Should You Really Do What You Love?

Should You Really Do What You Love?
Should You Really Do What You Love?

We hear it all the time, don’t we?

“Do what you love and the money will follow.”

“Follow your bliss.”

And of course, we could go on and on and on.

But I hear from so many people who have pursued their passions, only to be left disillusioned on the path. They did what they loved, they followed their bliss, they planned, worked at it, only to have one door after another close in their faces.

They built it . . . and nobody came.

Everyone is a winner

Wouldn’t it be great if all people in the whole wide world did what they truly loved and were rewarded by fame or monetary gains or Olympic gold medals?

We actually had that experiment in this country, with the generation now known as Millennials. And quite the experiment it was.

I’ll never forget how shocked I was while my nieces and nephews were growing up. They participated in different sports, and rather than having winners and losers and everybody in between, they all got medals for participating.

Which wasn’t what surprised me. The eye-opener came when those who actually won weren’t recognized any differently.

I know the idea behind this—that we want everyone to participate, to give their best, and get a big pat on the back for doing so, thereby keeping that elusive self-esteem protected.

Self-esteem isn’t built by someone constantly telling you how great you are. It comes from within and mastery of tasks.

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But the rub is that self-esteem isn’t built by someone constantly telling you how great you are. It comes from mastery of a task, it comes from within.

Which arises from earning it—the old-fashioned way. With grit and determination and persistence.

Giving the ‘good old college’ try isn’t effective if you only do it once.

Annoying, isn’t it?

And let’s face it—not everyone has the gifts of a Michael Phelps.

But how often do we see so many in that millennial generation disillusioned because the “real” world hasn’t rewarded them in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed?

I see this with my editorial clients. Learning to write fiction well really is rocket science, and takes years if not decades to truly grasp all the nuances.

But why put in all that time and effort when you can slap a bunch of words on the page, toss out a book via one of the self-publishers, and call yourself the next Hemingway?

In short, many times they whine and say, “Learning all those skills just takes too much time.”

Translation: effort.

And that’s just the first task at hand.

Because even after you’ve sweated all that blood, shed all those tears, well, that in no way means you’ll garner all those awards that “should” come your way.

Life really is short though, no? The older one gets, the more apparent this cliché becomes.

And I still shudder at times with the story of “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” where we learn “Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” And on his deathbed he asks: “Can it be that I have not lived as one ought? But how not so, when I've done everything as it should be done?”

Quite a testimony he gives to living a life of should, rather than one crafted with passion and love.

Yes, the risks of living the inauthentic life are perilous indeed.

Conversely, we know that fashioning a life based on what we love stirs our passions, fills us with meaning, brings inspiration to lift our wings as we toil.

Living another way, I cannot imagine. Although I, too, have done it.

That was a choice. It’s always a choice how you live your life. But I’ve made a different one today.

Doesn’t mean any of it’s ever been easy.

One of the main keys here is from that Field of Dreams quote, alluded to earlier. It’s commonly misquoted as: “If you build it, they will come.” I.e., paint your picture, write your book, offer your heart and soul as services, and you’ll become rich and famously successful.

But that wasn’t actually the quote now, was it. The actual quote was: “If you build it, he will come.”

This story was far more about healing a deep psychological wound than about riches and fame . . .

And isn’t that the crux? Nobody ever said that if you do what you love, follow your dreams, you’ll be the next Michael Phelps. Is it possible? Anything is possible. Likely? Um . . . Guaranteed? In no way.

But here’s what I do know for True:

By following your dreams, you follow your destiny.

Your life will become oh-so-much richer than you ever thought possible.

Your world will be rife with meaning.

Just always know the corollary exists as well, the harder part, which “they” rarely tell you:

Persistence is required, along with hard work. Sometimes for years. Sometimes, decades. Depending upon your field of endeavor, sometimes achieving what you seek takes a lifetime.

Persistence is required, along with hard work. Sometimes for years. Sometimes, decades.

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Are you up for it?

In the end, there’s only one way to keep carrying on in the face of all of that:

Believe in yourself. Believe in your destiny. Know that no matter how odd the monsters may look on the side of the road around you, you’re on your path.

Wherever that might lead.

And if you find the grit to follow that road less taken, to commit to doing what you love, to head out on your own hero’s journey, your life will absolutely change.

