Do what you love and the money will follow. Embrace your passions and the world will provide. This is bullshit put forward by people with personal agendas and utter disregard for the truth. Dangerously seductive malarkey. Oh, it would be so nice if it were true, but just because you want to believe something doesn’t make it true. Just because a bunch of people want to believe something doesn’t make it true.
Here’s what’s true:
Doing what you love does not lead to money. Doing what you love leads to doing what you love.
(Aside: I do believe in Magic, the kind where circumstances, practice, and openness to opportunity lead to inexplicable events that feel like luck bestowed from the heavens. Part of the paradox of a passionate life is accepting help from angels. Unfortunately, angels are noticeably unreliable.†)
Doing what you love is a means to Flow, yet most of us also need to earn money. A good goal for a career is to make money doing something you love to do. A better goal is to make money doing something you love to do that other people need. If you are already on that path, then please share. If you aren’t, here is some solid advice:
Find out what people need from something you really like to do, and get very good at giving it to them. Then, get very good at selling it to some of them. Be they employers, clients, or customers, the people who pay you will love you for it, and that, my friend, is the ultimate goal of a passionate career.
This Week, Start with Their Needs
There are a few approaches to that ultimate goal of connecting work you love with other people’s money. If you haven’t already, then this week I suggest you start a life-long practice of understanding other people’s needs.
Begin with some small component of work you love to do that other people contact, and have a conversation with those people. For example, as a software engineer you might love to solve user-interface problems, so talk to people who need to use your software. As an artist talk to people who buy your work, or a gallery owner who sells art that falls in the same category. As an attorney, locate the elements of your work that thrill you, and find clients and colleagues that share that thrill.
Then, instead of asking them what they like about your work, take a few minutes to discover what drives them. You can use the lens of your own interests to bracket the conversation, but keep it focused on what they are trying to achieve and what keeps them from getting there. Pay attention to the energy of the conversation. Without being invasive, probe for their pain, and also probe for the moments when they get excited. Take note.
Here are some probing questions:
- “How do you see your role in this situation?”
- “Why do you do what you do?”
- “When you do [something specific], what happens next?”
- “Is that something you enjoy doing?”
- “What gets in your way?”
You might be tempted to try to solve their problems. Don’t do it, not this week. Instead, throughout the conversation confirm that you understand their situation, their needs, their pain. Say a few words back to let them know you get it. The more you learn about people’s needs, the more you will find connections to work you love. Understanding is your path to their trust, which is the first step to eventually being paid to help them. Sit with their needs for a while. Next week you can start thinking about yours.
†As a precaution, one might pray to angels. It’s probably true what Leonard Cohen writes and sings in So Long Marianne, “I forget to pray for the angels, and the angels forget to pray for us.”