Education

Can you really have a job you're passionate about?


Lately, there's a lot of talk about passion.  People everywhere are talking about "pursuing their passion." They say things like, "I'm passionate" about this or that.

But have you noticed that most people you ask will admit that what they do for a living is definitely NOT what they are passionate about?  It's unfortunate.  Seems most individuals have been raised to believe that having a dream job - one that they love - isn't the real world.  In fact, I've heard many folks go so far as to say that they believe most people don't even like what they do for a living. 

Everyday we see winners talking about passion.  We see athletes, actors, and celebrities all the time telling people that they love what they are doing for a living.  Not so much people in business, but there are a lot of them out there.  Some come to mind quickly - usually the rich guys like Steve Jobs or Oracle's Larry Ellison. 

Others are less well known.  There's a great story about John Donahoe, President of eBAY's Business Unit.  He was a management consultant who was fortunate enough to have a smart fiance back when he was just 23. She realized that he was pursuing a career which - although it was going to make him a lot of money - was not what he really wanted.  She helped him realize that what he cared about wasn't going to be realized if he pushed himself to succeed in a job because it was the "safe" and "smart" thing to do.  He says, "Her challenge to me was, 'Be who you are.'"  He changed his course, started fresh in a different career and has ended up as the guy who will probably run one of the Internet's biggest businesses.  All because he did what he was passionate about.

Each of us need to realize our own potential to be truly satisfied, successful, and happy.  No one will attain all 3 of those without having passion for what they do.  

Some can fake it for a long time.  As a coach, I work with a lot of great fakers, ones who had convinced themselves for many years that what they were doing was what they cared about.  But at some stage it always falls apart.  And then those people become the walking wounded.  They have a life filled with a great deal of morose about why they didn't do what they really cared about.

Don't allow yourself to become one of those sorry people. 

Take the time now to decide what you truly want to do. And then take whatever action is required to do it.  You'll never regret it.

                                                            - john

                                                        Career Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

34 comments
Victoree
Victoree

Convinced by wrongheaded advice taken from the voice of my fears, I convinced myself that I could be a successful classroom teacher. Three terminations told me otherwise. Admitting that this so-called safe, secure "perfect career" was anything but joyful; after having invested years of time and boodles of money; having grown older,colder, and more self abusive I one day decided to quit. One day, even though it will be 15 years or so until the US government says I am eligible, I said to myself, "I am retired". I gave my self permission to do what I do for love and now my daily commute is down 8 steps in my home to the ecommerce business I am teaching myself to develop and manage with my business and life's partner. Yup. Flying without a net and life is grand. Passion found.

rain.longson
rain.longson

As a designer (GUI/graphic) I have worked for .com's, corporation's, as a consultant for consulting companies and for myself. I have been in the design field for 20+ years I wouldn?t, couldn?t give it up for anything else, any more than I could give up breathing. I love my job, the more variety, the more creative problems the better. When I worked full time, I still took on projects outside of the company - I really truly like what I do. I'm on the computer working from just about the time I get up till just about the time I go to bed. The breaks I take is when I walk my dogs - (need to get away from the chair at least for an hour a day), cook dinner for my family and when commuting is required and during this time I thinking about the work I?m doing and coming up with solutions to the design problems. There is only one time I am not super crazy about my job and that's when I rework the same design over and over again, but that is a rare occurrence. Yes, I?m passionate about my job; yes I love my job, would I do anything else? No, you couldn?t pay me enough to do anything else. Heck, I get paid to do what I want to do already!

Eternal
Eternal

My wife does design, slightly different as she works for a newspaper, but she does all their special projects and such, she loves it when she gets to let the creative juices flow, but she's in her own time zone, which causes some stress for her, that and silly customers who don't know what they want. She does web design too, but not for money, she does it for her self and friends, she doesn't like the confinements of a contract. Hmm your crazy about your job and mine drives me crazy :P I actually had a job once where being a little crazy was a pre-req... any sane person they hired was off on stress leave after 4months...