As Joseph Campbell also said, “When you follow your bliss...doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else.”

Are you doing what you love? If not, what’s stopping you?

This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. Hi Susan! You sucked me in on this one with your opening question! 🙂 I’m a long time fan of saying we all should do what we love so of course I wondered how you would answer that! But I LOVE the way you came full circle and explained that it is the “doing” of what we love that brings the reward–not what comes from it! I always tell people that it is the “doing” of writing that makes me a writer–not the wish or dream. I don’t think I’m special–but I do know that about 30 years ago I sat down and just started writing and never gave up. Am I the best? Not hardly! But I am SO-O-O much better than when I started. And I have grown and been happy (most of the time) in the process. As you say, if we don’t stay committed it will never happen. Thanks for this. ~Kathy

    1. You are just the shining example of this, Kathy. Of course, I didn’t read your work 30 years ago, but I absolutely LOVE how you write today. Writing well is one of those arduous processes that, well, takes a long time to learn to do well . . . As I often open speeches at writers’ conferences with: Writing well really IS rocket science.”
      Funny too–I was just thinking this morning that writing is what keeps me sane. If anyone ever reads it or not!

  2. Hi Susan,

    People have a difficult time figuring out what causes what. Generally, it is easy enough if you do something and receive an immediate, direct response (e.g. forgetting to use a potholder and scorching your hand on a hot pot handle). However, when there is either a time gap or several steps in the chain of causation, we wind up pretty much just guessing about what caused what.

    When it comes to manifestation, there is usually a considerable time lag. And, as you mentioned, there is also often numerous steps that are to be taken from where we are to where we are intending to be. Not only do both those factors make it more difficult to interpret past experience accurately, but it also means that sometimes we get part of the way to the realization of our dream, then change course because we think it is not working out

    1. So true, Rachel. Some endeavors just take a very long time. That’s where a great coach like you comes in!

  3. I’m still trying to follow my dreams. I must say that I am happy.

  4. My first career happened by chance when a recruiter came to my college campus. I was perfectly suited to the entry-level job & over 30 years was promoted, got an MA degree & loved being a career counselor to welfare recipients or unemployed professionals. After pursuing courses & interests in retirement had an amazing discovery which ultimately became my passion and business- creating jewelry. I love what I do and all the related tasks to having an online business. Are we financially successful -not yet, but despite health issues, challenges & struggles we continue to move on & forward. So in a nutshell- we are doing what we love to do, work really hard to make a go of it & do believe our customers will come.

    1. I LOVE your pieces, Roz! And you’re doing all the marketing good. Moving on and forward is the key, no? And your customers are coming 🙂

  5. When my kids were given “participation awards”, I never drew attention to them. I tell my kids all the time doing one thing once doesn’t mean you know it all. It takes years to really master a skill. Don’t give up on your dream just because you are not doing it perfectly right now. With hard work, you will get better.

    1. What a great mom thing to do and say, Sabrina. So very true!

  6. Right now, I am following my dreams. It isn’t easy. It isn’t terrible either though. It is somewhere inbetween. BUT, it is exactly where I want to be right now.

    1. Isn’t that the coolest thing, Renee–to be right where you want to be. That’s one of my definitions of heaven!

  7. One of the key things I have learned is we do all have a unique destiny path. Often we don’t really see what that is and too often, people believe that if they follow their passion and put in enough work, success will follow. I remember when “The Secret” came out and everyone believed that whatever their heart desired, could become theirs just by visualizing and wishing it so. So much of what we experience in our lives, is our destiny. Everyone is not meant to be rich and famous and some people do incredible work in their lifetime that is never seen.

    As someone who MUST do what I love, I agree that this is always the place to begin. Again, it doesn’t also ensure you will be successful even if you do the ‘work’. Somehow the idea of persistence and stick-to-it-ness, seems to have become lost concepts to many of the younger generation. It would be a wonderful world if everyone could do what they love and contribute to the world as a whole from that place of passion and love!

    1. Wouldn’t that be just the most wonderful world, Beverley. Utopia, really. And like you, I must do what I love, so my choice has always been about weaving a life around that. Not always easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  8. Oh yes. I am doing what I love. Will it make me rich and famous? Do I even want to be? Well, maybe I’d like the rich part. I am on my path and that is what really matters. I do think that winners should be recognised over participants and that we could be giving kids mixed messages about how important hard work and determination are to succeeding at anything in life. That Joseph Campbell quote is one of my favourites.

