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In Love and Work: The pros and cons of “following your heart”

Story  |  David C. Baker

How important is it to enjoy your work? This is a question that has long intrigued me. It comes up more frequently, too, as individual workers find it harder to find work at all—much less work that’s “enjoyable.” Even in a difficult economy, employees regularly switch jobs to work in a more satisfying environment. Employees are often told to “follow your heart…and the money will come.” Even aspiring entrepreneurs are encouraged to follow a path to fulfill a dream, to chase their hopes, and to attempt to “build it” and hope an audience will come.

I happen to enjoy my work—consulting, speaking and writing for firms since early 1994. I also love it when I talk to someone who enjoys his or her work. We should be quite grateful if we do, indeed, enjoy our work. But that’s different than having a right to enjoy it. Not only do I strongly disagree with the sentiment, I think believing it has twisted our expectations and those of our employees.

When giving professional advice, we often tell others to “follow their hearts.” This sentiment is not a little issue to me, because I believe the phrase itself is incredibly bad advice in the marketplace. Here’s why:

  1. A lot of people who are “following their hearts” are starving. It’s just true. Even pseudo-entrepreneurs who follow a system via a franchise are failing in droves.
  2. Just because you enjoy something doesn’t mean you’re good at making money while doing it. Say you love riding bicycles and spend much of your leisure time doing it or talking about it. What’s the relationship between that and starting a bicycle shop? The only relationship between the two is that you’ll be knowledgeable in ordering inventory and in speaking to customers. But it says nothing about your knowledge of handling money, maintaining a steady marketing presence, managing people, etc. Besides, it’s possible that you may no longer have time to ride bicycles.
  3. It discounts the luck that steers a business one way or another. I’ve been successful because I’m smart, disciplined, and very lucky. I was in the right place at the right time, and I’ll never discount that portion of my success. I’m incredibly grateful for it, and I know that without it I’d be somewhere else in life. All of us are a few stupid mistakes away from financial ruin.

Why does this matter? Your business exists for three reasons, in this order: to make money, to move the needle on behalf of clients, and to create a culture where people can thrive. If you can add a fourth criteria—to enjoy your work—more power to you. But be deeply grateful and not demanding about it.

In Love and Work: The pros and cons of “following your heart” in the workplace

This article appeared in FALL2013 Process Magazine

For the complete article, visit recourses.com/recourses-blog.

DavidBaker

Bio: David C. Baker is the owner of RockBench Publishing Corp., an independent publisher focused on traditional print and digital content. He also advises on marketing topics and trends through ReCourses Inc., a consulting company that works exclusively with the marketing industry. For information, visit recourses.com or follow David at twitter.com/recourses

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