Doing what you love

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

— Steve Jobs, commencement address at Stanford University, June 12, 2005


Mark Sherman.

I am nervous writing anything funny inspired by Steve Jobs, who has, in death, attained practically god-like status, but I’m not really making fun of him. For one thing, I recognize that in his 56+ years on the planet he accomplished far more than I have in my 68+, and also I have noticed that in his later years he grew to look quite a lot like me, thus joining other notables, such as Steven Spielberg.


It’s hard to feel anything but respect for people who look like you, especially when everyone says they are wonderful and their combined wealth is probably about 10 billion dollars.

But with all due respect to Steve Jobs, whose commencement speech is referred to as legendary and has received more than 10 million views on the Internet, that line about doing what you love is not original with him. If you Google the line, without his name in the search, you will still get around three million hits.

In fact, about 20 years ago I bought a book called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. I did what I loved but found that writing in my journal, watching sports, and listening to music did not produce much income.

Seriously, though, that idea of doing what you love does indeed sound wonderful in principle, and for people like Steve Jobs — and I assume for the author of DWYL,TMWF — the money definitely does follow. And not only that, people admire you, respect you, even love you. But suppose what you love is helping people who are down and out. Yes, people will admire you and respect you, but not only won’t the money follow, one of those down-and-outers might actually steal from you.

Or suppose that what you love is making doilies. I suppose if this is something you’ve dreamed of since childhood, and that early on you showed an incredible doily-making talent, there is the possibility that you would attain some fame and fortune; but the chances are small indeed. I truly believe that if Steve Jobs had loved to make doilies rather than computers, we would never have heard of him.

Nonetheless, by making doilies or even tea cosies, you are not hurting anyone, and you are perhaps giving people a small degree of pleasure. However, suppose what you enjoy the most is to be curmudgeonly and critical, to find weaknesses in other people’s arguments and point them out. (And there is so much opportunity for this, because let’s face it, people are not always the smartest knives in the deck.) What kind of work does this translate into, and will the money follow?

I guess I’m being curmudgeonly and critical right now, as I take issue with the whole “do what you love” philosophy. I have always believed that it’s really easy to advise people to do what they love when your experience with that approach made you lots of money. Of course, I do make money for writing this, but it is not exactly in the same league with what the late Mr. Jobs made (nor, I believe, the author of that huge best seller, DWYL,TMWF).

Finally, suppose someone like Bernie Madoff was sitting there when Steve Jobs gave his passionate plea for people to do what they loved.

“Aha,” a Madoff type might think. “If I could, I would build pyramids, but I guess those days have come and gone. Hey, wait a minute, what about a pyramid scheme? Or even better, there was that guy Ponzi I once heard about….”

Or perhaps another student might have been inspired reading about Attila the Hun in one of his courses and realized that what he’d really love to do would be to invade other countries.

Not everyone dreams of making iPhones.

There are 2 comments

  1. JR

    As part of this formula: 1. Somebody must give you a break. 2. Somebody must give you a break.

    Steve jobs loved making money. It was easier for him. No annoying ethics to consider.

  2. David

    Interesting thoughts but I have to disagree with you. I too have followed the DWYLTMWF advise but long before Jobs spoke. Unlike you i never equated the part about money with actual cash or fame or notoriety.

    Suppose you do love helping the down and out, I mean really love it. Lets forget about Mother Theresa for the moment and just think about the average guy. What I think about is that you personally will be rich. That sounds cliché but it is the essence of the point. Most people work 50 weeks a year making money to enjoy the 2 weeks they get to do what they want. If you do what you want everyday you don’t have to work everyday to enjoy it. Money only gets you what you want. Having what you want means not needing the money.

    I raised two sons on this advice and today they both are happy and successful. One is into computers and the internet and sells millions of $ a year. The other is in the USAF, a sergeant, but does exactly what hes always wanted to do. He has no debt and isn’t wanting for anything. Pretty good for a sergeant. Our lives are great, fulfilled and exciting. No need for fame or excess money. Happiness is our currency and we are rich.

    Having Jobs money might be nice but having it is not what I love. I would only use it to buy what I loved and I have that anyway, so no need.

    As for the Madoff’s and the Hun followers, I submit they weren’t actually doing what they loved. There are always a few people who will buy into others scams and not follow their love. That’s too bad. I think if they did follow love they would not be victims. Just my thoughts. YMMV.

Post Your Thoughts