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

Many years ago, back in Canada, a careers advisor told me never to be a teacher. Now 30 some years on, I am a University lecturer. AND I LOVE IT. I get a buzz from working with these youngsters, especially when I see the Light Bulb moment. I even prepare stuff on weekends for my classes, and I am always having to learn myself, because working in data communications is a fascinating field, changing so fast. The only thing that I don't like is marking, which is why I am looking up so many of these columns, trying to avoid it. Best log off and get back to it.

LadyQA
LadyQA

Love your work and good jobs should follow. You will be good at what you love and recognized for that effort. When you are not, find others who will love you for that quality. I love my work. Yes, I find it amazing that people pay me to do this when it is so much fun. (I'm in Software Quality.) I'm not exactly loving my job right now, but that's because I'm not focusing on my work.

beads
beads

First off, I do love what I do for "work". In that I am fortunate. But its what I choose to do not what I have to do. What I am is a serial entraprenuer. I start companies up, sell them and start something else that tickles me. What becomes a drag - even after 28 years of IT work is the lack of passion or interest from the folks who are only in for a paycheck. No one to share cool algoriths or a really unique solution to a problem that no one has a clue about solving drives me nuts with the blank stares and lack of drive to bring new ideas to market. Actually, I have a small pile of interesing things to bring to market that most of my staff still can't believe. So if your lucky enough to feel passionate about what your doing - Great! If not then you probably won't be passionate about any work you could have possibly have done as a career otherwise. Its really about the mindset not the work. Or perhaps some of us are merely idiot savants at what we do and are simply lucky enough to be doing it. As for the Amish comment above... I personally know many Amish who are quite passionate about keeping there way of life going and passing that way of life down to the next generation. So that comment rings a bit hollow with me since I grew up in an Amish community. Unless, perhaps there is another Englishman here on this board. They should speak up - lol. - beads

greg
greg

...not many other people in my company do, though. I have no problem working the long hours or the weekends or going above and beyond because I honestly love what I do. Unfortunately, I'm a rarity at my company. Most of my co-workers are in it for the paychecks and the stability. As such, I get the choice assignments. Those projects that HAVE to get done and done well. Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no. The problem is that when I'm really excited about something and want to share it with a co-worker, I just get the blank "so-what?" look that drives me crazy. Being the only passion-filled person, I try to incite passion in my co-workers but alas, it never works. It makes the company harder to work for, because I don't have any co-workers to share a really cool algorithm with - or to debate the benefits of one approach over another. Any advice?

Eternal
Eternal

I have many hobbies, and many skills, none would I say I'm passionate about. I do computers, well fix and build them because it's what I know it comes naturally, there's a certain logic to them I understand... I used to like computers... but now, I wouldn't say I hate them, I'm just bored of them. It doesn't help I work on computers 8-20 hours a day, every day. SO I'm not a faker, I'm not in denial and thinking I love my job, I tolerate my job, and I know it. A regular pay cheque unfortunatly beats being happy at this point....

DkTeddy
DkTeddy

I think athletes really enjoy their work. They r in shape and love their sport. The downside would be injuries, but there r more positives sides than bad sides. U r playing sports and sports are great. I can really c that athletes have an easier way to find passion for a job than other jobs.

