It’s Valentines Day, a day to reflect on relationships and celebrate love. It’s also a good day to have a conversation about our relationship with work and the often quoted mantra, ‘do what you love, love what you do’.
Last year an article in Jacobin magazine, later republished on Slate by Miya Tokumitsu offered the opinion that the concept of ‘do what you love’ degrades work that is not done from love. I would counter that ‘do what you love’ sets an aspirational goal beyond our current situation. That goal will evolve over time, and may even be overhauled with life changing events. But too many people, famous and not so famous, believe that you will only find success and add value to the lives of others if you are doing what you love.
Since his death, the 2005 Stanford commencement speech by Steve Jobs has received a lot of attention for his advice to the graduates. His work/life experience led him to believe: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
He was not alone in his conviction. Artists, business leaders and politicians have shared their beliefs on the topic and some of the most inspirational been collected on Michael D. Pollack’s website. Here is a sample:
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Maya Angelou
“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Ella Fitzgerald
“Paul and I, we never thought that we would make much money out of the thing. We just loved writing software.” Bill Gates
This doesn’t mean that we love everything we do at work. There is no magic wand that turns the toads into princes of productivity. There is conflict, confusion, uncertainty and ambiguity. But if there were no problems, there would be no work.
If you are not there yet, consider where you would be if you loved what you do and did what you loved. Maybe it’s time to get out the GPS, enter the destination and start your journey.