Work Is Not Supposed to Suck– Find What You Love (Part 1)

Work Should Not Suck, How to Find and Pursue What You Love, and What If One Doesn’t Have Passion

Why Do We Think Work Sucks

 

Why do we always say that work sucks — because we are trained to think that work should be boring.

Adults separate the idea of fun and work early on for us. Since childhood, we are told that we should play all we want for we would have to work one day. We see elders going to their jobs, but they don’t seem to have fun — they say that work is something they have to do even if they don’t enjoy it.

No one even mentions having a good time as part of a profession, and we start believing that work is a dull thing grown-ups do to earn money: the more the better.

And we witness enough close examples following this idea.

My father opened his shop every day of the week except Tuesdays. He never complained about his business, but whether he enjoyed it was never his concern. He only cared that he had enough money to raise his family.

Our teachers, relatives, elder siblings all seemed to pursue a career to earn at their maximum potential.

Fun was never discussed in the context of work and even frowned upon. In his book Le Petite Prince, the French philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exupéry raises thought-provoking questions about adults keeping their things of consequence disjoint from fun.

You want to work or all you want to do is have fun? Someone would say when we created a game out of a mathematics problem.

From our younger years to adulthood, we grow up concreting the idea that something we enjoy can’t become our career.

But this belief is as real as the ghosts that swoosh in if we break the cookie jar. Let me tell you why.

 

Why Work Doesn’t Have to Suck

 

Success could be all about having fun.

There are successful people who relish their work — Gates, Musks, Geres, Bezos, Allisons, Buffets, Jobs, Hitchkocks, Einsteins, Kings talk(ed) about their job as if they are(were) drunk on some love potion — setting perfect examples that excellence pursues passion. These are high profile people but even if we look at the lower podium of eminent people — product managers, regional artists, small businessmen, farm owners, popular store owners of a city—we can see that they all have a genuine interest in their work and enjoy doing it.

But since successful people are generally far from us or unreachable, close ones’ beliefs overshadow the triumphant lives. People nearby even warn us from dreaming big as if they are scared of dreams.

She thinks she would be the next Larry Allison. Spending all her time designing those damn storage structures.

While it does you no good to think that your family name would be part of that fleshy list of Gates and Musks, it is also true that when you give your hundred percent to something consistently, even you don’t know the possibilities. And you only put in your best if you have fun at what you do.

Do what you love and love what you do. If you enjoy your work, you would be good at it. If you don’t do what you like, you would get bored and cut corners, and your work wouldn’t be extraordinary.

Work is not supposed to suck — is the preamble to producing great work. 

 

How the Work-is-supposed-to-be-boring belief harms us

 

When people give in to the belief that work sucks, they don’t try to improve their professional circumstances and, concomitantly, suffer.

We are supposed to hate work is such a ubiquitous lie that people believe it even if they find it unbearable. In a discussion about how boring jobs can get, a participant Daziestar says, “It’s that attitude of, work is supposed to suck that drives me to depression.”

Daziestar is not alone. Any of us — who spend at least 80,000 hours of our life working — can be depressed by the idea of not enjoying the job at hand. Even some of the students who make forced career choices end their lives for they feel trapped¹.

Most of us live from weekend to weekend squeezing in the things we like to do in the two days. Presentations, meetings, reports seem so tedious that we can’t wait to get back home at the end of the day. But then dawn comes, and we have to do it all over again. Greece vacations bring meaning to our lives, but post-vacation depressions are prolonged. 

During my corporate years, as the sun started setting on Sunday, I would become agitated and sad, as if I was struck by a tragedy. But Friday evenings were like Deepawali.  

Promotions, offsites, hefty bonuses come along with happiness but they are soon dispersed by more work responsibilities that we don’t enjoy — and not all of us are lazy or are trying to avoid work. 

We stay unsatisfied, and thus, unhappy. Some of us who are better compromisers and more determined push the possibility of joy from work out of sight and keep our head down for we think that is the only way. But inside we still feel unfulfilled and idealize famous and successful people or anyone who follows her passion. Even Kardashians seem like the lighting guides. 

The unhappiness with our work is also reflected in our performance. We rarely give our hundred percent, and thus never achieve extraordinary results. 

The disappointment from our profession spills over into our personal life. So our work, personal lives, and relationships — all suffer. 

The perception of the society that fun is insoluble in work and our manifestation of the belief leave most of us sad. We conclude that life isn’t fair.

But we don’t have to linger in the abysmal depths of boredom. At least those of us who have (good) education or the resolve to build desirable skills can look at the world from behind a cleaner glass.

What should you do if you find your work boring or want to follow a passion or don’t even know your passion?

 

How would you know what were you meant to do? How to find one’s passion and decide to follow it?

 

Following your passion is not a novel idea but it is still vastly ignored — because passion is hard to find and harder to pursue.

