Burgers or Blogging? Further Thoughts on Pursuing Your Passion

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been exploring the nature of work at Get Rich Slowly. What does it mean to pursue your passion? Is passion what work should be about? Or is a job just a source of income?

For me, there's no right answer.

Right now, yes, I'm pursuing my passion, and I love it. As a full-time writer working from home, I'm doing work I've always wanted to do, and I do it on my own schedule. Yet I recognize this isn't what everyone wants. Kris, for instance, loves her job and her co-workers. She finds the work fulfilling, and she likes the security of having an employer take care of things like taxes, paychecks, and health insurance.

What bothers me about this ongoing conversation about work is that so many people want to frame the discussion in black and white terms, as if there are absolute right answers. There aren't.

Burgers or Blogging?
One of my favorite jobs ever was flipping hamburgers at McDonald's. I'm not joking. It was awesome.

What made a dead-end job like fry cook so amazing? Looking back, I think there were a number of factors:

  • I had a good manager.
  • I had good co-workers.
  • I worked hard at what I did. Sure, I was a lowly burger flipper, but I was a damn good one.

Though we were just a crew churning out fast food along the side of the freeway, all of us loved working together, and we took pride in what we did. We wanted to be the best crew in the store, if not the state. It was fun.

In contrast, I once worked at a Burger King just a few blocks from this McDonald's and the experience couldn't have been more different. At the Burger King, nobody cared about quality. Nobody cared about anything. The manager didn't want to be there. The employees would rather complain about life than get the work done. (And yes, I was part of the problem in that case.) It was a crummy job at a crummy restaurant.

From the outside, the jobs and the places were nearly identical. From the inside, it was like the difference between heaven and hell. (Okay, that's hyperbole, but still…you know what I mean.) Even a dead-end job can be fun, meaningful, and fulfilling under the right circumstances (and with a good attitude).

On the other hand, I've never been more fulfilled than I have been since quitting my day job to blog full time. I took a huge risk by leaving the box company to pursue my passion, but I'm glad I did. So many amazing opportunities have come as a result of the decision.

I get a lot of complaints when I write about people who pursue their passions. “Not everyone can do that!” people say. “It's not that easy!” people warn. And so on. But I'm not saying this is for everyone. I'm no Tim Ferriss out there trying to pretend that everyone can quit the nine-to-five to work just four hours a week. If I've conveyed that's what I think, it's been wholly unintentional. (And besides, most bloggers I know work at least as much as everyone else, and many work much, much more.)

It can be dangerous to turn a hobby or a passion into a full-time job. When that happens, it can turn from something you want to do into something you have to do. This can be a big problem. Again, I can use myself as an example.

When I was a boy, I loved programming computers. I dabbled in this hobby through high school and college and then, in 1998, I took some formal computer programming classes. In the summer of 1999, I picked up a couple of computer programming jobs. I was working 40 hours a week pursuing my passion. I HATED IT! Turns out that what I found fun as a hobby made me miserable when I had to do the work for somebody else. I spent a few months slogging through code before slinking back to the box factory. (And if I was willing to return to my position as box salesman, I must surely have been unhappy.)

Over time, I've come to believe that it is possible to make money by pursuing your passions. But I also believe that it is possible to be happy with a job that is just a job. What's best for your situation? Only you can say.

Making It Up As We Go Along
Yesterday, Knot Theory shared the story of how he quit his dream job to find more mundane work.

Recently, Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme did something very extreme. He un-retired — gave up life as a professional blogger — and went back to work.

And then there's me. Yes, I'm still writing full time. But more and more, I'm doing other work (even though it's not for pay). I spend ten hours a week actively working on Spanish, and many more hours passively learning the language. (Active work is reading and speaking and studying; passive work is listening to music and podcasts as I do other things.)

I've been volunteering for four to five hours per week in a second-grade classroom, rekindling my latent love of teaching. (In college, I had planned to be a first-grade teacher, but lost track somewhere along the way.) On Saturday, I took a training course so that I could tutor native Spanish speakers in English. If all goes according to plan, I'll be tutoring a student in English within just a few days.

These are small things, I know, and they're not real work in the sense that I'm being paid or producing anything for anyone. (Yet.) But they're a start. They're a move from me being only a blogger to becoming something more. I feel as if something is pushing me (or leading me) toward a new career, one that combines Spanish and teaching and writing and personal finance. I'm not fighting it. Right now, I'm relaxing and enjoying the ride.

My point is this: There's no one right way to approach a career path. We're all just making this up as we go along. Because of that, you shouldn't get frustrated when career advice doesn't seem to apply to you. If something doesn't fit, set it aside and move on.

