Do What You Love and the Money May Come. Or Not.  It Doesn’t Matter.  

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“Do what you love and the money will come!” is a popular expression—and I understand its idealistic, romantic appeal.  But it isn’t true and it shouldn’t matter.  Do what you love because you love it.  It’s okay if you have to do something else to pay the bills.

The more I hear this money – love myth, the more I dislike it.  First, it suggests money is the right way to value the activity, with the implication that if doing X doesn’t bring you money, it isn’t worth doing.  This reflects what I see as a large problem with present-day western culture.  All too often, for too many people, striving for money, fame, and public acclaim take precedence over activities that bring joy, peace, and fulfillment. Of course I believe in working hard and achieving goals, but there is also value in doing things for the pure joy of the activity, rather than as a means to some other end.

Second, the love – money bromide conveys the message that if you can’t make money doing something you love, you’re doing it wrong.  That’s an insane proposition!  The reality is that very few people are lucky enough to make a living doing something they love or are passionate about.  Even people who love or really enjoy their work have other passions and interests that they don’t– and can’t –make money doing.  Many people love to play sports, are part of a band, write, paint, knit, quilt, cook, sail, sing, etc. and can’t support themselves and their families through that beloved activity.  This is true not because they are inept, and if they were just sufficiently smart, clever, dedicated, savvy, or entrepreneurial–somehow better and more deserving–they could make it work.  It’s true that there are different levels of talent—talent and passion/love don’t always go hand-in-hand.  And it’s also true that luck plays an important role—being the more skilled or harder working person doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the most money, recognition, acclaim, or success.  There’s also the matter of what society pays for.  Being a great mom and care-giver simply doesn’t pay what being a professional athlete pays in 21st century America, no matter how passionate about and skilled you are at providing children, the elderly, or the sick the love, support, and care they need and deserve.

So do what you love, whether or not the money comes.

 

RESOURCES

Since posting this piece, I stumbled across an article that makes a related point.  The full column isn’t digitally available, so here are the key passages from “Failure Is an Option” by Michael Bourne (Poets & Writers, September/October 2015):

But my fear of failure had a moral component as well.  Writing fiction felt like an indulgence, one I found hard to justify if I wasn’t successful at it.  If I am being honest, I still feel this way.  Like most middle-class Americans, I was raised to view success as a virtue unto itself.  Failure, I grew up believing, was never an option.  People who failed were sad, and people who failed willfully, who failed when they could have succeeded in another field—they were simply frivolous.  . . .

. . .   When it was all over,  . . .  I was left with a startling nugget of wisdom:  Failure is, in fact, an option.  Even now I could go back to school for a more practical degree or take a job that would leave me no time for my creative work, but those options would not yield a life I want to lead.  More to the point, it is not a life I am obligated to lead.  I teach, and I make money writing freelance.  I am raising a child.  I’m pulling my weight.  If, in the meantime, I want to build my life around a pursuit of artistic excellence that I may very well never achieve, then as long as I keep pulling my weight and don’t succumb to bitterness and regret, I can go on failing to my heart’s content.

 

Thanks to Nappy for this photo through Pexels

 

Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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