portrait2brightenedThis week I experimented with some self portrait photography ideas (above) and felt it was a perfect image to represent a subject recently on my mind. ‘Taking a closer look at yourself’ and life, through your work habits. A few weeks ago I read several articles titled “Why ‘do what you love’ is bad advice”. You can view the first article at Slate.com by clicking here, and the second article at Forbes.com here. The theory of ‘do what you love’ says that finding your one true passion will guarantee the eventual flow of money, mean that you never have to ‘work a day in your life’, and make a great impact on the world because you’re finally using your one, great, inborn talent.

Well folks, I beg to differ. Not only are those things not proven to be true, but I agree with these articles in that it, A) diminishes the importance of work done by those earning medium wage doing jobs that are not only necessary for our society’s functioning, but also those which we may not want to do ourselves, and B) creates unnecessary stress and frustration for those fortunate enough to chose their continued education and career paths. Not only are you being bombarded with the mass stimuli of our uber connected 21st century but you now start to believe there’s only one thing you’re ‘meant to be doing’, so go ahead; figure out what it is and make sure you get there… fast. 

Do What You Love is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.  -Slate.

Some reasons not to concern yourself too much with the mantra of “Do What You Love”:

  • Money isn’t guaranteed to follow.
  • The majority of people do not have one overriding talent or passion, so you’re forever chasing the nonexistent.
  • The search for this elusive and possibly nonexistent one passion can be a distraction from living in the present.
  • Your passion can become a bit of a nightmare once it’s realized as daily work, and you may have a hard time separating your work life from your personal life.
  • You may have highly profitable skills that aren’t necessarily your passion, which could afford you a lifestyle that makes you incredibly happy.
  • Emotionally satisfying work is still work, and recognizing it as such doesn’t undermine it in any way. In some cases this mantra is a silent weapon for employers: encouraging and sometimes even demanding underpaid, unpaid, or off the clock work.
  • Relationships and experiences make your life rich, not jobs. No matter what anyone tells you.
  • No job will make your life complete. Doing what you love will, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be your source of income.
  • Recent studies show that the 2nd biggest regret of the elderly and dying: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Nobody looks back in their old age and says: “Man, I really feel I’ve lived a full life because of that job I had back in ’09”,  so stop stressing yourself out.
  • Career-path-pressure contributes to the newly coined ‘quarter life crisis’ and depression, more and more each year.
  • No job is perfect and stress/problem free no matter how much you love the particular subject.

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like nonwork?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?” In masking the very exploitative mechanisms of labor that it fuels, DWYL is, in fact, the most perfect ideological tool of capitalism. If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.    -Slate.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m some kind of pessimistic asshole that thinks work is just work, it sucks, deal with it. But it’s quite the contrary. I do work that I’m highly interested in. I work in a high end kitchen. I get to prepare food all day long, I don’t have to kill my legs ankles and knees wearing high heels all day, I can drop eff-bombs whenever I feel like it, and I can eat cookies whenever I feel like it too!

What I don’t agree with is the mentality that goes with the idea of doing only what you love for work:

  • That you need to be obsessed.
  • That you need to dedicate your every waking moment to your chosen field.
  • That you should feel guilty having more than one subject you’re passionate about.
  • That you won’t succeed if you allow yourself to have other interests.
  • That you should sacrifice aspects of your personal life for your work.
  • That you aren’t worthy of good compensation unless your work is your one and only passion.
  • That ‘service passion’ is simply a mask on the real beast named Workplace Abuse.
  • That putting limits on your work-life, and demanding proper compensation renders you useless or passionless.

These are not things I am willing to negotiate, however I am confronted with them on a daily basis- and you most likely are too (if you’ve read this far).

Better advice for your career and work life? :

  • Try many different things. You’ll never know your multiple (yes, multiple) talents if you don’t try.
  • Find subjects you’re particularly skilled at and/or enjoy, but are not necessarily so concerned with. This way you can always ‘leave work, at work’.
  • Search for career paths that can provide you with a working environment that suits your personality and temperament. It’s not just the work itself that impacts your life, but the environment and mentality of the people you spend those many hours with.
  • Search job fields that allow for growth and learning rather than dead-ends. This allows you some intellectual freedom so-to-speak, keeps you interested and motivated, and has the potential to increase your skills and employability for the future.
  • Network. Sometimes it’s that one chance encounter that ends up steering your towards an unexpected potential job that you never even imagined. Talk to people you trust about your skills, and see where it leads you organically.
  • Do what comes naturally to you. Choose job fields that don’t feel like incredibly intense effort. Using the skills that come more easily and naturally to you ensures that you don’t become obsessive, and that it won’t be an intensely gruelling work for you. No dollar amount is worth continuous burn out.

The biggest piece of great advice is really- don’t take it so seriously. The average person has 2-3 careers throughout his or her lifetime, and that’s an ever expanding number with our developing world…

So chill out. 

There isn’t one specific thing you’re supposed to be doing with your life. Life is multifaceted. It’s a balancing act, and work is only one aspect. 

Keep that in mind and you’ll do just fine. Do something that has meaning for you, but don’t kill yourself over trying to pin point just one thing. A full life contains many experiences, so take it all for what it’s worth and experience as much as you can.

On that note- it’s time for bed.

Ciao for now guys, as always: your opinions on the subject are very welcome!


Posted by:Ashley

6 replies on “Why ‘Do What You Love’ Is Bad Advice

  1. Thanks for this! I have always looked at that mantra with doubt. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I kid you not, in the last week, I have written facebook posts on it that I would then delete and not actually post. I like what I do for a living (information and referral specialist), but I’m not passionate about it, yet it allows me enough time off and money to pursue hobbies, which would not be as satisfying as jobs. So I like doing what I’m doing for a living. People always ask, why don’t you be a baker? They mean well, but it would mean that I’d never see my husband, and probably get paid a lot less than I’m used to, and my benefits would be less. Not to mention that I’d probably work for someone else, and couldn’t just bake what I wanted to bake, anyway. I do like this:

    “There isn’t one specific thing you’re supposed to be doing with your life. Life is multifaceted. It’s a balancing act, and work is only one aspect.”

    1. Dave! I couldn’t expect a lovelier response to this post. I truly believe every word of it, and I’m so happy to hear that it’s meant even a little something to another. You’re right about being a baker, as that’s my profession… And you are right that certain hobbies wouldn’t the same as jobs. They certainly aren’t.

      I’m glad my opinions resonate! Thank you kindly for your comments 🙂


  2. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about career and change. This really resonated. Have decided not to obsess too much over finding a new job and whether it will be the best thing for a career, since relying on work for fulfillment – similar to the DWYL mantra – is a bit silly anyway.

  3. I want to truly thank you, as I had been worrying a lot recently about what am I going to do about my career and what should I really pursue, and this post has just cleared my thoughts. It’s amazing how I came across this post today, and I feel blessed now.

    1. I’m really glad this view on the subject has put you at ease, it’s not always as complicated as we make it out to be. Change is always good if you’re feeling it’s time for something new… The key is not to let it stress you out!

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