Is That Job Right for You?
In November, GRS reader (and now friend) Sarah Peck posted her one-page career “cheat sheet”. “Given statistics that say that as much as 80% of people don't like their job,” wrote Peck, “and some 25% of us are un- or under-employed, I scratched out a quick flow chart for questions to ask yourself about your current job — or a job you are considering.”

 

Ultimately, the key to being happy with work is to figure out how it fits into your life. Do you want to do what you love? Or would you rather you simply worked to pay the bills? Neither one is right; neither one is wrong.

Whatever the case, when you work, do your best. This is the real key to job fulfillment — not to pursue your passion, but to be passionate about what you pursue. This is a subtle but important difference. When you choose to do your best, not only is your employer rewarded, not only is the customer rewarded, but you are rewarded as well.

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20's Finances
20's Finances
8 years ago

Thanks for your reflection on following your dream job. I have been considering pursuing FT Blogging for a while and have had decent success. As a result of thinking about quitting the Day Job, I’ve found that I have become more unhappy at work. That’s why I couldn’t agree more about your last point about it being about doing your best at whatever you are doing.

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  20's Finances

I was offered a transfer at work once, and it didn’t pan out. In the mean time I began looking forward to the change before it happened, and started hating what I was doing. It was a weird “the grass is greener” kind of effect. I’m happy to read about your similar experience.

SB @One Cent at a Time
SB @One Cent at a Time
8 years ago
Reply to  20's Finances

I think it is equally important to try doing things in a different way to check if you get back your interest at work.

An internal transfer, a demotion or even moving to a different boss sometime help.

Before you decide that 9-5 is not for you, you should remember that your entire student life career was centered on getting a job and earn living.

Florida Bill
Florida Bill
8 years ago
Reply to  20's Finances

Several years before I retired, I had a shot at a job with a different employer, a really major player in our industry, doing the same thing I was doing. I looked at some important factors: 1. Money — The other job paid a little more, or it wouldn’t have been considered. OTOH, there would have been expenses in selling my house, moving to a new city and buying or renting a new place, with the new employer covering just some of those costs. 2. Health insurance — Basically the same as what I had. 3. Vacation — I wouldn’t… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

Hee, you sound so Midwestern. “When you work, do your best.” Also idle hands make the devil’s playground (just look at any Real Housewives show).

I would add that life is the journey and not the destination. One can have quite a lovely time and never find one’s true purpose in life. (To paraphrase Avenue Q.)

Nancy
Nancy
8 years ago

I love the work I do–I’m a nurse at a children’s hospital–though there are plenty of days I hate my job. On the days I hate my job, I try to figure out what it is I love, and why on that particular day I hate my job. It has helped me recognize what truly matters in my work and what I NEED from the world around me (i.e., my workplace/unit that I staff) to make the job a joy. It also helps when I reflect at the end of my shift whether I did good work that day and… Read more »

Daniel @ youngandfrugal
Daniel @ youngandfrugal
8 years ago

Spot on as usual.

I’ve always been a jack of all trades, master of none, but lately I’ve been working to find my true passion. Every morning I wake up and ask myself “if I could do anything today, what would it be?.”

I’m hoping that by answering this question enough I’ll find what it really is I want to be doing and I’ll figure out a way to do it.

I’ve already discovered that one of those things for me is writing, and after an 18 month layoff I’m back to writing and I’m already feeling more fulfilled.

My University Money
My University Money
8 years ago

Hey Daniel, I’ve been thinking along these lines recently too! For me the inspiration has been watching several of the famous TED Talks. It kind of gets you to thinking that if all of these guys have had such success with their philosophies, then there must be something to it right?

David
David
8 years ago

Clearly, it seems that liking what you do is important. I have stayed at a job too long because it was a paycheck. But to do something you actually enjoy is probably more important. So long as it is possible to earn as much or more, you have lost nothing.

But I understand the need for security too and it is hard to give up security for uncertainty.

Marianne
Marianne
8 years ago

I find it fulfilling to do my best at whatever I do. I’ve had jobs all over the totem pole and I generally enjoy them as long as I do my best. The fellow employees and atmosphere absolutely make or break the job though. I’ve had amazing bosses and I’ve had really horrible bosses. Currently I love my job, I am good at it but the atmosphere has been pretty bad for awhile now. That makes it a hard call because I feel like the atmosphere could improve since it was at one time better than it is now. I… Read more »

Dan M53
Dan M53
8 years ago

I’m only working to pay the bills. But I’m working in a job that I really don’t mind. I guess my biggest complaint is that the situation (same time, same people) is too predictable, but then again, that’s something I realize I under appreciate. The work itself is challenging at times, routine at others. BUT, the beauty of it is it’s 8 1/2 hours most days then I’m home with the family. And I live in Vermont, the most wonderful place on Earth. Passions? I find ’em outside of work, but I do try to take a few minutes once… Read more »

Karawynn @ Pocketmint
Karawynn @ Pocketmint
8 years ago

Your sense of ‘what comes next’ for yourself is interesting, and brings me back to something I’ve been mulling over lately (in large part because of events in my own life): perhaps the concept of ‘career choice’ needs expanding.