    1. I think that’s the key, Tamuria. Being on one’s own path. AND putting in the hard work and determination to succeed at it–however long it takes. As I’ve come to realize more and more that the results aren’t in my hands (I do live in a “judged” event), I’m more and more comfortable with however that shakes out. Success to me is now every single reader who “gets” my books. Ah, now that’s heaven!

  9. Susan,
    Great article loved the way your wrote this one about the college try. I feel that we are up to the challenge if we want something and have passion for it. Thank You.

    Lori English

    1. I do too, Lori. I truly believe that if we have a true passion for something, the means to achieve it is within us. Doesn’t mean it’ll be easy though!

  10. I love the Campbell quote, Susan, and this post! Yes, we must follow our bliss. And we all have lessons to learn along the way, even those poor millenials who got such a well-intentioned yet mistaken notion of what success is. Well, I actually do see the point behind it – that our effort counts, even if the results aren’t quite where we’d like to see them yet – yet the way they were taught just leaves them needing a correction in the opposite direction. Oh, well, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” to Rosannna Rosannadanna! We’re all here to learn!

    1. Oh, how I love you quoting Rosanna Rosannadanna, Reba! Does THAT bring back memories 🙂 And I love your point–effort does count. In all that we do. The internal rewards when we give our best are huge. We are the ones we ultimately have to please.

  11. I think my generation does what they love as a hobby or sport. I am not sure we ever went into our careers thinking we would “love” it. But maybe we should have. I don’t know. I worked very hard at my chosen profession for 33 years and was able to retire at the age of 55. Most days I loved what I was doing but certainly many days I didn’t. But I sure do love retirement and working hard allowed me to do so.

    1. You hit the differences in generations, Pam. We were taught to expect hard work, to do our work well and with effort, and it would lead to rewards. Which it has. And I think that no matter what you do, some days you’ll love it, some days, not so much! Even when I’m in the bliss of writing fiction, there are days I pull my hair out 🙂

  12. Such a great point Susan.. doing what we love is awesome but if there isn’t a market for it.. then it’s just us doing what we love. I love that!

    1. Pretty true, no? I just think life has to be a mix, Kristen–like how you go shooting 🙂

  13. Yes, I am doing what I really love. I am so glad I have found and enjoyed my passion!

    1. Good for you, Nicole! That’s what life’s about 🙂

  14. I write for a living. it’s funny as i’m horrible at spelling, but I love it and blessed I get paid to do it.

    1. Of course that makes me smile, Katrina. Writing is the craziest and most wonderful of professions 🙂

  15. Hi Susan,

    Always love your posts!!

    To answer your question, YES, I am doing what I love FINALLY! It can be trying on my patience and frustating at times, but all I know is that I am doing what I love and very passionate about, even if it is NOT what everyone else is doing lol

    I have always gone down my own path……..and I will continue to do so, because that is what drives me daily 🙂

    Great share!

    1. And that’s why you’re always so positive, Joan! I LOVE that you’ve always gone down your own path.

  16. When I was working, I couldn’t wait for the day when I could be home doing whatever it was that I wanted. Now, that I am there is this incredible peace in being able to do so. However, in the process, it has challenged me to constantly learn new things, become tech savvy to some degree, and learn to problem solved in areas I never anticipated. There are days the stress level is super high and days of gratitude that I’m making a difference. This is what I now live for.

    1. Oh, I know what you mean, Joyce–those days where I truly make a difference are just pieces of heaven. I’m sure you have those days often!

  17. Great post, Susan. It’s so true. In our culture today, I think we do believe that all we have to do is create that thing we love and everyone else will love it too, and it can be a rude awakening to find out that isn’t necessarily so. But as you say, there are other rewards besides money and fame, and I agree with you that following our dreams is like following a custom-made path for our own personal growth.

    1. It is, isn’t it, Colleen. The richness we find down our own path is so much more important than silver and gold . . .

  18. I think we should follow what we love doing. While some may not be able to achieve success by following their passion, perhaps they should have done more or create a different take to it. It feels incredibly rewarding when you become successful doing your passion.

    1. So true, Sammy. Some things take a longer path to success, but ah, the rewards are so rich!

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