Work to Live or Live to Work?

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There are two types of people when it comes to career “passion” — or at least two types of people who talk about it on social media.

On one side there are those who say following your passion is a sure path to a dead end. This side is concerned that we’ve over-promised our younger workforce. In the pursuit of passion, Millennials are giving up perfectly promising jobs and forgoing paying the necessary dues to get ahead in the long run.

It used to be you needed a job that provided for you and your family; now you need a job that fulfills you everyday.”

This was the quote that got me thinking more about this. Is it really such an either / or?

The other side is firmly in the Steve Jobs camp.

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.”

This side believes in finding work that you value will make you more engaged and happy at work…and that will crossover into your whole life.

I kind of believe in following your passion with pragmatism. Keep looking, doesn’t mean stop working. As a 40-something I interviewed, says, it’s a lot easier to find your passion when you have a salary.” I also love this advice from Laurel Touby, founder of MediaBistro and investor:

Follow your passion. But if your passion doesn’t have any customers, find a new passion.”

Surely there is more than one thing you can do that will give you pleasure at work. Following a passion does not mean tunnel vision or myopia for a hunch that has no traction. My Dad always said, ”Find something you love to do and find a way to make money doing it.” He didn’t fall in love with ceramic engineering. He enjoyed physics and was good at it. Then he found ceramic engineering was the most promising career using physics.

Matching something that makes you happy with something that has potential – that to me is career passion. I don’t get all worked up that the passion we are talking about with career is the same as passion we talk about with relationships. It’s that intersection of something you care about — that gives you some purpose — and something you can make money doing. I think it’s worth it. At least that’s what I get from this story:

A colleague of mine had an investment banker friend. He worked crazy hours so she didn’t see him much. When they did meet he would take her out to dinner and order the most expensive wine on the menu. She would say, ”You don’t need to do that”. His reply was that he didn’t have time to spend all his money so this is what he did with it. Indulge in expensive wine on the few occasions he did get out. Fast-forward a few years later and many conversations with my friend the entrepreneur and educator. He quit, traveled the world and then settled in and started up. A much happier man these days.

He had the benefit of some savings I’m sure. But you have to consider what you value most? Money or experience? Are you a destination person or a journey person? It’s a personal choice…no judgment involved.

For the most part, the women I interview for 40:20 Vision fall on the passion side. The consensus: you are going to be working a long time, so you have to love what you are doing. This is not just the reinventing, disrupting entrepreneur types. It is also the ones who have stayed in secure jobs and are looking back thinking what if I had explored.

But at the same time they recognize it takes some exploring and researching:

Get as much experience doing different kinds of jobs until you find that thing that you get really passionate about and then pursue that but try not to do too many things in a period of time because I think it limits your choices to a certain degree.” – 40-something, executive, married, mom, CA

If you don’t have a passion, pursue one. Pursue finding a passion. Really dig in and try to find one.” – 40-something, finance, married, mom, CT

Don’t worry about getting the perfect job. Get a job. You might discover this is not the company I want to work for. This is not the industry. So you do market research. Your job while looking for a job is to do market research on jobs. If you think of it that way, you can be all kinds of creative in getting to that. Explore all sorts of things. Look into your hobbies as passions. Your studies. Try many different things to see.” – 50-something, entrepreneur, NY

The women on the work to live side share the belief that you work to afford the things that give you pleasure, to provide for your family and the lifestyle you aspire to. The only problem is…what if you are so drained or distracted or stressed from the “working” that you can’t enjoy the ”living” part.

I would love to hear from more work to live people and get their perspective so we can have a balanced point of view. Is that you? Let me hear from you.

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