It’s an interesting idea, doing what you love so that you never really work a day in your life.
But does it actually hold weight in real life? Is it good advice?
I suppose that depends on who you’re asking and what passions that person has. Maybe someone out there really loves just coding for 50 hours per week, so they’re in love if they’re coding full time, all year long, for years on end.
But I suspect a lot of people out there find it quite hard to realistically mesh passion and a full-time career – indeed, whenever people are directly asked whether they like or dislike their jobs, 70% to 80% of people say they either hate their jobs or are actively disengaged.
Similarly, it was my distaste for my prior career that motivated me to become financially free.
But no matter what number you try to put on it, most people don’t like what they do for a living.
And that’s a real shame when you consider that you’re going to spending most of your waking hours at your job.
So is the solution just to do what you love so that you never have to really work again?
I’m not so sure about that…
I’m Already Paid To Do What I Love
I love quite a few different things, reflecting a wide variety of passions, which I think is true for most people.
I enjoy writing. Reading. Investing. Exercising. Intimacy. Eating. Listening to music. Going for walks. Beaches. Urbanity. Spending time with animals. Philanthropy. Watching movies. Helping others reach their personal goals. Having long talks about a variety of subjects. Leisurely evenings where I just think. Stuff like that.
What’s great about financial freedom is that I’m essentially already “paid” to do any and all of this.
Financial freedom is basically being in a position where you’re paid just to exist, to wake up and go about your day. You do something. Get paid. Don’t do anything. Get paid. Sleep. Get paid.
And this is just my passive income.
On top of that, I also earn some income via this site, which is an incredible blessing. And I freelance write, too. Being paid to pursue my passion for writing is a gift.
I don’t have to wake up early, deal with traffic, clock in, fulfill quotas, dress a certain way, or deal with managers in order to collect a check. Instead, I can do pretty much whatever I want without concern about paying rent or eating, which is why I’m able to concentrate on higher-level needs.
I don’t need to worry about whether or not my passions would make for a good job. I’m already doing what I love but not working. I’m a “professional” reader, exerciser, movie watcher, and thinker… simultaneously. Doesn’t matter that these jobs might not actually exist – I don’t need them to. In effect, I’ve “created” my own customized occupation(s). And this customization can change any time, at will.
But What About Just Meshing Your Passion And Your Career?
However, is there a lot of value in being financially free?
What if we could just circumvent the whole process of saving and investing, skipping financial freedom altogether?
Why not just do what you love right out of the gate and make a career out of it?
Well, I think plenty of people set out to do that. I mean, I’ve never met anyone who started their career off with the idea that they were going to hate it and be miserable for the rest of their life. I don’t think that’s how it works.
But there are a few key points to be made here.
Does Anyone Have Their Entire Life Figured Out In Their Early 20s?
I know I certainly didn’t. And I’ve been candid about that.
I dropped out of college after my mother committed suicide and later blew through a modest inheritance before stumbling my way into the auto industry.
Now, I did give the whole thing some thought, or else I wouldn’t have ever went to college in the first place. But there weren’t really a lot of “jobs” I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. Nothing really excited me, and I was concerned that the few things that did excite me wouldn’t make me enough money to have the kind of life I thought I was supposed to have.
I did take a course for personal training in my early 20s, but I was concerned about the income prospects and competitive nature of the job. (Ironically, I’m thinking of becoming a personal trainer once again, now that I can do it more or less on my terms, without concern about the money or anything else.)
According to research conducted by accounting firm AAT, people start to feel trapped by their career in their mid-30s, partly because of a lack of foresight. Many people do what they do for the money, even if it’s not a real passion.
Hmm, doing what I love or having a roof over my head? Tough choice…
Of course, I think many people end up chasing consumerism, which puts them in this position in the first place.
Sometimes you do end up pursuing your passion, but other priorities often become a bigger (and sometimes unforeseen) draw later in life. Building a family and having a home can take up a lot of someone’s energy and time, to the point where a career and ambition kind of gets put on the back burner. Before you know it, the passion you felt for paralegal work is displaced by a passion for raising a family.
And what if you just plain fall out of love with your career? Maybe being a police officer sounded like a great way to clean up your local community, but you become jaded by the bureaucracy (or insert problems here) over the years. Maybe working third shift no longer appeals to you. Maybe you don’t want to risk your life any longer now that you’re getting up there in years. Maybe you’re just bored of it after 10 years of the same thing.
