Why “just do what you love” is almost always horrible career advice

Parents, don’t lie to your kids.  There are several factors that come into play when deciding a career path:

  1. Do what people are willing to pay for
  2. Do what you are competent at doing
  3. Do what you love

Doing what you love only makes sense if you are competent and people are wiling to pay for it.

Let’s say you are not only competent, but the very best in the world at whatever skill you have. You aren’t, but let’s assume that you are for now.   Let’s further assume you love performing this skill.

It still doesn’t guarantee success.  Life is rough.

If you are doing what you love, but are incompetent,  you are going to go broke by doing what you love.  Stop trying.  Do something else.  It’s OK.  We all stink at almost everything.  Find the thing you don’t stink at.  Start there.

Nobody cares what you love.  Nobody cares what you are competent at doing.  They only care what you can do for them.  Nobody owes you anything – stop thinking they do.

Almost everybody has unlimited wants, but only enough money to satisfy a very small fraction of them.  You are competing with every other thing people want or need.  You’ve got some stiff competition.

Ask yourself:  Do I owe some harebrained business that just opened up down the block for God only knows what reason my hard earned dollars?  When you answer honestly, you answer no.  No.  You don’t owe them anything.

Then why to you think they owe you?  “They” owe you nothing.  By purchasing from you, they are foregoing all the rest of their unlimited wants or needs and instead buying from you.

When you have a skill that relatively few people (or increasingly, robots) can do, and people are willing to pay for it, you are in decent shape.  Even if you hate it, don’t dismiss it.  Be careful hating your job too much.  There’s a reason you get a paycheck.  It’s not supposed to be rainbows and unicorns all the time.

That’s why they’re called colleagues, not necessarily friends.

Your employer thinks hiring you will add more money to their bottom line.  That’s why they hired you.  If they are a smart employer, it’s the only reason they hired you.  They’d like to pay you nothing, but have to pay you about what people who can do what you can do are being paid.  Otherwise – you’d go down the street to their competition and be paid more.

You think the amount of money you are being paid by your employer is better than what you could get from their competition down the street.  That’s why you work there.  If you are a smart employee, it’s the only reason you work there. You’d like to paid a lot more, but you have to settle for about what people who do what you can do are being paid.  Otherwise – you’d go down the street to their competition and be paid more.

Notice the common theme here:  The business and the employee side of the story both end in the same sentence.

The biggest mistake people make is thinking that this relationship is employer vs. employee.  This is absolutely wrong.  It is employee vs. employee and employer vs. employer.

Employees dream about an interview where they are the only applicant.

Employers dream about a business where they are the only employer in town.

Both your greedy dreams are squashed by competition.

Deal with it.

Company A is not at war with Joe in accounting.  Company A is at war with company B.

Joe in accounting is not at war with company A.  Joe, who holds a degree in accounting,  is at war with Janice, who holds a degree in accounting.

If you actually find something that people are willing to pay for, that you are competent at doing, and you love doing, you’ve hit the lottery.  Almost nobody gets this.  It is sad but true.

Nobody should plan on hitting the lottery.  Hence the title of this blog.



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