This week’s question is: what does “Love what you do” really mean?
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Episode 229 | Script
Hello and welcome to episode 229 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.
I received an interesting question the other week about how to love the work that you do. Now, this was sparked from an article I wrote where I pointed out if you really hate the work that you are doing and dread Mondays, then perhaps you need to reconsider your career options.
For those of us past the age of 45, you will have likely come to the conclusion that life is not just short, but brutally short. By 45 you’re about halfway through your life and all those goals, ambitions and experiences you said you would do one day suddenly seem to fade into long lost opportunities.
And life being so short, why would you want to subject yourself to 35 years of misery spending the majority of your prime years doing something that does not bring you any pleasure or satisfaction. it just does not make any sense.
So that brings us back to the question, how do you love what you do? That is what I will try and answer today and hopefully give you some ideas about how to change a career that no longer brings you joy or any satisfaction.
So, let me now hand you over to the Mystery Podcast Voice for this week’s question.
This week’s question comes from Phil. Phil asks, recently I read an article on your blog that said that if you hate what you do you should change your career. I know that sounds like the obvious answer, but what if you can’t change your job for whatever reason, how can you change the way you think about your job?
Hi Phil, thank you for your question (and for reading my blog)
Now before we get into the heart of this question, I should point out the two versions of this quote or expression: “love what you do” and “do what you love”.
One is possible for all of us, the other is often unrealistic. The unrealistic one is “do what you love”. Now that does not mean it is impossible. I was recently sat next to a pilot on my flight back to Korea and he was telling me he chose to become a pilot because since he was a little boy, he’d been fascinated with all things to do with flying. He was well into his fifties and still loved flying.
So, while doing what you love is often unrealistic, it is certainly not impossible. But if what you love doing is sitting on the sofa watching movies every night while eating ice cream, it’s likely you will struggle to find a career that will support you. (Although perhaps becoming a movie critic for a news media company might be a good path to follow.)
These days, however, doing what you love does have more doors that can be opened. For instance, when I was teaching English, I did have a number of students whose dream job was to become a travel writer. With sites like Medium and SubStack, there are now opportunities to turn your passion for a particular activity into a side project, that over time could become your full-time work. And of course, YouTube has opened up possibilities for people to record and publish their take on any number of topics.
But what about the second one. “Love what you do”?
Now this one is an interesting one. I love writing, I also love recording and producing videos. But, I do not like the admin that comes from running my own business. If I were to spend all my working time writing and recording, it would be ‘perfect’. Sadly, life gets in the way. We still have to do admin. I still need to do my expenses and my taxes. I hate doing that kind of work. But it has to be done.
Now a question that has helped me in the past with doing the things I do not like doing is “what would happen if I stopped doing the work I did not enjoy?” Well, if I don’t do my expenses and my taxes, it would not be long before the tax authorities would be knocking at my door. There is also the other side to this, in that neglecting an important part of life (admin) would leave me feeling unfulfilled. Part of my personal identity is that I am organised and know what’s going on in my life. So, not doing an essential part of my work would leave me feeling guilty and unhappy with myself.
So, I do my expenses, taxes and admin.
However, there is something you can do here. Turn doing the work you don’t like into a competition with yourself. For instance, if you hate clearing your email’s inbox, time yourself. See how fast you can process 100 emails. (To help you here, I recently cleared 120 emails from my inbox while sitting at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport in 33 minutes. (Beat that!) I was a little disappointed, though, I wanted to do it in less than 30 mins.
Now it’s rare I would have 100+ emails in my inbox, I average around 80 emails in a morning when I start the day. But next time I get 100+, I will beat that 30 minutes.
What’s happening here is you are taking the emphasis off the boring part of the process—deciding what an email is and what, if anything, you need to do with it—to something completely different—how fast can you clear your inbox?
Now the work I don’t like doing, I’ve turned it into a project to find the most efficient way to complete my expenses. I’ve created my own spreadsheet and I look for ways to automate it as much as I possibly can. My expenses are not the typical lunch or dinner receipts. Most of my expenses are monthly subscriptions for services I use such as iCloud, website hosting and such like. these are recurring, so I’ve managed to set up a system where I can duplicate these payments automatically in my spreadsheet and then the spreadsheet will do the currency conversion automatically. I loved coming up with that idea.
What about a whole job you don’t like doing. Well, first of all, do you hate all aspects of your work? If so, you really do need to stop and ask yourself what you would like to do. If you hate everything about the work you do, then really the best option is to leave that career altogether and find a different one.
But, in my experience, hating everything about your work is very rare. I remember my first job was cleaning the changing rooms in a health club. Not the most pleasant of jobs, but I did find it fascinating seeing the members working out and being able to judge what was needed if you were to be fit and healthy all your life.
I remember one member, who must have been in his seventies, with a body of a Greek god. Not an ounce of visible fat and not overly muscular. I think people would describe him as looking very athletic. I watched his workout routines every day. I noticed he didn’t lift particularly heavy weights at all. His routine was to start on the running machine for twenty minutes or so, then he spent twenty minutes lifting free weights (not machines) followed by around ten minutes stretching and finally he would do lengths in the pool for around twenty minutes.
I remember asking him one day how he stayed in such good shape and he told me he’s been working out every day in some way or another since he was at school. Almost thirty years later I am still inspired by that gentleman.
Another job I did in my early working life was as bar staff in a local pub in England. Being on your feet for six to eight hours a day and coming home stinking of cigarettes and alcohol was not pleasant. But the job itself taught me how to communicate with people. I am not by nature a people person. But working in the bar, taught me to communicate and I met some incredibly interesting people.
Sure, there were days when I got soaked in beer when changing a barrel, I also cut my fingers many times when cutting lemons and many broken glasses. But it was an experience I will never forget and I know how to pull the perfect pint of bitter and Guinness. What a skill to learn.
There are always parts of a job you will not like. You need to identify these areas and ask yourself how you could learn to make them less unpleasant. When I worked in a law firm, I hated dealing with angry clients. But I realised that learning to handle upset customers (clients) was always going to be a key skill in life. So, I offered to help my colleagues if they ever had an upset client. I made it an objective to master the art of handling upset clients. Not sure if I ever did master it, but I no longer fear it.
But if you really are at a loss with your career choice and feel it impossible to change direction now. Stop. There’s absolutely no reason why you cannot go back to school and learn a new vocation. There are so many opportunities now to take online courses reasonably cheaply. You can even do a Masters degree online today.
The first step, though, is to give yourself some time to think about what you would like to do. Perhaps do some reading and research. Discover where your passions are now. That’s your starting point. Then do the research. From there, you will soon find what the next step will be.
There you go, Phil. I hope that has gone some way to explaining what you can do to turn around an unhappy career choice. You have some amazing opportunities today, the only thing you need to do is to take the first step and decide what you want to do.
Thank you for your question, and thank you to you too for listing.
It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.