No User
No User

You directed your article at the common folks yet your examples are athletes, actors, celebrities and billionaires. If common folks had everything that the elite have I?m sure we would be just as passionate. Instead of taking a career that we feel less than passionate about merely for a standard of living and job security we could afford to do what we wanted and feel the passion. Well since the article is directed at me how about some examples of folks in the same boat as me which would not be the rich and famous, who have this spontaneous perpetual passion. You have a survey that only has 2 extreme questions. Why no wiggle room? * Yes! I do what I love. I love getting up and going to work! What does getting up and going to work have to do with how you feel about your job? What if you must get up very early and drive a long distance but love your job? Kinda like eating and going to the bathroom if you do one you do the other. You love to eat but the other part really stinks. * Are you kidding me? I do what I have to do because it?s the only way to make a decent living. I?m not sure that there is an occupation that I ?really? want to do perhaps in a future century there will be but that is of no consequence to me now. Just because I don?t have a deep persistent love for every iota of my job doesn?t mean I completely lack passion or am incapable of it. Above all I still must ?work for a living? If I could bed down the worlds most beautiful women, lived in a mansion had servants for my every need, didn?t ?need? to ?work for a living? and I could basically all around do what I want. Then I have no doubt that I would just be flowing over with passion. I noticed the author is a Career Coach. The article sounds like a motivational speech not a realistic concept. Now that I said all of that it?s simply healthy to get into your work (the rest of your life as well) and at least feel some passion. We only have one shot at life and the more passion we feel the better. If the author has the secret that leads to a passionate existence then spell it out. I think we could all stand to benefit and I would like to be the first one in line.

Chilly Willy the First
Chilly Willy the First

Boy did you hit the nail on the head!

GoodOh
GoodOh

It's not 'here here' it's 'hear hear' (listen to what the speaker is saying because it's good). http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mhear.html ---- The basic fact, that most of us avoid desperately, is that spending most of your waking hours doing something you hate is bad for you, for the company and, most importantly, for your family.

Prefbid II
Prefbid II

By the author's definition, I'm one of the fakers. The best I can say is that my job is acceptable. I am certainly not passionate about it. I don't hate it and I don't love it. I find most of the people that I work with to be rather nice. I like the community. I like the area of the country. The pay is good. The benefits are good. The work is just "acceptable". I would love to be passionate about my work, but I think I would have to get into another line of work in order to invoke some feeling of passion. My wife has asked me several times, "if money were no object, what would you be doing?" I know the answer to that question. It has nothing to do with computers. However, money is one of the objects and what I would like to do is far more risky than what I do now. So, while I'm not passionate, I'm still happy enough.

mabingle
mabingle

After almost 40 years in IT I am finally fed up with my field. I started as a programmer, then an analyst, project manager, head of Apps, head of IT, and a CIO. I joined the field because I found I liked to program (mostly assembler and Cobol). Then as I got better the promotions came and I was pretty good at that too. I finally landed in the corner office as CIO. That I didn't like... much too much politics. Then came the era of outsourcing and acquisitions and I have found myself having to look for another position every 3-4 years. Either I'm outsourced or my company is sold. In addition, companies don't allow you to be as creative as they used to. I would love to switch careers, but like many of you the price would be too significant and I am at the age where you don't start a "new" career. You're lucky to find a new positon in your current field at my age. There are tons of age discrimination out there. If I really had a choice at this point, I would like to try something in the business area.... not IT. It would be kind of interesting to hear what you people would like as a new career.

Prefbid II
Prefbid II

I would love to be self employed and flipping houses. I used to build houses (my summer job while in college) and I spend a lot of time remodeling my home. I currently am not living in an area that is conducive to flipping houses and the capital cost of entry is far too high for me right now. But maybe some day ...

dogknees
dogknees

When I read the precis of this article, my immediate response was "no it's the opposite". I was always brought up to believe that a primary goal in life is to get a job you enjoy. This wasn't just my parents, but seemed to be the standard view of life by parents, school teachers, career coachs, everybody really. I'm not saying we shouldn't accept anything less than perfection, I'm saying we should be striving for the goal of enjoying our jobs, and striving to give our kids the same opportunities when they enter the workforce. Where have we gone so wrong that people don't even see it as a possibility, let alone a goal. Sad!!

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

for more than 30 years I have provided a level of customer service second to none. Yes indeed I am very passionate about what I do and am very proud to do it.

support
support

I have worked for other companies and since I have my own business I work twice more but I feel good about it because I decide what I like to do!

