Forbes contributor Rob Asghar recently detailed the five reasons why you should ignore the advice to do what you love. Immediately reading that headline, I wanted to explode into a diatribe of why he was wrong, and by examining my own journey, part of me still wants to put him in his place.
However, as is often the case with articles on the web, that title is a clever piece of link baiting that isn’t entirely false. Is it disheartening to see and to listen to? Maybe. But simultaneously, it’s also somewhat responsible.
One of the points that Asghar touches on is that of the individual who tries to force-feed himself a “passion” he’s not really prepared to embrace.
Citing Dave Evans, a co-teacher of the popular “Designing Your Life” course at Stanford University, Asghar shares the following: “It’s much better to have an accurate awareness that you don’t know your passion than to have an erroneous confidence in a false passion, which is a common result of people trying too hard to concoct one in order to be okay. The day a false passion is unmasked can be a pretty difficult one.”
That belongs on an Internet meme, friends.
Too many of us today feel compelled to live the kinds of lives worthy of sharing on social media. After preying on the notoriety of celebrities for years, we’re now getting a taste of what it’s like to be the celebrities of our own lives, and when we’re not doing what we love, there is a temptation to feel as if we’re failing.
That’s because we have the advice we should be following backwards.
Steve Jobs On Doing What You Love
One area where we will go ahead and take issue with Asghar, however, is in his interpretation of Steve Jobs’ advice to “do what you love.”
As a commenter pointed out, what Jobs actually said was this:
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
This statement is not a call-to-inaction on the part of Jobs, as in, “only do this type of work, period.” Instead it’s a charge that you should love where you are — your own personal contributions to the world through your work. If you can’t do that, it’s counterproductive to stay where you are.
Let’s break it down beat-by-beat.
‘The Only Way To Do Great Work…’
Jobs is not interested in offering advice on how to find a “good job with benefits.” He’s giving us the ingredients from his own personal experience for how he made an impact and gained fulfillment in his position. In the Asghar article, it’s a bit disingenuous to imply that Steve Jobs “didn’t take his own advice” about doing what you love, but that’s what the writer says nonetheless.
“If he followed his overriding lifelong passion, Jobs would have become a great Zen teacher,” Asghar writes. “Instead he meandered barefooted as a dilettante through early-adulthood, lacked follow-through, and only serendipitously stumbled into technology, management and marketing.”
This makes it sound like Jobs only took life’s leftovers, but anyone who knew Jobs knew that he truly loved where his career took him. He didn’t do great work; he did incredible work and changed the world more than anyone since Thomas Edison. He accomplished this because he came to love what he did. He didn’t believe that he was simply “making the best of things.” He believed he was making the world the best it’s ever been.
You may never accomplish the things that Jobs did in his abbreviated lifetime, but you can feel that type of fulfillment in what you do.
‘…Is To Love What You Do.’
Again, note the placement of the verbs. It was Jobs’ belief that people who did great work brought something special to their positions, whatever positions they were in.
If they could not feel that love — that fire — then any great work they managed to do would be non-sustainable. That’s why he issued the next statement:
‘If You Haven’t Found It Yet, Keep Looking. Don’t Settle.’
In many ways, finding a career is like finding a husband or wife. When you get married with the intention of “till death do us part,” you’re ideally making a commitment strong enough to where the two of you mesh your lives together. From that day forward, you share all of life’s important moments. You grow together and eventually grow old together, finding fulfillment every step of the way.
When you settle, you’re more likely to emotionally distance yourself from your partner and feel unfulfilled. You’re more likely to cheat, to develop animosity, and to live a life that is less than what it should be.
Steve Jobs was married to a woman, but he was also very much married to his work, and that’s a good thing. If you can find a job or start a business that consumes you without making you feel consumed, then you’re going to get more out of life. Why wouldn’t you keep searching for that?
‘As With All Matters Of The Heart, You’ll Know When You Find It.’
Jobs’ final point perfectly illustrates why you shouldn’t listen to Asghar, me, or anyone else, who tries to tell you what type of job(s) you should be doing.
It’s a personal journey. No one can step inside of your skin and say, “Okay this is fulfilling. This isn’t. Don’t do this. Do that.”
Only you can know if the decision you’ve made is right, and sometimes that takes trial-and-error — trial-and-error that you’re not getting if you simply stay in a “safe” job that you hate.
Of course, it does require you to be honest with yourself, and with the situation. If you can’t do that, then nothing you do will save you.[Image via Mathieujang.com]