The other day I was chatting with a friend who has been having a hard time financially. He’s running a business that has basically become defunct. There is no demand for it anymore. It would be like trying to sell encyclopedias door to door or selling VCRs.
I asked him why he continues to try to generate sales for things people just don’t want or need. His response, “It’s what I know.” In his heyday he made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year doing it, but he admitted he’s gone one full year without making a single sale. He’s clinging to this “business” like it’s a life raft, but it’s clear that all the air has leaked out of this raft and now it’s just dragging him under.
The other thing about this friend you need to know is that he is an amazing photographer. He can do magical things with a camera. People come from out of state to have him photograph them for head shots, weddings, and portraits.
So I asked him why he doesn’t become a professional photographer. He said, “No, photography is my passion. If I started earning money with it, I’m afraid I wouldn’t enjoy it anymore.”
I hear this a lot from clients and friends. They carry this belief that work is not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be something you do just for the money and then you have your fun on evenings and weekends.
But I’ve never really understood that sort of thinking. At the age of 23 I started doing what I love and I was happy to earn money for it at the same time. It seemed like a win-win. Spend all day doing something that excites me, and also have some money in the bank.
And for the last couple of decades that’s what I’ve done. The work has changed as my passions have changed, but I never felt bad earning money with my passion. To me it seemed like a great way to spend my time.
Do you love what you are being paid to do? Or are you just doing it for the money? To put food on the table?
Are you willing to be paid to do something you love? Really think about that.
The biggest fear for people seems to be that they will no longer enjoy doing what they love if it feels like work. But I would say that you’re defining “work” in a disempowering way.
The way I like to look at work is that I get to do what I love all day long, in a way that provides value for others, and also puts food on the table. It’s never felt like “work” to me.
So perhaps a change in the definition of work is in order. Maybe instead of “Work is what you do just to pay the bills” we can change that to “Work is how I do what I love and provide value to others.”
If you can’t accept money for doing what you love, you are doomed to do what you have to just to survive. Maybe you can tolerate it. Maybe you can hold out until you get to retire.
But the people I know who love what they do have no plans to retire, ever. Unless you physically can’t do the work anymore I see no reason to stop doing what brings you joy.
My friend who is an amazing photographer spends hours taking photos for people who want to pay him. He refuses to accept any money for his time. Instead, he is still trying to sell things nobody wants to buy and living solely on a small amount of social security.
Check in with yourself now. Are you willing to be paid to do what you love? It’s not dirty or shameful to love your work or to accept money for doing what you love.
Life is too short to hate how you spend your days. Is there a way for you to change what you do so that you love it and get paid for it? It’s worth examining if you haven’t already.