Finding what we might love to do is about understanding our interests and aligning them with our goals and purposes. So while cultivating an organic farm could be your thing, eating watermelon all day long or binging on Netflix are not passions but are just immediate gratifications that might be good for us temporarily but won’t keep us happy for long – to be happy and fulfilled we need to do or create something meaningful.

Your dream job lies somewhere between instant gratification and boredom. 

While only we know what we love or as someone said, only you can see your dreams, we should ask ourselves some questions to know if we are going after a one-time crush or would we be ready to walk down the aisle. 

Let’s be sure about our passions. 

Question 1: Are we misinterpreting our admiration for a glamorous field or a high-profile as our passion? Are we driven by money and prestige?

When we see celebrities, sportsmen, entrepreneurs, scientists, novelists, etc pursuing their dreams, we think that we ended up in the wrong profession and that we should have done something different to get more fun and fame. We could have been the Brad Pitts or the Stephen Kings.

But we might be wrongly assessing our admiration for money or fame as our passion.

Writers and poets are admirable but we need to figure out if we like writing(putting down words to paper until they make sense) or we only like the idea of us writing and being popular(our books on the library shelves and fanmail in the letterbox).

While prestige and money aren’t the worst things, they mostly come as the by-products of bigger goals.

A great way to answer this question is to see how much effort are you putting in to enhance your skills in the desired area and how consistent you are. Are you doing the thing?

 

Question 2: Are we influenced by others and pursuing their goals?

Social media and peer pressure can make us run behind others’ goals (the ultimate incentive here is also prestige but wrapped in Instagram likes, followers, and peer influence).

Most of the popular bakers, doodlers, YouTubers, bloggers, photographers, started practicing in their spare time and became successful. But when we look at these professionals, we want to know their ingredients for success. A famous Doodler’s follower asked her in an Instagram Ask Me Anything about the one thing one needs to become a doodler. She replied, “nothing.”

One day we see a Youtuber with 100k followers being invited to the California Youtube headquarters, and suddenly, we become an aspirant Youtuber with one video uploaded to our account.

It was hard for me to not do an MBA or MS— for most of the other students from my graduation batch applied for these programs because many others were going: a classic vicious circle of peer influence. I knew that those qualifications didn’t align with my goals or interests so I resisted.

We often end up doing or wanting to do something because someone else is doing it.

This is where we go wrong.

You can draw inspiration from another person but you can’t be at their destination. To reach your desired summit, you have to follow your goals and do the things you care about else you would be like the lost crowd running after Forrest Gump that didn’t know what to do when Tom Hanks stopped.

Ask yourself: Do I even like the thing? Would I do it without the 29,561 Instagram likes?

 

Question 3: If we like something, do we have the talent to pursue, or can we build the skills? Are you ready to fail?

Professions we admire could be hard to be pursued— because we generally dream about us doing larger than life or flashy things as compared to something monotonous or methodical.

Painting or other forms of art, writing, fashion designing, data science, modeling, journalism, teaching, acting, choreography, illustration, web design, poker — anything might catch your eye but a profession that can sustain you financially needs a few years of study, research, and foundational work unless you are a prodigy.

Even Beethoven’s finances weren’t steady in his times. One could be like Pablo Neruda publishing his poetry at fifteen, but most people shine after a long period of deliberate practice, or some might even say after 10,000 hours.

The only way to become good at something is to keep jumping over the obstacles until there are no more.

Ask yourself if you are ready to do what it takes. Can I practice the piano for five hours daily? Am I ready to build the people skills to become a partner at an investment firm? Can I cultivate a small land for a few years to first learn farming without yearning to scale?

Am I ready to fail until I don’t fail anymore? Answer honestly. Else just one Domino of an obstacle could crash into your cardboard dream of success.

Related Read: My struggle as a new writer

 

Questions 4: Would people be willing to pay you for that work?

Jobs in your field of choice might be inadequately compensated or rare. If you don’t make enough money, you wouldn’t be able to maintain your preferred lifestyle or even pay for bills, eventually getting frustrated.

But also remember that many of the fields that we know today — music, interior designing, philosophy — became paid professions when people started practicing them. If you can provide value to others, you will get paid.

Given everything, you might be financially unstable for at least a few years.

Are people ready to pay you? Are you ready to compromise on your living standards? Would you freelance? Can you save enough until you get paid well to do the work you love to do?

 

These questions are just guidelines.

It is difficult to say what gets us going. Even if we like something now, we might not like it later as human beings’ interests change over time2.

Knowing what you love to do doesn’t solve all problems either. Pursuing self-fulfillment doesn’t guarantee immediate job satisfaction, money, or lifestyle; the only guaranteed return of doing what you love to do is that you have fun at the job. But you might not even enjoy your passion now as it has become your work and you have to exist on it.

Take your time to make the right choice using both your head and heart. If you stay honest with yourself, you would be able to get the right answer.