It seems we’re expected, as young adults, to discover/decide upon one occupation, point our lives in that direction, and go go go straight as an arrow. But what if, for most people today, choosing one’s life work makes more sense as a process, or a continuous evolution, rather than a single defining moment?

Danielle
Danielle
8 years ago

I appreciate this post as well as this (and other) comments. I have also found that career progression and finding one’s life work has been a process, and no one else could have mapped that out for me.

I’ve done what I loved and hated doing it as a job. Currently I’m in a job-job, and it’s ok (meeting my basic needs) but I’m also thinking about what’s next.

Thanks for your thoughtful ideas about work and life. This helps me feel a little calmer about the possibilities and not knowing 🙂

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

Agreed. I’ve been thinking lately of having many careers throughout the course of my life. Not that what I picked in college coulda, shoulda, woulda been more of a pursuit than it ended up being. I quite my day job once already to pursue my dream in some fashion – running a high end pet supply (yes, really). I loved it. Worked like I’d never worked before… and could no longer support my family. So here I sit back in Corporate America, making money and trying to navigate the best of both worlds. Its a different beast this time around.… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago

I’ve gone in and out of the corporate and government environments numerous times over the years. I like it all well enough, but find that 5 consecutive days a week is just more time than I want to spend in ANY office. My ideal would be to work 4 days a week even if it meant less money.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Kingston

It’s the benefits that kill you, working part time. I had a 4 day a week job that had health insurance, and it was great – I got just as much done as at any 40 hour job (more, maybe, since my hourly rate was based on productivity measures I could see on a daily basis) and my coworkers were all fantastic – writers, musicians, dancers, homeschooling parents, so many fabulous and interesting people.

Jim
Jim
8 years ago
Reply to  Kingston

I’ve been doing corporate America for over 25 years and started getting really burned out on it. I used to love it, but then it just sort of bored me and I found my coworkers less than thrilling. So, I took a pay cut, cut my work week down to 4 days a week and started to enjoy things outside of work a lot more. Slowly but surely, I started re-enjoying my coworkers again. I feel like I’m semi-retired, but I’m still pulling in enough $ to pay for what my family needs and to adequately fund our retirement. If… Read more »

fruplicity
fruplicity
8 years ago
Reply to  Kingston

Agree with the working part-time as a great solution and one that I’m curious why more PF bloggers (or anyone really) don’t pursue or talk about. I guess it’s hard to find the right job – and yes the benefits. In grad school I took a part-time job in a field that was of some interest to me, but not my “passion” or goal job. I completely agree that I was just as productive in 20 hours a week as I’ve ever been at 40 hours, and it gave me much more work/life balance and health. I think my goal… Read more »

Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living
Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living
8 years ago

Reflecting back, I think a good percentage of “happiness or contentment” in what you do comes from the people you do it with. For me, my co-workers make my job fun and they motivate me to do my best. I also agree with your statement that, “The key to job fulfillment is not to pursue your passion, but to be passionate about what you pursue.” I love that statement and think it’s very true. That’s what I’ve been doing for 5 years, being passionate about what I’m pursuing.

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago

This, actually.

It’s not the actual work that makes me love to go to work (although I do enjoy the actual work and am very good at it) – it’s the company I keep and the atmosphere.

Good – great – bosses and coworkers make all the difference.

PB @ Economically Humble
PB @ Economically Humble
8 years ago

My partner is an exceptional artist and could easily make a living on her art. But making mass produced art also brings up tensions, uncertainties, and just takes the love of the craft away from the creation. It makes it a job. So, i try to support the artist, not the job. Personally, I absolutely lve research. Research pushes our world forward. Right now, however, I have to pay off student loans so I’m looking at jobs outside of academia (they tend to pay more, especially at the junior level). For me, the important is to enjoy lfe and my… Read more »

Meghan
Meghan
8 years ago

I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s blog Study Hacks for awhile (http://calnewport.com/blog/). He has been exploring this idea of developing a rewarding career, and whether or not people should “follow their passions”. To paraphrase, he doesn’t always think following your passion is a good idea, instead he argues that one should get really good at what they do, and a rewarding career will follow. I think he has an interesting take on the matter, although I don’t always agree with every point.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Meghan

Thanks for pointing to Cal, Meghan. I don’t know him very well — yet. But he and I are about to get to know each other as we prepare for this year’s World Domination Summit. (I know, I know. Many of you readers think WDS is lame.) He’s a speaker, and I’m speaker liaison. Within a few months, I’ll know all about his message, and may even be able to feature a guest post from him here.

