Monday, May 03, 2010

Loving What You Do

Maria Bartiromo has been on a little publicity tour to promote her new book, in which she reveals the "10 laws of enduring success" she has identified over a career spent succeeding and talking to some of the world's most successful people.

I've happened upon a few of her interviews and one of the laws I keep hearing her talk about is this: you have to love what you do, because if you don't love what you do you'll never put in the time and commitment necessary to really be successful.

Hard to argue with that, but the concept was just stark enough to get me thinking, do I love what I do? Do the people I work with love what they do, and how many of our friends, neighbors, family members could pass this test?

I asked a colleague recently whether or not she "loved" what she did and after a few moments articulating all the benefits and positives of her job and position she seemed to get there. I asked an older relative at a family function the same question and got a "no" before the words were even clear of my mouth. "It's a living," he said, and - apologies to Ms. Bartiromo - I have to believe this reflects the majority view, especially among older generations.

I wonder what percentage of the workforce "loves" what they do, five percent, 10, 25? And is it higher when you move from blue collar to white collar? That seems obvious but it doesn't feel exactly right. Are the accountants, actuaries and lawyers filing into cubicles in corporate offices across the world any more likely to "love" what they do than day laborers spending their days out in the fields under the sun, contractors who know how to use their hands to build new living spaces, fire fighters? Not sure about that.

You can see how someone who makes millions each year talking about business on television and flying around in private jets would love what they do, same thing a movie star, musician, professional baseball player or John Grisham. Anyone who has the money, success and freedom to live pretty much as they want would be expected to love what they do, or was it the love that got them there in the first place? How about the woman who quit a lucrative marketing job to open a Main Street bakery and focus on a personal passion to create the best breads, sweets and pastries the world has ever known - a true labor of love - does she qualify, or does she wake up at 3 a.m. every day cursing the alarm clock, the uncertainty of her economic situation and wondering how she got there?

Steve Jobs, in his celebrated commencement address at Stanford University a few years ago hit on this concept, to some extent, when he said:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Sounds great, but how many people who aren't the CEO of a preeminent computer company are really in a position to apply this daily "last day" mirror test as Mr. Jobs describes it?

I think this would be a fun and interesting thing to open up in comments and really get a dialogue going. Are there parts of your job (stay-at-home Mom qualifies, without question) that you enjoy and others you dislike? Where do you come down, on balance, and would you be able to pass Ms. Bartiromo's test?

Do you love what you do?


Blogger Seth Godin said...

turns out that there are coal miners who love what they do

it's not the job, really, it's the attitude

6:50 AM  
Blogger Tamara said...

I love what I do, overall. Do I love every second and every aspect of it? Certainly not--but if I did, it probably wouldn't be a job!

Now, take that with a grain of salt, because it's Monday, it's hot and muggy, and the AC in the building is not working. The kids are crazy with spring fever, and SOL tests are approaching in a couple of weeks. It's the most stressful part of my year. But I still love it!

11:43 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

I'm a stay at home mom of 2. Some days are great and some aren't. I love the fact that I can see them grow up and be a part of their lives. I love that I don't have to stress about commuting and being late for daycare. I don't like the housekeeping part of it but I love that being at home gives me more time to do it and gives us week ends that we can spend doing other stuff than cleaning and grocery shopping. I'm happy I go the chance to stay home from work. Does that answer the question???

12:13 PM  
Blogger A New Me said...

Firstly, thanks for opening up this discussion. It is particularly interesting to me. Do I love what I do? That should be simple, but is really actually complex. I thoroughly enjoy parts of my job, some parts make me crazy, but what is most important for me is that I have a job, that can pay the bills and I have health insurance benefits, including dental. Would I be doing something else if I was independently wealthy? Probably. I would like to be able to do just the fun parts of my job and pass on the tedious parts to someone else. Am I happy? Most of the time, I am happy.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is how I see it: If a bad day at a good job is better than a good day at a bad job, you've got the right job. I love my job and even when the bad days come along - and those days can be quite bad - I still wouldn't trade what I do for any other profession.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Yeager Family said...

Right now (a SAHM of 2) what makes me happy is to paint. In solitude. Paint anything, everything or just one color. By the time the kids are in bed (a toddler and an infant) I'm exhausted mentally and physically.
For me, just to be proud of something I have created (children don't count here) would suffice.
If I had millions, I would have a housekeeper, a cook and a part-time nanny so I could do things but also be a part of their lives. I think most moms have that same wish.

Nuf said.

10:14 PM  
Blogger alisha said...

I'm a high school science teacher and I absolutely LOVE my job. I have to say that it is an amazing feeling to know that you are doing the job that you love. There are days when I look around the room with a contented smile on my face and think, "yep...this is it". This is what I was meant to do. Even on the bad days, I still love my job because there is so much unlimited potential for growth.

I am fortunate to have found the profession that is my true calling.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Mrs.O said...

Grabbing a few thoughts from Alisha, the question for me is, can I say for sure this is what I was created for? - "this is it"?. No, not yet. Will I ever get there? maybe. I work at a front desk in a really prestigious organisation. I love the fame that comes with the job, but some customers are really a pain. I dream of being a journalist for CNN or BBC. Will I then be able to say "this is it"? I don't know. I think ideally if one is passionate about something, they will love it. Making the best of a profession because it's all you've got makes it a job.

3:02 AM  
Blogger Thunderjoy said...

As it transpires from Andre Augassi’s autobiography “Open” published not long ago, his father (a former Iranian boxing champion and tennis fanatic) - blinded by an immigrant's dream for his child to succeed - pushed Andre to achieve in tennis. In Augassi’s own words: ”I play tennis for a living, even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion, and always have."

3:37 PM  

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