People change over time. We grow. Our goals, ideas, desires, and perspectives change.
I know I’m not the same person I was back when I was just starting out in my career. I’m a totally different guy now.
But a career might not change with you, unfortunately. It’s still usually the same repetitive tasks that were there when you were younger. I could have continued being a service advisor, but I know my days would be filled with the same exact tasks as they were five years ago.
Anything is possible along the way. One might get sick and not be able to work for an extended period of time. Almost by definition, taking on a career is an attempt to plan your life out for decades in advance, but we just don’t know what’s going to happen and change in the interim.
The value of financial independence is that you’re able to spend time on new priorities if the career isn’t fulfilling you as much as it did when you were younger. You’re able to be a professional “stay-at-home parent” or “home-keeper-upper” (or whatever) without worrying about how the bills are going to get paid. Or you can move over to a totally different career path without being worried about pay cuts or how long the cross-training might take. You can take an extended period of time off, or quit altogether, at will.
What If You Love Your Job But Your Job Doesn’t Love You?
This is an issue that people don’t think about until a crisis hits.
The recent Great Recession is a great example of how expendable employees really are.
I was let go from a car dealership back in 2009. Of course, working in the auto industry just outside Metro Detroit is pretty much being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we all know plenty of people were suddenly unemployed when the economy took a dive – and many people still haven’t fully recovered.
So you might love your job but will your job always love you? And if it stops loving you one day, will you be able to just hop and skip right over into something else?
The value of financial independence is that you’re able to cover your bills indefinitely in case your job stops loving you. You can take your time finding the next job (if you still want to work) rather than just jumping on the next thing that will give you a paycheck, or you can just take some serious time off to do… whatever. Travel. Spend time with family. Read those books you always wanted to. Binge on movies for a few months.
You’re flexible when you’re financially free. There’s no script you have to follow.
What If What You Love Isn’t Easily Monetized?
This is an issue that’s easy to overlook with vague advice like just doing what you love so that you never truly work.
What if what you love isn’t a real job? Or what if you can’t monetize your passion?
For instance, what if you love playing basketball but aren’t good enough to make a living at it?
What if you, like me, enjoy spending upwards of five hours per day simply reading?
I’ll spend hours in any given day reading about subjects as varied as park funding across various cities, changes in global alternative energy, a new product/service that a company I own a slice of just came out with, infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia, studies on happiness, public transportation research, and financial statements (10-Q/10-K). These are just examples. I could write an entire article simply covering what I read in one day.
How easy would it be for me to convince someone to pay me good money to do that? To just read what I want for hours on end?
You can see where I’m going here.
The value of financial independence is that you’re able to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want – without concern about finances. So you can do what you want and never work a day in your life but bypass the whole pesky task of figuring out how to get paid for it. Have a passion that isn’t easy to monetize? Doesn’t matter. You can do it for you without worrying about the financial aspect of it.
A Career’s Schedule Isn’t Always Compatible With Your Schedule
This is perhaps the biggest problem of all, for me personally.
While I may still some day down the road attempt to become a personal trainer, it’s only one of my top post-career career ideas because of the inherent flexibility regarding the work schedule. You can be independent, training your clients either in the morning or afternoon in their home or at another site. Or you can work for a gym, part time or full time, training their clients. But it’s definitely not a 9-5 kind of thing. Many clients are working full time, meaning the training is occurring outside normal work hours.
Most careers, however, are not so flexible.
You’re usually looking at starting early in the morning and working until late in the afternoon, every workday. 40 hours or more per week. 50 weeks per year. For decades.
All I can say to that is yikes!
Look, I love writing. I have a real passion for it, or else I wouldn’t be writing this article.
But would I want to start writing at 7:30 in the morning and continue until 5:00 in the evening, with a lunch break in the middle? Would I want to then repeat that five days per week, 50 weeks per year, for the next 30 years of my life?
And would I then want to be held to some kind of writing quota, where I have to fulfill a certain predetermined quantity and quality of content by certain dates? A quota that’s designed by someone else, to their standards?
Would I want to abide by this schedule even knowing that I’m not at peak energy and creativity for four or so hours straight at a time, that my mind instead has bursts of creativity and my body bursts of energy that are best used in the moment, after which I rest?
There’s nothing in this world – I repeat, nothing – that I want to do that much. Period. Not hours and hours every day for years and years of my life. And definitely not on that kind of schedule.
