The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is the standard career advice: “Do what you love.” I’ve heard it a million times from different people and various presentations, but oftentimes I wonder if the people who say it actually mean it.
What I believe happens quite often is that the “do what you love” advice is given to us college students and young adults at the surface level. At this level, it is almost assumed that we will still keep the same lifestyle (a steady job with a steady paycheck) with the only difference being the job title (design manager instead of public accountant, for example). This is something that parents and even the students themselves can easily handle. People are comfortable with the security of a 9-5 job and the paychecks that go along with it. But sometimes passion doesn’t happen that way. If we truly love what we do for a living, our jobs may alter our lifestyles, which makes it harder for the people close to us to easily accept that we want to “do what we love.”
For example, my ideal job would be to travel the country giving motivational speeches on personal development. But because this will involve constant travel and living on little income until my career picks up—as opposed to a 9-5 job with a steady paycheck—this was tough pill for those close to me to swallow. It’s tough for those close to you to let you go. When they first hear that you plan to just get up and leave for a life of uncertainty and risk, they’re bound to object. But an unpredictable lifestyle sometimes comes with the territory of your passion.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, as most people will have no problem taking a 9-5 job that appeals to them and is close to friends and family. If your passion allows you to maintain that lifestyle, that’s great. But doing what you love can entail something entirely unconventional, like doing environmental sustainability research in Asia, just as easily as it can entail something more conventional like becoming a program director at your favorite non-profit.
Jobs we are passionate about oftentimes mix with who we are at a very deep level to the point where our lifestyle becomes influenced by it. Interestingly, this is how some passionate people prefer it to be, since we spend roughly 1/3 of our waking life working. Some of the happiest people I’ve met are those who have a job that works its way into the other parts of their lives because they love it so much. To them, it’s not “work”. To them, it’s life.
“Do what you love.” On the surface it’s telling you to find a job that is in line with your passions and interests. As you go deeper, you realize that “doing” something you love can oftentimes break beyond the border of a job and begin to influence other areas of your life. Where you live, how you live, how frequently you travel, who you meet, the friends you make, and the person you grow to become are all part of this equation.
How far are you willing to take the advice to “do what you love”? The answer to this may be what shapes your career and your life.