TB
TB
8 years ago

This post reminds me of my sister a lot. She got her PHD a few years ago and got the job that went with the PHD (research), and realized she wasn’t happy. So she decided to go after what she really wanted to do, her “passion” as you say; and finds that it isn’t so great doing that as a full-time job either. (just like your experience, JD). And so now she’s looking around again for what to do and trying to decide if she should work ‘just to pay the bills’ or if she must love her job. This… Read more »

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago
Reply to  TB

I know how your sister feels. I got my PhD, but even in the middle of it I realized that I hated research. I stuck with it and got my degree (accompanied by many tears and a fair amount of beer), and I had discovered a small sector that I did enjoy: regulation of research. It was hard to try and switch fields, and I ended up doing a 1.5 year post-doc while continuing to look for a position (the post-doc was so much worse than the degree mostly due to the people I worked with). I finally found a… Read more »

KS
KS
8 years ago
Reply to  TB

I’m a university professor and just moved to a different university and country less than a year ago. I thought I had stopped caring about research but what I really hated was my former institution and department. Sometimes a change IS as good as a rest, as they say. However, what I’ve also accepted is that I don’t particularly care for or about teaching, esp the kinds of courses I’m stuck doing. I do it well enough (I win teaching awards and get good evals from students and peers) but I have zero interest in getting better at it through… Read more »

John | Married (with Debt)
John | Married (with Debt)
8 years ago

When I worked at McDonald’s it was challenging and rewarding. Very hard work.

For the record, I failed that cheat sheet. I don’t know what that means for me, as I’m not prepared to leave the world of 9-5 (logistically, not mentally).

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago

I don’t know where you failed, but it may not mean leaving the 9-5. If you hate your boss or the environment or they aren’t receptive to ideas, maybe there is a different department or company that could be better. And sometimes the ability to learn new things is based on your boss too (do they encourage you to attend meetings or conferences that may expand your knowledge base, or do they consider it a waste of time). While I know unemployment is up, it isn’t always the best idea to say “I have a job, and that’s better than… Read more »

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago

A lot of it depends on what you want to get out of your job, too. If you look at work as career and as a defining part of yourself the WHAT becomes a much bigger deal.

barnetto
barnetto
8 years ago

I think when we hear “passion,” we’re thinking of things that we’d be willing to pursue mono-maniacally. Something that was all-consuming and wouldn’t be a struggle to do 60, 80 hours a week. At least that’s what I feel like I often hear. One problem with how its often presented is that it is “passion” and not “passions.” The one thing you want above all others. Not from this site, but I found this paragraph here that illustrates the problem: “Imagine this instead: you get up early, jumping out of bed, excited to go to work. You might put in… Read more »

Daniel
Daniel
8 years ago
Reply to  barnetto

That’s very interesting and I’d be interested to see that study. In addition, as I often try to teach my children (and I’ll admit we are religious) that passions in themselves are not bad as is abstaining from things, but either extreme can kill someone, and sometimes most recently as had happened to a co-worker who had three jobs and had a heart attack. It’s not healthy to long term put 60 hours in a job, even if we love it. Likewise, it’s not healthy to do absolutely nothing, I can’t buy a 50 cent McDonald ice cream cone this… Read more »

Joe D.
Joe D.
8 years ago

I wrote a blog post a while back that follows this idea: you don’t have to pursue a passion for your paid work. Your job can be just your job, doing it for the paycheck. Your true interests can lie outside of your work with great results.

I worked at McDonalds as well. I was not as enthused as you were by that work!

PB
PB
8 years ago

Having been in my current job for 27 years (yikes!), there have been times when I loved it, times when I hated it, times when I could hardly stand to come to work, and times like now, when I enjoy it but am not married to it. I hope that this carries me through the next 8 years to retirement. That being said, it is important to me to remember that the work is worth doing and that it is the best possible job I could have given where we live. (My husband refuses to move, and most days I… Read more »

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

I actually work at a job I love, in a field I love. But it isn’t always *completely awesome*. I have very much taken the words of my mum (who happened to work in a career she loved and was very good at): Are you happy in your job 80% of the time? If you are, then stick around and enjoy it. Even when you love your job, that’s as good as it gets.

