Is ‘Do What You Love’ Good Advice?

In short: yes and no.

Much of what I write about, talk about, make videos about, etc…has a common theme of creating the life you want to live. This often suggests you pour your heart and soul into what you love or what you want to do.

I’ve received a decent amount of push-back on this mentality so I’d like to address a few caveats; namely with the statement, “do what you love.”

Firstly, I do believe a good chunk of one’s life should be dedicated to something that person is passionate about; be it a hobby, a side-hustle, or a weekend activity. Learning new skills, educating oneself…this shouldn’t stop once one graduates. It’s constant.

Having said that, doing what you love–no matter how much you love it–provides no guarantee that you will be able to support yourself financially doing it.

It doesn’t matter how interested you are in art history, theatre, making videos, writing, fitness, music…In terms of money, people don’t give a shit about how passionate you are; people only care about whether or not you can provide them value.

Therefore, if you rely on doing what you love to support yourself, you must:

  1. Provide a ton of value.
  2. Be incredibly good at what you do.
  3. Supplement that thing with one or two other useful skills.

For example, being really knowledgeable about art history is super cool and interesting, but people won’t be lining up outside your door to give you money to learn about the significance of Manet’s Olympia (thank you Google).

People would be much more intrigued however if you supplemented that skill with something like animation or filmmaking. Then you could make entertaining and educational clips or films articulating and illustrating what Manet’s works meant and felt like at the time.

That may be a silly example. The point is, people pay for value, they don’t pay for how much you love what you do.

Another problem with doing what you love is that it can often tarnish your love for that thing.

I have several friends who are artists, musicians, and craftsmen. They have said multiple times that they want to keep their craft a hobby for fear of hating it if they turned it into a business. I know cooks who hate the sight of food at the end of the day.

This all can sound incredibly harsh. I’m not trying in the slightest to discourage anyone from pursuing things they love. Quite the opposite actually. I think if you’re going to do it (and you should), you have to be smart about it to ensure that you don’t end up hating it or become unable to pay your bills.

I absolutely love making YouTube videos. It’s something I want to do more and get much, much better at. But the amount of passion I have for making videos doesn’t bring in viewers; the amount of value my videos provide people will bring in more viewers.

Passion = your drive to keep going

Value = people’s drive to consume your stuff

This is a crucial difference.

Do what you love. Don’t just put a bookmark in it and keep it on the shelf until you die. Water it. Feed it. Let it grow and develop.

But unless you’re insanely good at it–like, Cristiano Ronaldo good–and unless your thing brings a shit ton of value to people, don’t rely on it to pay your bills (yet).