I like waking up at about 10:30 in the morning. And I like going to bed in the late evening (early morning, technically). I’m much more creative between about midnight and 2:00 a.m. than I am at any other part of the day. Not having to abide by an agrarian and/or religious schedule (clearly defined workweeks and weekends where work is started early in the morning) is one of the best things about financial independence, and it’s something that I find improves my happiness and success.
The value of financial independence is that you’re able to create your own schedule and then go about doing work (or not doing work) based on that schedule, as opportunities allow. In fact, you’re able to create your own opportunities that work around a schedule that’s designed to allow you to routinely harness results at peak creativity and energy. You can work part time… or even totally change your direction if/when thing get stale.
So What’s The Answer?
I don’t believe there’s ever a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, all of the time. That includes the concept of work.
But I think there are generally three broad paths that one has to choose from:
- Do that which you love but also pays enough so that you minimize how much you feel like you’re “working”. But still continue to climb Mt. Freedom by maintaining a very high savings rate and investing that excess capital into high-quality income-producing assets (like dividend growth stocks, funds, or rental properties). See above reasoning. You’ll be free to take a leap once you’ve got a good chunk of your expenses covered, if you need to.
- Do whatever pays the most but is still reasonably acceptable in regards to your happiness and work/life balance, if you can’t figure out what you want to do or you don’t think your passions will pay. Simultaneously march toward financial freedom so that you can tell the boss to shove it right about the time you can’t take it anymore. You’ll be financially free at a young age and now able to pursue your passions with reckless abandon. Or you’ll be close enough to financial independence to make it work.
- Become an entrepreneur right out of the gate. This is the most difficult but potentially most rewarding path of all. One should still concurrently pursue financial freedom for all of the aforementioned reasons. Keep in mind, too, that one can become an entrepreneur after they become financially free… or at any other point along the way.
I personally picked option #2, then kind of migrated toward option #3 later in in my career. You can blur the lines between these options like, say, building a business in your spare time while simultaneously working a day job that pays you an attractive income – all while saving and investing. That’s what I did. But what you do is up to you.
I also want to quickly note that I’m not saying this is all binary: do what you love or make money. If you can make the first path work, that’s great. I just think it’s naive to believe that everyone out there can do what they love and never actually work a day in their life. There’s certainly a spectrum of enjoyment there, along with a spectrum of income. One should simply aim to operate at the most advantageous positions possible along both spectra.
The good news, however, is that financial independence allows you to live at the extreme end of the enjoyment spectrum, while simultaneously not worrying about money any more. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.
I find a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to be insightful:
Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do and learn to love what must be done.
I believe we should always aim to do what we love. But we should also find maximum value in what we must do. I never loved my job more than when I realized it was the fuel for the fire that would eventually allow my escape. Taking advantage of what must be done by using it to achieve financial freedom sure makes it easier to learn to love it.
If you can really go out and do what you love, get paid lots of money, never have to worry about your job not loving you back, have a great work/life balance, not have to deal with much workplace drama, work on a schedule that happens to coincide with your peak energy and creativity, and figure it all out at 22 years old, more power to you.
But I don’t think that’s how life really works for most of us.
It’s easy to say just go do what you love so that you never work a day in your life, but life is really much more messy and complicated than that. Situations change. We change.
We grow, learn, and (should) become better versions of ourselves every day. As such, there’s a good chance that someone outgrows what they’re doing, or simply develops bigger priorities or interests. You might find that what you loved at 25 isn’t fun at 40.
Moreover, you might discover that you don’t love doing anything 40 or 50 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for 30 or more years of your life. Or you might find that what you love isn’t something an employer is willing to pay you to do. We don’t always get to do what we love. Let’s be honest.
But if you’re not flexible, you lack choices. You’ll have to work for the money, whether you like it or not.
This is all exactly why financial freedom is still so valuable, even if you follow the advice of doing what you love.
Finally, I figured out long ago that you can rearrange the words “career” and “work” to come up with “a wreck”.
While it doesn’t have to be that way, it can be. And that’s all the more reason to be flexible. Don’t be a wreck.
What do you think? Do you believe in the advice of doing what you love so that you never work a day in your life? Why or why not? Do you still think financial freedom has a lot of value, even if you end up successfully meshing passion and work? Are you interested in doing what you love without worrying about money? Check out my coaching service.
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Mr-Vector7 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.