Carol C
Carol C
8 years ago

I *love* your last paragraph. That is the key.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
8 years ago

I desperately want to “retire” someday and get what others might consider a “mindless” job. When I jokingly tell co-workers I can’t wait to work at Mystic Aquarium cleaning the turtle tanks they all laugh.

I have the hip boots already.

Brenton
Brenton
8 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

Haha! I love it! Working at an aquarium actually sounds very interesting.

Lee
Lee
8 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

WW11 Kid, Mystic Aquarium is awesome! If you end up working there I want to do a penguin encounter!

That is a fantastic retirement job!

Jean
Jean
8 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

Hey, WW11 Kid, I think that’s great! I would make a special visit to Mystic Aquarium just to shake your hand when you start work there. What a wonderful plan.

Gal @ Diamonds or Dogs
Gal @ Diamonds or Dogs
8 years ago

When I got out of school I started a career in high tech product management. It’s a good job that pays very well and I’m really good at it. However, it’s not my passion. So a few years ago, I started blogging about fitness. That was not a huge success but it taught me a lot. I took that experience and started blogging about personal improvement. I did slightly better but still not a big success. A few months ago I took all the things I learned from blogging and from my high tech career and combined them into my… Read more »

Poor Student
Poor Student
8 years ago

I think as long as there are important passions outside of work than having a mundane job where you just punch the clock to get paid is alright. I do not necessarily have to work in the fitness industry as a trainer as long as I am able to enjoy fitness after work or can help people in my spare time. I like the thought, and have had it myself, that if I tried to do something I love for pay then it would take some of the love out of it. A great part of a passion or hobby… Read more »

Lucille
Lucille
8 years ago

Pursuing your passion is one thing; making it pay is whole other! The two are not necessarily related. Some passions will not pay others will take time. My passions are ever changing so I don’t often hang on too long to anything to reap a monetary benefit. I need passionate variety to function!

Alex
Alex
8 years ago

The recent articles that touch on this topic have been outstanding. This is why I love GRS – it’s a good balance between sites like The Simple Dollar (all frugality, all the time) and guys like Tim Ferris (everyone should quit their full time job!).

Great stuff, JD.

Brenton
Brenton
8 years ago

Many of the advantages of working for yourself are overrated. Flexible schedule, flexible time, etc, etc, etc… In reality you probably do work far more than the typical 9-5er, including weekends and holidays. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who hits it big, then chances are you are making less per hour than you did at your old job. My father ran his own business, and I can remember every vacation seemingly being bogged down with random errands for work or being cut short due to the incompetence of the people left in charge. Maybe part of my… Read more »

Gustavo
Gustavo
6 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

Direct marketing is the business yellow pages best option. Direct marketing uses especially collated mailing lists containing different information about the way in which their business operates and also alolow you to add or edit the mail that is sent to the recipients.

Lee
Lee
8 years ago

I absolutely love my job in law enforcement. It’s stressful, it cuts into my personal life, and at times it’s heartbreaking but I know I wouldn’t want to do anything else. My biggest problem is it doesn’t pay. I know a lot of people will disagree and say we have pensions and medical but the compensation for this job is no where near what people think it is or what I would make in the private sector. With the specialty work I am in, the jobs are only in very expensive areas of the country (DC, NYC, etc) so on… Read more »

KC
KC
8 years ago
Reply to  Lee

Lee, I know what you mean. I left LE for more $ five years ago and I have been miserable ever since. I remember reading about the average salary of a new college graduate making so much more, and teachers making a lot more and there I was with a master’s degree struggling to support myself. Perhaps if I had a spouse, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I was already in my mid 30’s and marriage wasn’t in the forseeable future. I miss that job every day, and hate my desk job everyday, but I feel somewhat better knowing… Read more »

Lee
Lee
8 years ago
Reply to  KC

KC, your story is much like mine. I put myself through college and grad school so I’m making nearly a mortgage payment in student loans every month. That was the education level I needed for this job… but no one at the University ever mentioned the pay rate of that same job. I know I’m doing the right thing staying where I am but my dream job (also in LE but in another part of the country) is beyond my reach right now because I cannot afford to move and I have no spouse to add that extra income most… Read more »

margot
margot
8 years ago

Perhaps the word “passion” is too strong for many people to deal with (and so many lack vision and passion). Instead, perhaps the message – that I hope everyone can agree on – is that everyone should strive toward doing work they like/enjoy and that at a minimum, they don’t hate.

Drew
Drew
8 years ago

As you grow and mature it’s perfectly possible to lose the desire you once had for a certain job or career; often the role doesn’t really change at all or change fast enough to keep pace with you. The exciting thing is when you realise you want to stop doing one job and change for something else, even if you haven’t got a clue what would be best for you to do, because all of a sudden you realise anything is possible! Scary but all part of life and moving forward.

