In 1987, Dr. Marsha Sinetar published a book entitled Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow: Discovering your Right Livelihood. It was a wildly popular book, and became a lodestone for those who were struggling with their desire to chuck it all in order to pursue a career they were sure they would love and were meant to do. The book claimed to be a roadmap for showing its readers how to follow their hearts to find the work of their dreams. Maybe it worked for some folks, but I betcha that more people were left with discouragement, failure, or disillusionment instead of the joy that should come from earning their living by pursuing their passion.
About the same time Dr. Sinetar’s book hit the public consciousness, Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth aired in 1988, and we all learned that we should “follow our bliss.” Again, we grasped onto a simplistic interpretation of an abstract concept to rationalize that if we were not living the life we dreamed of, we were failing ourselves.
Even Steve Jobs, the legendary entrepreneur and founder of Apple exhorted us thusly: “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.”
So here’s the problem: most of us took all this advice at surface value, and either dove headlong, burning bridges in our wake, into an abyss of struggle and failure, or we didn’t dive at all, and continued to work at our mediocre day to day jobs and feel guilty and discouraged about letting our truer selves down.
Let me be clear that I am not disparaging Dr. Marsha Sinetar or Joseph Campbell or Steve Jobs in any way. I’m just saying, most of us didn’t really dig deep enough into their message to really understand it. For example, Dr. Sinetar states pretty early on in her book that she is not implying that you will get wildly rich by following your dream. In fact, you may never be able to give up your “day job” at all, or at least not for a long time. She also points out that you may have to work long and hard to refine and perfect your skills before you can make a living using them, and even if you should be able to create your “dream job,” you may be surprised to find that there are many parts of it you don’t particularly like to do. Or worse, you may find ultimately that you really don’t like any of it at all.
In this world of sound bites, we too often don’t look beyond the catchy phrase to really understand the entire and deeper meaning. We take what we want to hear and run with it. The fact is, there is probably nothing we can do in life that doesn’t require thought, preparation, education and training, and then practice to perfect our skills. Sinetar talks about that, too, in her book.
Joseph Campbell talks about peace and happiness coming from inside us, in spite of what the world throws our way. We follow our bliss, but that bliss radiates from within like a beacon.
It is a sad fact, dear readers, that the world doesn’t owe us our dream job. I’d say the world doesn’t owe use a damn thing. What’s more important is that we figure out what we owe the world.
Have you seen that TV show, Dirty Jobs? The one where the host, Mike Rowe, goes all over the country seeking the worst, the dirtiest, the most bizarre jobs—jobs more likely to be associated with the word “nightmare” than the word “dream.” And then he tries them out for a day. He finds humor in the work, and he opens our eyes to seeing what it takes to keep our world running.
Mike Rowe received a letter from a fan, Parker, who asked for his advice in finding the perfect career—one where he will always be happy, and make enough money, and not be bored, and while we’re at it, will allow him to travel as well. Mike’s response was classic, and is worth finding on the internet to read in its entirety, but the closing paragraph sums it up neatly:
“Stop looking for the ‘right’ career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs. Many people today resent the suggestion that they’re in charge of the way they feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you’re with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.”
Yep, dear reader. I’d say that’s pretty good advice. But still, don’t give up on your dreams. Not ever. Not for one minute. Just don’t expect someone else to make them come true for you. And don’t think you can do it without effort and sacrifice. Meanwhile, find the joy in whatever it is you do every day right now, because it’s there, I promise you.
Mike Rowe’s advice to a fan can be found in its entirety here: http://www.lifebuzz.com/mike-rowe/
Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, by Dr. Marsha Sinetar, published 1987, Dell Publishing, New York