I’m not a big fan of making random magical connections between pleasure and profit. I’ve written before about how “Do What You Love” is Bullshit Advice for Financial Success. I’d be willing to bet that, “love what you do and the money will follow” is more accurate than the standardized reversed slush. As a small twist, I offer this inquiry:
Is there a discernable value placed on the pleasurable display of expertise?
If what you do is rare and valuable,† doesn’t it become even more valuable when people witness you loving doing it?
Diana Gameros is one of my favorite musicians ever. I’m lucky enough to have her as a Client. She’s one of those rare people who followed her passion from an early age, dedicated herself to her craft, and makes a living at it. Her expertise is apparent. Experiencing her musicianship and singing makes you wonder why all your friends haven’t already heard of her, but her skills as a performer go much deeper than beautiful sound production. She knows how to love what she does, and everyone who witnesses her can see it.
In a recent meeting we talked about how difficult it is to “drop in” during a performance and ride that tightrope all performers must master connecting delivering the goods and selfishly wallowing in the pleasure of them. Sure, it helps to sound great, but people want to witness the delicious joy of the doing and the engagement with the fragility of every moment that, by the nature of live performance, will never happen again. The tiniest signs reveal when you are hiding or you’re distracted or worse, you’re bored. In contrast, if you can stay right with them, people will forgive mistakes, even thank you for your willingness to be seen making them. They want to feel your passion, which by my definition is your unmistakable belief in what you do.
After years of playing a restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District, where the audiences range from seemingly oblivious to near non-existent, Diana has learned how to drop in all the time.
“You know me, I can sing to one person who isn’t even looking at me.”
And when she drops in, when she’s fully present, enjoying herself?
“Oh, I see it in the tip jar. Even if I don’t think they are listening, when I’m on, by the end of the night the money is there.”
Performers are obvious examples because it seems like passion is required just to make it on stage, but I’m suggesting that the link between revealing how deeply you care about your work and external monetary value extends to mathematicians, factory workers, and shop clerks.††
It’s harder work to care deeply. You have to dedicate yourself to loving doing your work well, and better and better, which is a never-ending process. I believe it literally pays off in recognition, raises, and valuable opportunities. People who are passionate about their work have a way of charming the people around them, beyond what their skills deliver— and the money follows.
†Cal Newport makes a very strong argument against “follow your passion” as career advice. It’s rare valuable, skills that will give you great choices in life. The bar to entry is lower than passion; just pick something you are interested in that will give you interesting options, and go deep. Get his new book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love (affiliate link).
††Through his works on Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that deep enjoyment of work is available in almost any career choice, and that deep enjoyment comes from deep engagement.