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago

I’ve always been a good planner/administrator/logistics person, and spent a number of years doing such work, growing more bored and unhappy by the minute. Last year I made a change – I’m still doing administration, but now I’m working for my spouse’s small business, building something for the two of us. I’m SO MUCH HAPPIER with new meaning behind what I do. It’s not the work itself to which I objected- it was the meaning behind it, or lack thereof. My ‘passions’ are my creative hobbies, which give me enjoyment, but I have no desire to make money from.

Long
Long
8 years ago

I’m not doing what I love, but I’m taking steps to improve that situation. My day job sucks the life out of me, but it pays the bills and I occasionally get some satisfaction out of it. I do try to do my best because I do get paid well, and it reflects my personal values. I know plenty of people who aren’t doing what they love, but slog away at their jobs because it pays well and allows them to do what they love outside of work. I agree when you say there is no right and wrong, because… Read more »

olga
olga
8 years ago

What most stuck in my mind are a couple of comments of your regulars: Tyler K. and El Nerdo (sp?) from last post. They both talked about a question: what happen to good ol’ America (and world’s) idea of doing the job because a) it was needed for the country, and b) it provided for the family? As someone else noted (here or last post), to paraphrase, there are thousands of people who go after the dream and succeed – and they are inspiring to say the least. But, there are millions who work and, well, work and live. As… Read more »

Kiernan
Kiernan
8 years ago
Reply to  olga

I thought about my grandfather’s WWII generation when I read those comments – he grew up in the depression, and the greatest dream he ever had was a steady paycheck that would allow him to support his family. He would have been confused about the idea of being passionate about a career, but he was one of the happiest working people I’ve ever known because he never lost his initial gratitude for his job. I had a job similar to J.D.’s McDonald’s experience in college, working in a camera factory with fantastic people one summer. I didn’t mind the repetition… Read more »

celyg
celyg
8 years ago

A collection of thoughts on this matter — sorry it’s a bit disjointed. At this point in my career/life, I’m starting to realize that the things I want at work are: People I want to work with/for Creative influence Work/Life balance I have the first two in my current job, and am working on the last one. I tend to identify myself through my job, but that’s something I’m working to correct. However, my jobs/career have taught me so much about myself, and other people. I’ve developed parts of my personality I never even knew I had. (Perhaps I’ve let… Read more »

shalom
shalom
8 years ago
Reply to  celyg

The McDonald’s and your waitressing story remind me of a job I once had taking phone orders and shipping literature. I was the only one working in that role at the time, and I loved it – loved keeping the inventory tidy, taking orders in a friendly way, fulfilling orders quickly, packing shipments nicely. Sometimes I wished I could’ve kept doing that long-term, but that was no way to pay back student loans on 5 years of grad school. For a long-term job, I think it’s important to find meaning in what you do. Like Kristen (@40) shows, WHY you… Read more »

Cindy@Rhinebeck
8 years ago

Like you, I turned my blogging into paid writing work. Do I make a lot of money? No. But I am ohhhhhh! so happy. Eventually, it’ll pay off more. But in the interim, I’m having way too much fun.

Do your best.

The rest, will follow.

Krantcents
Krantcents
8 years ago

Finding your passion is not easy. I tried 6 times before I became successful. Then, it changes and evolves. Work and life changes and evolves and you must change with it. I probably would not like it if everything stayed the same anyway.

Parenting and Money
Parenting and Money
8 years ago

Having a good team and work environment is key to being happy at your job. Even if you are passionate about the work that you do,if your team members and boss are difficult to work with, you will be unhappy. I’ve been working for several years in my current position and have gone under multiple bosses over that time. I always do my best to excel in everything I am involved with. However, on periods when my current boss is hard to work with, I do notice that my energy level and job satisfaction is lower. I am not as… Read more »

Joe @ Retire By 40
Joe @ Retire By 40
8 years ago

It’s great to have a choice to pursue your passion. Most people are stuck in their job whether they like it or not. Good luck with the Spanish tutoring and teaching.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

“I took a huge risk by leaving the box company to pursue my passion…” Is this really true though JD? – you worked at a family-owned company (I’m sure you could have got your old job back in a heartbeat if you wanted or needed it) – you had no dependent mouths to feed – you had a spouse that, push come to shove, wouldn’t have let you lose your house And of course, you were smart about it and made sure you replaced your income and cut back your hours gradually. But I still don’t see a lot of… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Dammit, I need to have health insurance and dish out a copay for 50 minutes of this type of feedback, and JD gets it for free? Luckeeeee….!

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Well, it was kind of mean of me to pick apart a single sentence of a post that was very good.

