Someone in my family told me very early in life to go for what I was good at and make money on it. Earning that money would allow me to live my dreams. I doubted him and, right off the bat, went for my passions. Guess what? My passions alone never paid the bills. So, will having your income dictate your career bring you more joy?
You’ve heard the old saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” But is that true? Is choosing your passion as your career the right thing to do?
You may be stuck in this same paradox. Let’s weigh the truths versus the myths to doing what you love for a living.
It’s possible to make a living out of what you love
Do you love to write? Love design? Whoever told you that it’s not possible to make a life off your passion should keep their opinions to themselves. There are plenty of people who make a career out of the things they love. How do you think NBA players made it happen? They made their dreams their reality. All because of the love of the game.
You might wonder why everyone else isn’t doing what they love? The simple truth is that it can often be hard. You may need years of schooling, practice, or coaching. You may need money (for educational purposes or starting up). You may need and a lot of skill to do what you love.
Sure, there’s no guarantee having a career you love. But there are no guarantees in life. You may have to be a freelancer. You may experience high competition in your field, but you have to keep going if it’s your passion. To continue doing what you love, you better not get sick of it. You may be putting thousands of hours into it. Have the work ethic to get it done and love it enough to pull through. Live your dreams and put in the work. Plain and simple.
You may not love certain aspects of doing what you love
An artist can be wonderful at what they do and love painting, having to do business. That NBA star loves making a three-point-shot but hates mandatory press conference. Does that photographer love to shoot engagement and wedding photo shoots? They hate prospecting clients, as well as emails and phone calls to do business.
Sure, there are always certain aspects you may not like so much. But you are still doing what you love. The architect isn’t a CPA, they are enjoying their career nonetheless. Having a career you love will always come with a downside. And there’s no way around it (unless you have enough money to make someone else do it, of course).
Some people, like me, don't have just one thing they'd love to do, but multiple. I like traveling, photography, writing, designing, decorating, cinema, gardening, bird watching, rain! I can't do all of it! I can't make money developing a career in all of these. Some maybe, but others will be my choices for how to relax, spend time with those I love, and hobbies.
A great way to do what you love is to start small
Of course, there will always have people that are just lucky and make a great living out of their passion, but most of the people have obligations, a family to support, bills to pay. If you’re working a job you maybe don't hate but know what your dream career is, start small. What I mean by small is, have a side gig with what you would love to be doing starting out. You may pick up a gig or two on the side as a freelance graphic designer. Or you might intern or start an apprenticeship on nights or weekends. You don’t have to give away your full-time income and start fresh.
Starting small with a side-career will get you on the path to where you want to go full time. If you find out you actually hate it, there’s no commitment to full-time. Sure, it will take a while. But it will most likely be worth the wait and practice.
Your failures will be smaller if you start smaller and learn now
There are plenty of mistakes when starting a new career. But, if you start small as a part-time freelancer or side-gig-er, the mistakes will be small enough to handle. They will be easier to come back from. More or less, you are going to end up learning from your mistakes to build your dream career. That way, when you are full-time living your passion, you will know what to expect and how to handle it. Doing what you love will be so much easier when you know what to expect.
Train hard for a rewarding dream career
You are going to need to put in lots of man-hours to gain the knowledge, skill, and experience to build your dream career. But you are still going to need to support yourself. Don’t quit your day job until you are ready to go out on your own. Weigh the options that are at your disposal. Think about providing for your family, including healthcare, retirement, and vacation. Make sure you have enough money to fall back on in case you hit a bump in the road, too. Be realistic. Be patient with yourself. Unless you are already a multi-millionaire by default. Then you can throw this piece of advice out the window.
It may not be what you envisioned
You may put in the hours upon hours of work for your dream career to find that it looks different. For example, You may go into photography for nature photos, but you may get more business and find more pleasure in taking wedding photos. And that is okay. You are finding your niche. Let it be yours, as long as you enjoy it to the bank.
You have to keep your focus. The process of discovering what you'd love to be doing in ten or twenty years can't be always in the way of living in the present and finding joy in what you do. Learn to at least like what you are currently doing, and be good at it, developing skills to improve what you do can make wonders to your balance as a human being. You might even discover that your work is not that dead-end hateful activity, and might learn to appreciate the opportunities and discover some more things you might not LOVE to do, but like a lot.
Keep trying, even if you fall out of love
Remember that part where I said you may not love aspects of your new dream career? That’s why you have to try out different side-gigs first. You need to test the waters and find that one thing you love, that you can turn into your full-time career. And trust me, you may get a little sick of it. Sometimes, it will be best to walk away and take a break. Remind yourself of why you fell in love with your passion in the first place. You’re guaranteed to succeed if you can keep pushing yourself and to not give up on what you love.
As I grow older, I learned that person in my family wasn't totally wrong. It would be great to just do what I like, but I'm so grateful I've learned to work hard and do whatever it takes, so I can do many of the things I really love to do. Stressing would just make life unbearable. Life is a work in progress.