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Tim Peter

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October 10, 2011

Is it crazy to do what you love?

October 10, 2011 | By | 3 Comments

In my commentary on Steve Jobs’ passing, I both quoted and reiterated the idea that you must do what you love. Yesterday, I got an email from a reader asking,

“What do you mean by ‘do what you love?’ The economy’s in a shambles, unemployment is ridiculously high… I don’t care whether I do what I love, unless you include putting food on my family’s table in that category.”

Additionally, I spoke with a local business owner the other day—one with 16 years in business here in town, in an industry he’s passionate about—who told me he’s having his worst year ever. He’s downsizing his operation and looking for less-expensive real estate.

Some argue that those who say “do what you love” are bragging or offering bad advice.

So, is it crazy to think you can both do what you love and earn a living?

In a word: No.

At least, not if you don’t abandon reality along with it. There’s no harm in asking how you can make money doing what you love. In fact, most successful people do just that.

Wired Magazine’s obituary of Steve Jobs notes:

“[Job's 'fall back plan'] changed when Steve Jobs saw what a high-school friend, Steve Wozniak, was doing. Wozniak was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club, a collection of Valley engineers and hangers-on who were thrilled at the prospect of personal computers, which had just become possible with the advent of low-cost chips and electronics. “Woz” was among several of the group who designing their own, but he had no desire to commercialize his project, even though it was groundbreaking in simplicity and also was one of the first to include color graphics.

When Jobs saw his friend’s project, he wanted to make a business. While other home-brewers were also starting companies, Jobs was unique in understanding that personal computers could appeal to an audience far beyond geeks.” [Emphasis mine]

Jobs loved computers. And he loved the idea of building a business around them. Tony Hawk loves skateboarding. And he figured out how to get paid for doing it. Nathan Sawaya has built a business out by building things out of Lego.

None of these people got where they were by ignoring their passion or by ignoring their need to make a living. Instead, they looked for the intersection of the two.

The economy sucks. No one’s arguing that. And you’ve got to work to figure out exactly how to make a living doing what you love. No one’s promising overnight success. But, you can do what you love and feed your family at the same time. In fact, I’d argue that you’re more likely to succeed at something you actually enjoy than something that’s soul-crushing drudgery.

But, I will close with this thought about whether you can do what you love and still earn a living, from Henry Ford: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you’re right.”


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