BUT I was also wondering how many people would have the flexibility to go to their boss and gradually cut their hours back to accommodate a passion that paid (maybe not that highly). Most people have to jump ship on a chance or wing-walk / moonlight for a long time. Maybe so long that the passion burns itself out and becomes resented due to general burn-out.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Oh no, I didn’t write that sarcastically! Your comment wasn’t mean, it was truthful, and I applaud you for it. I really do pay a therapist to tell it like it is. The road to ruin is paved with adulation, and disabusing people of their delusions is a good and valuable thing.

Michael
Michael
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

BUT I was also wondering how many people would have the flexibility to go to their boss and gradually cut their hours back to accommodate a passion… I was able to do this too, because I was a diligent hard worker, I was fair and honest with my boss and I had a great boss. I was working 40 hours/week, and had started doing some consulting on the side. Eventually the consulting business was picking up and I wanted to switch to it full time. My position required a decent amount of on-the-job training, so I offered my boss a… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

The availability of part time and flex time seems to come and go in industries, and at individual companies – twice I’ve had great part time jobs reorged out from under me because a company changed hands and the new management wanted everyone fulltime.

The last one, I quit because of the constant pressure to act like fulltimers even though we were part time flex time – the corporate culture started to value hours put in over actual productivity (especially in lots of endless meetings). That company had recently gone public and the whole culture was shifting.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Well, in retrospect, it wasn’t that much of a risk, I guess. But that’s only because things turned out well. At the time, it was scary as hell, you know? For all I knew, my blog income would dry up overnight. The whole “pro blogging” thing was new(-ish), and nobody knew where it would lead. With the benefit of hindsight, this seems like an obvious choice to have made. But that’s far from how it felt at that time. That said, you’re right that I had advantages that others didn’t. But you know what? Others have advantages I don’t. Anyone… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Turning risks into calculated risks is an important skill.

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

There was a good article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker (January 2010, not sure which week) positing that successful entrepreneurs generally are NOT huge risk-takers but actually are exceedingly careful in making risky moves and constantly hedge their bets. Totally contrary to the conventional view of the swashbuckling entrepreneur.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I know what you mean – really. I think it’s actually a good thing that you showed a sensible way to transition and not just jump without any safety net. Back in the day when I listened to the “do what you love and the money probably won’t follow, but you’ll have your passion to keep you warm” people, I made so many stupid mistakes hoping that things would eventually turn out and being too stubborn to admit my plan wasn’t working. Now I’m more of a fan of W.C Fields’ “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.… Read more »

juno
juno
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

but if i remember right, he had debts to the tune of $30,000. so even if he could get his job back, with no mouths to feed, and a spouse who wouldn’t let him down, he was still in debt and he had to pay it sooner or later. so, yeah, it was a risky move.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

I have a white collar job that I like. It pays well, gives me five weeks vacation annually, that I can take whenever and however we want, and not have to worry about work when I’m gone. (I’m taking 5 weeks in Sept/Oct and have no chance that my vacation will be canceled for work reasons.) I get the 401k (standard match) and excellent health insurance. It’s a standard 40 hour week job that pays straight time. I’ll work a 50 hour work week and gross $100k this year. (The only down side is the OT is not guaranteed.) I… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I think that the “passion” paradigm is dangerously misleading. Work is about producing an economic output. How you produce that output is up to you in a free market economy. I have many passions, but I do not want to turn many of them into producing economic output– even if the notion of “economic output” includes things like social capital, the favor economy, barter systems, etc– ultimately I need something that makes me money. I love sex! But I am very uncomfortable with the notion of becoming a sex worker. I love drugs! But they are illegal. And who needs… Read more »

Dan M53
Dan M53
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Nerdo, you post reminds me why I never reached my destiny of playing center field for the Red Sox. (My .222 BA in JV baseball also contributed!)

bobj
bobj
8 years ago

Here’s a question that I have J.D.
I have 2 years left before i retire.. but hate the job but it’s not hard work. Would you still leave the job to find your passion if you were getting excellent pay and 5 weeks off.. or would you tough it out?