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

The reality is that if someone is successful at what he does, then the vast majority of his tasks will be rote tasks. In fact, it is most often those who can take their personal feelings out of the mix, those who can be dispassionate, that are most effective. No, one should not do something that he despises doing. That, however, is a far crying from being passionate about it. As Thomas Edison noted, it is 99% perspiration, doing the necessary detailed work, that permits success. Sure, enjoy the brief bits of creativity and enjoy the people you work with. Do not expect, though, that a job will provide passion, or you will be in a revolving door of new jobs every couple of years. There are far more important things in life than a job.

portable
portable

If I read it correctly, you say you cannot be passionate about a job and be successful. (depends on your definition of sccess... Bill Gates would probably be seen as successful, but I would call Mother Theresa a success also) As an example you talk about all the dull things that every job has. First, I would say that YES, EVERY job has dull work, but IF you're passionate about it you overcome that to enjoy the job. In science, one example that disproves the thesis is considered *enough* to disprove it. Therefore, I would submit the job of evangelism that Billy Graham has. I cannot think of anyone more passionate about a job. Now, you can quibble and call it something other than a job, but it is how he earns a living. I say that you can have a job you are passionate about, but you better be really passionate in a lot of them because you may enjoy what you are doing, but not be able to make a "really good" living. I will end with MY definition of passion for a job. If you believe in what you are doing, and believe that it will somehow help people (more than just you) in *some* way (they will be better off because of what you do), and you enjoy doing whatever it is to the point you look forward to 90+% of your days, then you are lucky enough to be passionate about your job.

jck
jck

if I was the guy who got to spray down naked girls at the Playboy photoshoots :D

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

How often did you send a spec application for the job? Have you tried to get to know the team that take the photos? If you really want a job, you will send spec letters at least once per year. You will find ways to meet people who would know of openings and set up regular chats with them. You would have done the math to figure out what else you would have to do, or what to give up, so that you could take the job when it becomes available. . . Okay, so maybe jck wasn't making a serious post, but this applies to everybody who sees a job they would like to do more than their own. . . The job I am doing is basically what I was doing with my free time before I had a family. Can you get a better job than that? It didn't come for free, though - I had to do pro bono work for charities, go to hundreds of interviews, buy books and self teach, re-write my CV (resume), and just STICK IT OUT UNTIL I GOT THE JOB I WANTED. . . But I am not smug, because there is one more career aspiration that I want to achieve, and I still haven't worked out how to make money from it yet. I want to arrange for a desalination plant to be built on the coast of Africa, and the resulting clean water to be pumped inland, up a mountain, and released as the source of a river to provide drinking water and irrigation further inland. I have a steep learning curve, because there is nothing in this that fits with my present skill set. I have started working with charities to learn about the fund raising process, and I will learn whatever else I need (I still haven't reached the stage where I know what it is that I don't know - now THAT is a learning curve). Now, if any of you do IT for a company that builds desalination plants and wants to give me a leg up...

jck
jck

if i had that job, i'd drool too much lol

Rascal1981
Rascal1981

Regardless of my experiences with employers and the corporate world, I have always enjoyed my job in IT and enjoyed working with computers in general, rather they be large scale farms or individual workstations. I think the article's purpose was to state that you should bring the passion and thus you will be satisfied at your job. So far, its worked for me but perhaps I am too optimistic....

hube
hube

I dislike my job with a passion that many of you would have me invest in loving it. The reality is that it does not define who I am nor do I ever want to be known for what I did at work. The bottom line is that what I do here is not all that important in the scheme of things. There are many more important things in my life. They are my life's passions. They are what is important.

