The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers. — Miya Tokumitsu, Slate.com
It’s no secret that I like to tout the “do what you love, love what you do” mantra around CoSchedule. It is part of our DNA, and it hangs in our front window display.
But, as you might assume, this is offensive to some people (isn’t everything?). Over the years, I have never been directly attacked for the mantra, but I see the occasional article like the one quoted above by Miya Tokumitsu. They say DWYL doesn’t work. They say that it is narcissistic. They say that it can’t be done.
I have some thoughts on that…
Before founding my first company I worked in a job that I didn’t love. I hated it, in fact. I hated it for five years. Looking back, I can see that it was a useful experience, but more than anything it made me realize that the DWYL mantra doesn’t just show up on your doorstep. You have to go out and find it. Sometimes, you have to make it for yourself.
In 2008 I finally understood something about work–more specifically, job security. So often we believe that our job security is tied to the company that we work for. We tend to like “big stable companies” that promise mediocre coffee and free health coverage until the end of time. We believe that this sort of thing is “safe.” And while it might be, it has nothing to do with our job security.
Job security isn’t the company that you work for. It’s the skills and abilities that you put to work for them. You are your own job security.
In 2008, rather than waiting for DWYL to come to me, I starting going towards it. I began building my skills and abilities at night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. It was an unbelievable grind, and I still can’t believe that I survived. But doing that changed everything. As I became more confident in my skills, it became even more clear to me that I would never be able to use them at my current job. I realized that I had nothing to lose. I could make a salary doing something I didn’t like anywhere I wanted. It was time for a change.
To me, the DWYL mantra isn’t about finding a job where everything is sunshine and fun. There are less-than-desirable tasks in every role. And, of course, there is always the balance between doing what you love and doing something that people are willing to pay for. We can’t all sit at home and watch television for a living.
For me, DWYL is about a personal decision, a decision to not settle for doing less than “what I was made to do.” Seth Godin calls it giving ourselves permission. Permission to pursue what we love, and permission to fail while doing so. In essence, the journey itself becomes the reward.
This is valid, but it isn’t for everyone.
Some of us will never give ourselves permission to do what we love.
Some of us will choose to take the “high road” instead and just do something that has good benefits. That’s OK, too. We need all kinds to make the world go around.
When I see articles like the one mentioned above I see someone who doesn’t get it. They’ve gotten mad. Bitter, perhaps. That’s too bad, and there are a few assumptions about DWYL that I want to address.
Doing what you love isn’t about finding a job that anyone could love.
In a Twitter conversation, someone once asked me how I felt about the janitor that is stuck cleaning toilets. “How can they be doing what they love,” they asked. I think the answer is two-fold.
- Don’t assume that someone can’t love their job no matter how undesirable it may sound. You never know. Serving others can be a passion, and you can do THAT just about anywhere.
- Maybe DWYL isn’t for everyone, and it will pass some of us by. It is a choice after all.
Doing what you love doesn’t make you a narcissist.
For some, it may be, but by and large, I don’t think narcissism is the driving force behind the DWYL mantra. I see it more as an exclusive club–a lucky few that have finally given themselves permission to do something more with their gifts and abilities. It’s a mindset and those who understand it do what they love. Those who don’t, wonder.
Doing what you love doesn’t mean you’ll love everything.
I do what I love every day, but there are still things that are a part of my job that don’t qualify. I’m fine with that. Life is never sun and rainbows all of the time.
Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily require payment.
The ultimate goal for a DWYL’er is to get paid to do something that they love, but that doesn’t have to be the only goal. I began doing what I loved on nights and weekends, and for quite a while it was enough for me. Later, it became the catalyst for payment, but it wasn’t something that happened right away.
Doing what you love is a choice.
Doing what you love is a part job, and part attitude. It is a choice you make each and every day. You can’t DWYL unless you’ve made the choice to get it done.
So… maybe give it a try? The choice is yours after all.
This post was originally published on Medium.com, March of 2014.