Oh yes.. and I worked at Burger King (first job).. kept losing my band aids in the burgers.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  bobj

Bob, that’s a great question. Two years before you retire? If it were me, I think I’d tough it out, especially if the pay were good and you got five weeks off ever year. But at the same time, I’d try to make sure my non-work life was filled with things that made me enthusiastic about life. Does that make sense? Make the rest of life awesome so that the work doesn’t seem so bad. But it’s one thing for me to say this; I’m not sure what I’d actually do in those circumstances…

bobj
bobj
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Thanks. That’s what I am trying to do. Also, my wife says stick it out.. my Dr says give it up .. the stress is affecting me. So, I pretty much decided to split the difference and work one more year.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

PS- not sure if everyone found this in their news plate this morning, but the Washington Post has an article about a new economic study that claims to prove that the decline in manufacturing jobs is not so much a result of increased worker productivity as of the fact that other countries are simply eating our lunch. OUCH!

link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/economists-offer-more-pessimistic-view-on-manufacturing-in-upcoming-report/2012/03/19/gIQAKSpZNS_story.html

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Emily Ross
Emily Ross
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Eating our lunch! But are they finding band-aids in their burgers??

bethh
bethh
8 years ago

I think the problem a lot of us have is that we still wonder “what am I going to be when I grow up?” Nobody told us we might not ever figure out the answer! I’ve been out of college nearly 20 years and have had seven different jobs. I stay in each position longer than the last, and my career path makes sense, but I still don’t know what I’m going to do next and it’s something that is very much on my mind on a regular basis. My number one requirement for any job is great, engaged coworkers… Read more »

The Christian Dollar
The Christian Dollar
8 years ago

J.D.: I, like you, greatly enjoy writing. In fact, I moved on to work full time at my blog and helping others with their blogs, and I’m loving it!

On the “Right Job for Me” cheat sheet, I loved the question: “Do I want to become my boss.” Today, I have several “bosses” who are customers of my work, and yes, I’d love to become just like them!

Amazing thoughts, thank you!

Andy Long
Andy Long
8 years ago

Thanks for the honesty and the last couple of articles. They have been a great way to show a couple sides of the issue. Keep up the great work!

Emily Ross
Emily Ross
8 years ago

I quit my day job after seven years. I didn’t have any dependents. I gave up my apartment and house sat for 2 years. I worked mundane, but low-stress jobs and joined a writing group to try to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. When I couldn’t figure it out, I joined the Peace Corps. While overseas, I worked through What Color Is Your Parachute (twice!). Now I am self-employed as a music therapist, and I got 100% on that Cheat Sheet. But I’m not done, I’m working developing a community center for… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago

I am posting late today (which means almost nobody will read this, but not much I can do about that), because I spent the day busy at work (and when I got home I spent the early evening with my wife and daughter). Is my job my passion? Sort of. I enjoy my work — both my field and my job. I recently left a job working on a project that had a grand vision that never really materialized (it could have changed the infrastructure of how data moved around the internet, but didn’t) for a job where I’m working… Read more »

Ely
Ely
8 years ago

Tyler, I always read your comments, because you always have such great insight, or an angle on the conversation no one else has brought up. Thank you. 🙂

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

I like this. I happen to have a job that has very little to do with my interests (or “passions”) but the practicalities weigh very heavily with me. I have always been hyper-conscious of my personal security and of the fact that no-one but me is responsible for it. I’ve been in one line of work for 22+ years because I’m good at it, it’s stable, it pays well, it’s fairly portable, and it covers the cost of the things I love doing. None of my “passions” would pay the rent, much less afford me longterm financial security. To me,… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
8 years ago

I love my work. I’ve owned my own consulting business for 15 years. Today, my friend and I were coming back from a weekend away. As we crossed the border, the customs guard asked what we did for a living. We both explained what businesses we own. And the guard said, “And you both took a Monday off?” And we exclaimed, in unison, “We’re self employed!” I love the flexibility my work gives me. I love that I can make dinner in the middle of the afternoon or take off to go see a performance at my child’s school. I… Read more »

blackwax
blackwax
8 years ago

MY J-O-B is a means to an end. It’s basically an entry level job, yet 10 times better than the last 2 ½ jobs that I’ve had. My plan is to move up and around within this company every year. It’s not an impossible goal. People move up and around at this job all of the time. I’m eager to learn, to grow, to broaden my skill sets, and to advance with the company. Yet, regardless of my title or tenure, this will always be a JOB to me. I’ve mentally separated what I love vs what I have to… Read more »

c.
c.
8 years ago

Two of my favorite jobs ever were in grocery stores. I worked the produce department of a large store for a couple years in college. I loved being able to go about the work without rushing. It was meditative, especially in the evenings. You ever see a produce guy break a sweat? There’s a reason for that. Conversely, I was a cashier at a different store one summer. There was a kid a couple years younger who was a bagger, and when we were working the same lane, we were the fastest duo you’ll ever see. We’d have you out… Read more »

Housewife Empire
Housewife Empire
8 years ago

I’m in your boat. I decide not to pursue a conventional career – I’m freelancing full-time. I’m not making a lot by any stretch, but the money will increase in time because I love what I’m doing. Great post.

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