Rethinking why you have a job will help you understand the importance of finding a job that you love

by Jeff Hilimire on February 3, 2014

I’ve written before with advice on making sure that your “job” is something that you love doing. Because, guess what, you’ll be doing a lot of it.

@felfoldi wrote an interesting counter-point to that concept, essentially pointing out – not incorrectly – that there’s a good chance if you try to do what you love that you’ll end up broke. I can’t argue too much with his points, if you’re goal is to only do what you love. But there’s a big difference between that and loving what you do and enjoying your life along the way.

For example, what do I love doing? Well, I love hanging out with my family. And I love traveling. If I took those two things and tried to make a business out of it, well, I’d probably starve. I suppose I could pitch a TV concept where I take my family and travel around the world? Yeah, I’m sure that would work.

The goal should be to find a way to have a job that you love. You may have to make less money, or you may have to rethink what will make you happy, but there’s a way for you to do this. And I realize there are people in situations where they have to take any job that they can take. However, if you are reading this blog then you are not likely one of those people. You have a computer or access to a computer, you have internet access, so you’re already in a position of choice.

I have a really good friend who spent the last six months searching for a job that would feel fulfill him. He was willing to wait in order to make sure he found a job that would be something he would love doing rather that a job that would simply pay him the most money.

My main message is that if you find a job that you love doing and let’s say you make 40k instead of 50k at that job, is the extra 10k that you’re sacrificing worth the overall happiness in your life? Isn’t that ultimately what you have money for, to make sure that you enjoy your life and have things and experiences that will bring you joy?

I’ll leave you with this story to hammer home the point:

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

  • David Felfoldi

    I’ve heard that story before and love it. It reminds me why I would sacrafice / invest my time, if the reward can already be realized without that sacrafice.

  • Stephanie Critchfield

    This is an interesting conversation, thank you for sharing, and for inviting a dialogue. I agree that not everyone can follow their passions into a career. At the root of this discussion, though, seems to be a question: “What is happiness?” I would suggest that it is our answer to that question that has become skewed. Over the last several years, and as our jobs have turned increasingly desk-bound, our level of success has started to be defined by how clean our clothes are, how many hours we work, what car we drive, and how big our paychecks are. Ok…I’m generalizing a bit. But, often, if even subconsciously, it is true. In fact, I believe this is something we fail to teach our kids — that you can be a happy and productive member of our society working in skilled labor, or a job otherwise deemed unfairly as degrading.

    There is a really fantastic TED talk that Mike Rowe did (the one from Dirty Jobs on Discovery Channel). In it, he talks about the many people has met doing the show — all of whom worked in skilled labor. He came to realize that they each were offering a valuable service, employing many people, possessed a great attitude, and were quite happy. In fact, all of them would likely describe themselves as successful.

    While I realize that you’re not making commentary on desk work vs skilled labor, his talk is worth the watch. He makes points that, even in our line of work, ring home. That maybe, just maybe, we’re creating an awfully tiny world in which we can be successful and happy. And, perhaps a few of us could stand to step back from our safe place, examine the world around us, and claim our happiness from less likely places.

    Here is the talk:

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Thanks for sharing that Ted talk, Steph. And I agree, the real question is, what makes you happy? Not successful, happy. You nailed it.

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