mdbradsh
mdbradsh

My passion is to be RICH so I can do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to, day in and day out. I love Photography, but am only mediocre at it. I love Computers, but the learning curve is too great and my time too short. I love Cabinet Making, but am too old to try to make a living from that anymore. I love riding my Harley, but I haven't figured out how to make a living at that yet? From my own 52 years experience, whenever I've tried to make a living from a passion of mine, it becomes a grind like anything else. When you HAVE to do it, day in and day out, to bring in the dough, it can fast become just another job. So, I leave my passions for hobbies and make a living doing what I had little time to learn and get into when I came out of the Navy in 1977, with a wife, child, terrible economy and extreme need to make a living.....FAST! From my observations, most of those that truly work in/with their passions, and are succeeding at it, often do so at the expense of family and friends, or have little to no material wants or needs and provide only the basics for themselves or family. Movie Stars, Singers, CEO's, Politicians, Social Workers, Farmers, and the Amish are just a few examples of the evidence. But it is really a good thing., If we ALL worked only in our passions, who would take care of the trash, sewage, cleaning, and other mundane, thankless, needs of the world?

SkySharkDude
SkySharkDude

I thoroughly enjoy working with computers and with users. I don't enjoy the inflexible regime of corporate life. I am just biding my time waiting until I build a good customer base for my personal Computer Consulting business, then I will work for me, by my rules, instead of for a corporation that only looks at profit and the 'bottom line'. Big Business, for the most part, has lost the value for its most valuable asset, the individual contributer. Therefore, I want to service smaller organizations that still have those values. The problem I am trying to conquer is finding enough clients to work with, so that I can sustain my lower middle class standard of living. I don't want to be rich, I just want to be able to afford a nice vacation every year and gain the flexibility to meet a family member for lunch without having to ask a boss for permission.

Rascal1981
Rascal1981

I really like how you phrased this; its very true that companies have lost sight of the importance of the small person and I like the direction you are taking. Good luck in it and I hope you are successful in your personal endeavor.

rherald
rherald

I used to love working with computers and people. But having been in the corporate I.T. profession for 10+ years that enjoyment is long gone. I don't even look at my home computer on the week-ends. I want to get back into building and designing websites. That privilege was taken away from me to work on more mundane tasks for the "good of the company."

mabingle
mabingle

I wrote an article for Computerworld that verifies what you are talking about. Here's the link: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9005142 However, I have worked in companies where my best efforts in sparking interesting in new technologies failed miserably. Even to the point of costing me a lot of money. If you have a boss that backs you great. Or, some senior people that think highly of you can be an advantage.... sometimes. Just know when to quit and move on.

Mad-H
Mad-H

I've been fortunate in my career, in that my boss has always had a certain amount of autonomy in how we deliver IT to the company. Then we moved into a global corporate structure and our development opportunities we're severly cut down and controlled. However, I (my old boss has since left the company) have still managed to keep the job interesting - I have looked at cool new stuff, partly in my own time, partly on the company's time, and then shown how I can deliver that to provide better systems and information to the company. I started by showing my current boss what can be done, and then we have won this through to the local management (who sometimes fight against corporate head-office to keep the systems we have developed locally, which is a nice complement) and now some of our systems are being considered for globalisation. Sometimes the job sucks, and you _can_ get railroaded into doing crap all day, but if you put some personal effort in, you can still reap good rewards, both on job satisfaction and personal skill development - unfortunately, sometimes you've got to get up and do it yourself though. I know that in some cases this won't happen, despite your best efforts, but then it's time to find a new job =8)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

That was not the point at all. The point was that, if at all possible, what we do to make a living should be something that we are excited about. The job does not provide the passion, we provide the passion for the work. If it's just a job, you're one of the fakers...

ghost.writa
ghost.writa

"The job does not provide the passion, we provide the passion for the work." Yeah right...how many weeks will that sentiment last? Yours truly, Successful faker

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

it lasted 1251 weeks. Then I had a 6-year break of ho-hum. This time it's lasted 96 weeks so far. I've been lucky enough to find 2 jobs that I truly enjoy. Unfortunately, not many people can say that.

Editor's Picks