To do your job well you have to like it. Since our childhood most of us assimilate a very different approach that work or school is a tiresome part of life, and everything beyond this is fun. So, for many children (including the author at his school age) the idea of work that people enjoy seems pretty strange.
At the time kids graduate high school, they start thinking what career path to choose. That’s the time when young people (and the author himself, as he recollects) face the dangerous lie about work: many people lie that they like their jobs.
This seems very contradictory to the common opinion of work as unpleasant duty shared by so many adults and children, and therefore the question arises – if having work is even worse than going to school, then how comes that so many adults assure they like it? The author finds the answer in the upper-middle class tradition that you are supposed to love your job. This attitude is a close imitation of the mindset typical of the most successful people that do great things, because, after all, to be the best you have to truly enjoy what you do.
Seeing parents doing boring job to give a high standard of living to their families, kids tend to share belief that a job is supposed to be boring.
Only when the author was in college, he finally split the idea of work from that of making a living. He came to the concept of work as making some original contribution to the world. Yet, his new approach still required discipline, as solving hard problems couldn’t be fun and you had to force yourself to work on them.
The next question raised is how to understand, if you really like your job. If you are not sure, chances are you will stop searching too early and will choose the career based on your parents’ influence, impact of money or prestige.
So the author introduces a set of criteria to make the task easier for everyone.
First, you have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. Though at some point everyone prefers having some fun, you can’t spend all your life drinking coffee or lying on the beach. In the long run, if you want to be happy, you need productive work.
Second, if the concept of «spare time» seems mistaken, it’s a good reason to believe you really like your work. Not that a person who says “I like my job more than anything in the world” is bound to work 24×7. Everyone should take a break when you get tired and need some rest not to make mistakes. But (and this is the third reference point), you don’t consider this time to be the prize you earned by your work efforts.
Fourth, to be happy you have also to admire what you do. If your friends do as well, it’s another valid proof.
“Sirens” that can lead you astray from the job you like is prestige, money or the combination of both.
The author advises not to take care of prestige immediately admitting that this is easier said than done. Prestige tempts us into doing not what we like, but what “we would like to like”. The example is novel-writing a person takes not because he especially enjoys the creativity process, but because to him getting the Nobel Prize is very prestigious. And of course, prestige is the strongest temptation for ambitious people.
How to differentiate between truly liking a job and its prestige? If you admire two kinds of work equally, choose the one, which is less prestigious. This somehow guarantees that you have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious job.
Another magnet attracting people away from their true path is money. The money itself is not too dangerous, because usually despicable occupations don’t turn into the force that can lead you away. But money combined with prestige (for example, corporate law or medicine) is the most dangerous distraction.
The test that can help you out here is whether you would do the same job even if you did it for free and had to work somewhere else to make a living. This test is especially helpful, if you ask yourself what academic work to prefer, as there are research fields no one would take, if there were no teaching positions in this field of knowledge.
Though less discipline is needed to do things you like than most people think, you really need discipline while searching for such job.
Very few people know since childhood, what career they would like to pursue. Most often, those, who found their true calling, have “careers with the trajectory of a ping-pong ball”, when they move from their college major to the job that has nothing in common with it, and then become successful in the utterly different endeavor.
Here you can face several stumbling blocks. When switching between fields of work, you can be guided either by inner energy or by laziness – but how can you distinguish between them?
The article offers two tests for that. First, try to do a good job no matter what it is. This way you’re sure you don’t use disaffection as an excuse for laziness. Another important effect of this approach is the habit of doing things well.
The second principle is “always produce”. It means that you have to move forward in your would-be career, even if it differs from your day job you don’t take seriously. For example, if you plan to be a writer, you are supposed to write. If you do, you can be sure you don’t use this dream just to escape. This approach also helps you find the job you like, since you won’t be willing to waste your time on the things you don’t particularly admire.
There are two gueses why many people give up the idea of finding the job they love and agree to some kind of in-between. First, people refuse to take the risk. For many of them, it’s easier to abandon the idea than to spend years taking efforts that can still fail after all.
Second, there’s an opinion that someone has to do the job that nobody likes. But if no one in the society wants to do it, chances are, modern technical progress will automate these unpleasant tasks or we’ll have to do without it, just like in case with domestic servants.
Still, the need to earn for a living is a valid argument for doing a job you don’t particularly like. There are two ways to finally drive to the work you love.
The organic route: the better you are at what you do, the wider choices you have. If you grow professionally, you will be choose from more options, some of which you will like. This approach is more common.
The two-job route means you have a job you don’t like to earn cash for the job you prefer. At one extreme of this spectrum is the «day job,» when you make money during regular hours and spend it on what you love in your free time. Or you keep to one job until you make enough to have freedom to choose. This approach is also more dangerous, as you can be stuck on the least favorite job for years.
Which route to take is up to you to decide, but any route will be a struggle. Still, if you know what your destination point – that is, if you like to work and know what work you’ll love – you have almost made it!