Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Don't Do What You Love"

It’s one of the better pieces of advice a young person can receive. If  you are charting your path in life or looking for your first job or just choosing a major in college, don’t follow you passion or your bliss... do what you are good at.

It’s not a new idea, not even on this blog. See this link.

More recently, Dorie Clark expressed the point well when she argued, provocatively, that you should not do what you love. Link here.

Clark argued that if you are not good at what you love, you are not going to be very successful, and your lack of success will undermine your contentment.

As Peter Drucker expressed it, it’s easier to get from good to great than from mediocre to good.

Clark also pointed out that you have to like the work that is involved in doing what you are good at. If it’s a lot of paperwork you had best enjoy rustling through papers. If it’s managerial you had best have a good feel for other people.

Her third point is essential for writers, so Clark uses them as an example.  Don’t fall so completely in love with your mellifluous prose that you refuse to accept editing, advice, or counsel.

The same applies to all other jobs. No matter how good you are, no matter how much you love what you are doing, if you lack the requisite talent and are trying to cover that up by an excess of passion, you will lose your humility and become an arrogant lout.

And that was not your goal. Right?

Fourth, your choice of a path in life must be in harmony with the market. If your greatest skill is fashioning buggy whips, you need to recognize that there is now a very small market for buggy whips. You might be good at making them, but if no one wants to buy them, you need to look more closely at your talents and skills, the better to take them in a different direction.


flynful said...

I got some good advice in law school from a down to earth attorney/professor. He said that people say that they know what they like but, in fact, it is the opposite, they like what they know. So, whatever it is that you find yourself doing, invest the time and effort to know as much as you can about it and, sure enough, you will get to like (and even live and love) it. Then, you don't go to work each day. You get paid to do what you like to do. Plus, everyone comes to you for your expertise. It was good advice and came when I was just starting my career.
Steve g

Anonymous said...

Very good advice - and born out by the research.