 

How to pursue your passion?

You have four ways from here.

  1. Continue your regular job and practice what you like in your spare time.

Though this method seems challenging, it is a good test for your passion as you would only do something consistently — even when you are tired after a long day — if you enjoy it. Otherwise, a bad week at work would relocate you from the garage workshop to your comfortable couch with a beer in hand and Family Guy on the television.

With practice, you gain skills, you fail a hundred times, and even if you do one percent better every day, you would be 38 times better off in a year.

I won’t go into the details of destiny and circumstances, but persistence is an unstoppable force.

An obvious disadvantage of this method is that you might never push yourself to get so good at your passion that you get paid for it and thus you can never leave your job.

 

2. Choose a stream related to your area of interest and keep modifying your profile to do what you want to do

Computer engineers can become data scientists. A Technology profile might lead to product management. A data entry job can nudge towards a managerial role. Journalism opens up a path for fiction writing. A role in the textile industry might give way to fashion designing. Serving coffees on the trading floor doesn’t make you a trader but you have better chances of becoming one than you would have had if you were distributing newspapers.

A job in our desired field keeps us close to the prize and connects us with the right people.

But changing work profiles might be harder than we thought and take longer than we had planned. Most of us go to work, forget about our passion, maybe it wasn’t our calling, and live the rest of our lives doing what we thought we would never do.

Segregate the thing you like and the thing you are doing so that you know you need to switch.

 

3. Save enough and quit your job to practice your calling

Many of us save money and quit our job to do what we want to do. But when you quit you might not even like what you thought you would. Also, when your savings shield you from the daily toil, you may not strive to get good at the work.

One of my good friends earns six figures. His wife, who had taken a break, now finds it hard to pursue anything as she already has more than she needs. Her passions lie on the bookshelf catching dust. It is questionable if those are her passions or she has become lazy to even do something that she enjoys.

It can go both ways: you falter and relax and live on the savings while not creating the skills you want to. Or you use the time on hand to master what you enjoy.

This path is for the determined one as you wouldn’t have the urgency to make money with your skills.

 

4. You jump in the work of line without any security

 

You quit what you don’t like to do without any planning and do what you love.

You would be more confident while choosing this option if you have a solid qualification to fall back upon. I may not have left my banking job to write if I had a weak education, but freelancing and writing with the security of a great degree don’t seem so bad.

While pursuing any unconventional or unknown path you will face many challenges: battling fear and anxiety, overbearing doubtful nights, finding side jobs to pay bills, the constant itch to get better at your passion, a constant reprimand from the society and your family, adjusting your lifestyle, and so on.

You will have the strength to continue if you are in it for the right reasons. To keep the pressure off, freelance or pick up part-time work to pay bills. Otherwise, the stress will get to you before you can even test your passion.

Learn from your failures. Believe that learning will lead to the result. If things don’t work out, go back to your previous work, sort out your finances, and start afresh.

 

All in All

Knowing that work shouldn’t suck is the first step out of eternal misery. But finding something you can pursue is difficult. Once you have picked something, the journey of attaining the skills would definitely involve suffering. But don’t keep one foot on the ground while you try to swim. Believe. Set goals and create a path towards them.

 

a path towards nowehere in particular for work is not boring and find your passion and pursue it article

What if you don’t know what you want to do — When passion goes missing.

For some people, finding what they love and going after it works perfectly well. They assess their risks, they think about the ideas that bring them joy, they decide, they start over, and they put in the required time to lay down their dreams brick by brick. 

Fortunately, I am one of those people. Over the last ten years, I shifted from software engineering to debt market to culinary to investment banking to teaching English and, finally, to writing. My journey would look chaotic but I tried a lot of things before finalizing onto writing: it brings me joy, gives me meaning, helps me pay bills, and is the only thing that can make me sit on a desk for 15 hours at a stretch. And that means something. 

You can read about my transition from coding to writing here.

But finding-your-passion approach might not work for everyone. Most people are not passionate about anything and some like doing a lot of things: they can’t decide on one love. Some end up thinking of their hobbies as their passion, quit everything to pursue it, and repent later. And a majority of people love things that could never make promising professions. 

Finalizing on one passion and going after it would be inappropriate advice in these scenarios. 

But when we can’t find a passion, we can develop one. I will show you how in Part 2 of this essay. Stay tuned. 

 

Footnotes:

1. In 2014, amongst the 8032 student suicides, only 30 percent could be attributed to a failure in exams. The rest of the students killed themselves due to forced career choices, poor education systems, high cut-offs, etc. Read more here

2. In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling Upon Happiness, this idea has been researched extensively. You can see a short video here

3. I am thankful to Paul Graham for his essay Love that inspired me while I was preparing my own ideas on why work shouldn’t be boring. 

 

Do you think work can’t be fun? Do you love something, too? Tell me in the comments.

 

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