This is a book excerpt from One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do by Phil Cooke. Thomas Nelson ©2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. www.thomasnelson.com.
The argument against pursuing your passion for a living
Some people – artists in particular – actually frown upon trying to connect their passion to their daily, paid work. The theory is you shouldn’t mix your art and work because it dilutes both (especially early in the process). For instance, some recommend that if you’re a writer dreaming of becoming a novelist, don’t get a day job as an advertising or technical writer. The belief is that at the end of the day you’ll come home worn out from writing all day and the last thing you’ll want to do is work on your novel.
This line of thinking maintains the goal is to do something as far from your dream as possible. After flipping burgers or selling insurance all day, you’ll come home sick of a normal job and dive into your real passion. An artist who dreams of a career as a serious portrait painter shouldn’t get a day job as a graphic designer for the same reason.
I think there’s some truth to this idea, but it’s really a question of the individual person and situation. I’ve personally worked with numerous TV commercial directors who started out with the dream of directing feature films. But they started to like the money and awards of a commercial career, so they eventually put their feature film plans permanently on the shelf. Right or wrong, it’s something they have to decide for themselves.
I also know incredibly talented artists who neglected their art while moving up the ladder as graphic designers in the advertising industry. They became so focused on winning awards and impressing clients in the ad business, they had little time or energy left at the end of the day to create the art they dreamed of.
On the other hand, many talented artists mix the two, and become internationally known as award-winning graphic, product, or industrial designers. A perfect example is Yves Béhar, an industrial designer who in 1999 founded fuseproject, a San Francisco-based design and branding agency. Béhar poured his artistic gifts into making a global impact designing products and communication strategies that have won numerous international awards. He feels that his design work for corporate clients is his real art, and pours every inch of his formidable talent into each project.
Whether producing corporate videos inspires you to keep working on a feature film, or writing greeting cards by day inspires your novel by night – that’s something only you can decide. Or you can mix them both to become an award-winning commercial director, graphic designer, ghostwriter, or consultant. You’re the only person who can decide what works for you.
Perhaps most important, a deep love for your work can get you through the failures, the difficulties, and the times when you’re ready to give up. That’s what happened when Steve Jobs was fired from Apple Computer, the company he co-founded in 1984. Here’s the way he described it in the address he gave to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford University:
“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And 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. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
Steve Jobs faced plenty of obstacles over the years, including being driven out of the very company he co-founded. He could have easily given up and walked away. You and I face challenges on a regular basis that make us wonder if it’s time to pack it up and forget about the dream. But the power of the dream keeps pulling us back. It’s something we love – something we can’t live without.
Don’t tell my agent or publisher, but if I had to, I’d write for free. Writing my blog has saved me thousands on therapy; writing my books has helped me work through some of the most difficult questions I’ve ever faced. It’s what keeps me coming back to the keyboard. Find what you love, and it will make a powerful difference during the struggle of your daily living.