world better, fairer, and more beautiful through content” – with few exceptions in the world, we all have to earn money to live, so why not find something you love doing.

Do the hustle

I often think about this, when it comes to people’s ‘side hustles’. As we hurtle through the 21st century, it seems that everyone now has something extra they do to earn money. For many, the hope it is that it will turn into their main business at some point.

I’m not down on the side hustle – I think if you can come up with something at which you’re proficient enough or an idea that’s different and it earns you extra, then more power to your elbow. The concern is that ‘fun’ side hustle will soon become something you hate, rather than love.

I started my ‘Content-ment’ email newsletter for fun in 2014. It was an extension of something I’d been doing internally at work for a year or so. I never intended it to make any money – it was my, ahem, gift to anyone who decided to sign up. Some people have been kind enough to ‘buy me a coffee’, but that’s really not the prime motivation.

And by not making it about the money, it means I feel no – or at least very little – guilt when I take a few weeks off. It also meant that when I moved from weekly to fortnightly publishing back in 2018 (after around 160 issues), no-one had paid to subscribe and had any right to complain.

That’s not to say there aren’t some weeks where I struggle to fit the newsletter in, but I’ve never fallen out of love with doing it. It continues to be a joy – and I know that, if I ever get to the point where it isn’t, I’ll know it’s time to call it a day.

So whether it’s your day job, your side hustle, or even your hobby, try to ‘love’ doing it (and ignore the killjoys).

2 thoughts on “Do you need to really ‘love’ what you do?”

  1. Great topic, which I’ve been thinking a lot about recently as I’m wrestling with what to do next, or how to change what I’m currently doing! What I write below may sound like I’m being cynical or contrarian, but that’s not my intention, these are ideas I’m struggling with.

    I keep trying to do work that I not only enjoy but also feel like I’m making the world a better place as my core purpose, because that’s very important to my enjoyment. However, time and again, in every field and sector (academia, government, charity, more), my idealism gets crushed by the realities of bureaucracy and the way things actually work and, well, people. A current colleague argues that the answer to staying sane is to not care too deeply.

    At least I have options, though, because I have a number of degrees in different topics and an embarrassingly wide range of experience (and, I’d like to think, skills). But whenever I hear people talk about doing what you love, I think back on my far younger self before all that, and my parents – who didn’t have any degrees or qualifications (like nearly 20% of today’s workforce) – stuck in manual labour jobs just trying desperately to make ends meet. And all those jobs out there that exist to help civilization tick along and make our lives nice, but can be gruelling, disgusting, dangerous, or simply soul-destroying for those doing them, including those in other countries who work in horrendous conditions for very little just so we can have our cheap clothes and gadgets. How do they feel about the message that we should all do what we love? How would society run if everyone was actually able to do that? Are the rest of us really willing to give up so much of the things that benefit us in order to allow everyone to have a good life?

    But even safely back in Britain, talking about not-too-bad jobs, people say ‘well, at least find pleasure in having a purpose, knowing you’re contributing to making society run well.’ I tried to have this mindset when the best job I could get was being a waitress in a busy cafe. It’s really hard to keep that in mind when people in the society you’re helping to run don’t treat you like they value you but rather like you’re lower on the humanity ladder, possibly not even quite human at all, just a servant to fulfil their lives, and any mistakes made by anyone along the way are met with outrage as if you are trying to get above His Lordship/Her Ladyship.

    So yes, I really do believe that everyone should be able to do jobs that give them satisfaction and decent pay while being valued and treated well, and I think I’m willing to make some sacrifices to help out. There are just so many things stacked against this I feel overwhelmed. Same for all the other catastrophes facing us at the moment! We need to fundamentally change many things about the way we live…

    1. Amen to this, Susan. I know that talking about doing a ‘job you love’ is, to some extent, a luxury afforded to those who are probably better off already.

      When I see examples of people how gave up a career and retrained to do something ‘more worthwhile’, I often wonder how they supported themselves (or rather who supported them?!).

      But absolutely we should be trying to change things to balance the odds slightly, so more people can do something they enjoy.

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