Do what you love mirage

“Do what you love”, is advice I hear exclusively from financially secure people. And it rings hollow to me. When you need money to survive, you do any work that is available, love does not play into that choice. Desperation does.

If you do have a job, “do what you love” becomes another thing more desirable than what you already have, just because you don’t have it. “Do what you love” becomes mirage, illusion for something that is unattainable but which would solve all your problems and make you happy.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”– Frederick Koenig

If you are already doing what you love, great. But for most people divide between what they do today and what they think they would love to do is too wide. How to get there? How to get where?

I am suggesting different angle. Try doing what you already do, but better than anyone else. Try doing it world class and you’ll see that the better you do it, the more you love it. Take your craft to the next level. Pay attention to details and do the work right.

“The truth is that most people have a better chance to be uncommon by effort than by natural gifts. Anyone could give that effort in his or her chosen endeavor, but the typical person doesn’t, choosing to do only enough to get by.” Tony Dungy

Any time we do quality work we are deeply satisfied with it. Whether it is writing code, fixing a car or cooking, when done well it makes us happy. Good, quality work is always unmistakable. It fans out like waves. We instinctively recognize it. We feel better because of it and we like to share that feeling with others. That’s how word of good products, services and people spreads.

As word of your good work spreads the more positive feedback you get, emotional and financial. By doing good work, you just might find out that what you are doing, is what you are supposed to do. And if you don’t, quality work will get you to where you want to be.

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”
James Cameron, director of Terminator and Titanic, from The New Yorker

Yet, this is not popular advice. There is no mirage to sell like with “Do what you love” story. There is only hard work.

In the “Outliers: The Story of Success” Malcolm Gladwell puts the “price” on the top performance. It is more than 10,000 hours and 10 years of focused, meaningful practice. Mozart started writing music at six, but he did not compose works now regarded as masterworks until he was twenty-one. Some argue that he actually peaked late since he didn’t compose his greatest work until he had been composing for more than twenty years. At six year of age I doubt that he knew what he loved. Likely he was imitating his father who was composer, teacher and violinist. He tried to do his best and over years of practice and hard work, what he did, became what he loved to do…

There is of course more to it, I am not suggesting that it is that simple. But there is connection between doing quality work, satisfaction and loving what you do. Perhaps we have cause and effect mixed up by everyone parroting “do what you love”.

Perhaps, love grows out of work well done.


In past I foolishly thought that if I just had more money, more time or more brains I could achieve whatever I was after. I thought that some limitation, some constraint is preventing me from doing whatever I set out to do.

By now I know that is completely misguided. Having no constraints does not lead to success, but having them certainly does. Having lots of money or lots of time does not guarantee that you will succeed in whatever you are trying to do, it is actually limiting. More startups were hurt by too much money than by lack of it.

I’ll give you two examples. In May this year Duke Nukem makers 3D Realms closed the doors and let go of all staff. They failed to finish sequel Duke Nukem Forever to cult classic game. They were at it since 1997. For 12 years straight they worked on sequel while most games are finished in 2-4 years. First version of Duke Nukem was done in year and half…

So why they have failed to develop sequel? Lots of time and lots of money. The two most common constraints on any project were not present, and with perfectionism running amok, they never finished. If you have latest January 2010 Wired issue you can read all about it in detail…

Second example that illustrates this is open source Chandler calendaring project that is center piece of Dreaming in Code book that I recommend reading (my book review is here). In this project due to wealthy financier, money was not a constraint and 2 dozen of developers run in a circle for 3 years producing “perfect” calendaring app… At the end though, they at least released something…

Thinking that some limitation is preventing you from doing something is just an excuse, opposite is the case. Having limited time, limited finances, limited resources, limited whatever, forces us to think out of box. It forces us to come up with novel approach. It forces us to finish whatever we are doing.

Having no constraints widens the possibilities so much that we get lost in sea of choices.

And this kind of has Zen quality to it. Unlimited limits you while constraints free you.


That’s one of  the “business” phrases that I really hate the most. Robots in factory between themselves can say “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business”. Stop saying that unless you work with robots!

Everything in business and about business is 100%, unquestionably, unequivocally personal. If it involves people its personal.

When somebody tells you: “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business”, watch out, you are about to get sacked. Its like this phrase justifies whatever bad things they have planned for you.

And since we spend almost half of our time doing business and working why wouldn’t you want it being personal? If it is not important to you, if it doesn’t count, what’s the point?

Which brings me to closing point: You should not work for people you do not like, and you should not hire people you do not like. Between people that like each other everything is personal, not business.


We’ll see

I like this fable. We get raffled by things or events instead of taking them in stride…

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

All the neighbors came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses. The man and his son corraled all 21 horses.

All the neighbors came by saying, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

All the neighbors came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

All the neighbors came by saying, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”


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