Loving What You Do

I love Jason Fried’s post questioning the importance of loving what you do.

There’s nothing wrong with loving what you do, of course — I just don’t think it’s a prerequisite for starting a business or building a fulfilling career, let alone doing great work. In fact, I think it’s disingenuous for really successful people to put so much of the focus on love, just as it’s disingenuous for really rich people to say money doesn’t matter. People tend to romanticize their own motivations and histories. They value what matters to them now, and forget what really mattered to them when they started…

I too have felt frustration with the notion that loving what you do is a prerequisite in any endeavor. Prescribing how others should feel about their work seems fraught to me. There are all sorts of motivations for working. Frustration, disappointment, and desperation are all legitimate catalysts for doing something. In any given project, there are elements that are infatuating to me, moments or periods where I am totally engaged. However, much of work is full of tedium, frustration, or mindless execution. There are some projects where I feel great satisfaction with the results, and others where I cannot wait to be done and never return to them again. I am sure that I am not alone. Recognizing this, the idea that I have a duty to love my work is problematic.

I believe that one reason the refrain of love for work is so often repeated is the unhealthy relationship many have with work. Satisfaction in any given life has traditionally been found through involvement in various spheres. Spheres of family life, religious or spiritual life, social and community engagement, personal development, and cultural enrichment all provide opportunities for satisfaction and fulfillment. When work comes to dominate more of our time and attention it has to make up for what these other endeavors provide. It is not enough to be engaged by our work, we must love it. We’ve emptied the reservoir and are trying to fill it again from a single source.

I do not begrudge anyone who genuinely and constantly loves their work, but I feel fine that sometimes I resonate more with Dorothy Parker:

I hate writing, I love having written