If one more of our class’s guest speakers encourages my students to “Do what you love,” I’m going to throw up.
No, not really. I mean, if successful person after successful person keeps repeating the same advice, no matter how cliché, there has to be something to it, right? Besides, the politicians, civil servants, economists and entrepreneurs who enter my classroom aren’t the only ones reiterating the “Do what you love” mantra.
“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” — Henry David Thoreau (Weird, right? But it’s Thoreau, so who am I to criticize his metaphor?)
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” — Marc Anthony (I don’t think the Puerto Rican-American pop mogul was the first to say this. I think it was Confucius. But Anthony said it, too.)
“My philosophy has always been, ‘do what you love and the money will follow.’ ” — Amy Weber (Sometimes, Amy. Sometimes.)
“Do what you love; you’ll be better at it. It sounds pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t get this one right away.” — LL Cool J (Yep, if you love it, it makes sense that you’ll practice it more.)
“Every successful person you read about – Warren Buffett, Bill Gates – they all say pretty much the same thing. ‘Do what you love.’ I know I did.” — David Foster (Buffet and Gates said it, too? Wow!)
“Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” — Judy Collins (My favorite of these quotes)
All good, right? People who get to work at what they love are happier, more fulfilled and more motivated than those who aren’t so fortuitous. Or, so it would seem. So, why do so many people do work they would prefer not to do? In Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby the Scrivner,” Bartleby gives up. Faced with unpleasant work, over and over, he rebuffs his boss’s directives with a polite but firm, “I’d prefer not to.”
Yet, millions of people who, like Bartley, would prefer not to, do it anyway. Why? What’s their motivation?
Love. Instead of doing what they love, they do it out of love. Playwright, Sheldon Harrick’s suggested so in, “The Fiddler on the Roof.”
(Tevye) Do you love me?
(Golde) Do I love you? For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes Cooked your meals, cleaned your house Given you children, milked YOUR cow… If that’s not love, what is?
Golde didn’t wash clothes, cook meals, clean house, milk a cow or even birth a baby because it was what she loved. She did those things out of love.
Contrast her with Kevin Durant who works at what he loves. “In the game of basketball, I play first off because I love it. I love to have fun. I love to run up and down the court.” Yet, he gets to do that because he had a mother who worked out of love.
When Durant was a kid, his mom had two jobs, including an overnight shift at the post office. “When I first started working that shift, he (Kevin) said, ‘Mom, when are you gonna quit this job?’ I said, ‘Baby, I can’t quit. It’s what I have to do to make sure we’re OK.’ ”
If you’re a kind, compassionate person, working out of love is a powerful motivator. It’s not as exhilarating as doing what you love, but it can be just as meaningful, satisfying and transformative. Maybe even more so.
The next time you find yourself doing something unpleasant, try to remember why you’re doing it. If it’s to lift someone else up, it’s a different kind of joy, but it’s joy, nonetheless.