Do What You Love

Do What You Love

By Jay Leonardi

Posted on April 25th, 2017 at 2:00 PM

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Just do what you love and the money will come.” It’s a great thought, but is it true for most people?

The level of its truthfulness is based on what you love more than how much you love it. If you love computer programming, that love will almost certainly translate into money, perhaps a lot of money.

The key differentiator is the nature of the work. If the work can be learned or otherwise mastered by an average person, it’s likely that the money will come. In comparison, if the career is based on extreme talent, physically superiority, unique ability, physical beauty, or other variations of “winning the genetic lottery,” then it is far less likely that the money will come.

Learning to do what you love

If you ask people to describe the type of work that they love, the answers will be extremely diverse. For some, careers allowing creativity and personal expression will rank high. Examples might include author, composer, advertising executive, or speech writer, and the good news is that all those careers are possible for the average person.

But, let’s be clear. Possible does not mean certain. The level of competition for some of those career choices will be quite high, but with enough effort, drive and determination, your dream career just might emerge.

Other people might say that they love analysis or science or organizational skills. Examples could include scientist, engineer, statistician or computer programmer. Again, these professions can be learned or mastered with enough effort; therefore, they qualify as careers where you get to “Do what you love.”

Talents that can be learned

Certain skills, knowledge and behaviors can be acquired with effort and discipline. These could include communication, analysis, computers, customer interaction, engineering, mathematics, problem solving, research, sales, and writing, among others. If you have a love that falls into one of these areas, you are advised to pursue it with a passion and the money will almost certainly come.

Talents that cannot easily be learned

Other skills are less able to be acquired through effort. These could include creativity, performance, and comprehension. Most people have some level of natural creativity, and it can certainly be honed by study and learned techniques, but creativity at its highest level is innate. Performance is another skill that can be developed, especially in terms of a skill, such as playing a musical instrument. Remember that practice makes perfect. But this isn’t the case with vocal performance. Study and technique will help, but the talent must be present naturally for success to occur. If you want to sing like Luciano Pavarotti, you must be born with the talent, it cannot be learned, ever.

Winning the Genetic Lottery

Most people are born with their own unique set of “gifts,” but having an innate ability that places you in the top few percentiles of any skill is obviously rare. Being able to recognize the level of talent you possess in a certain area is an important element in choosing a career. For example, most children, by about the age of three or four, can be taught to sing a song, bounce a basketball, or draw a picture. Many of these children will develop a high level of talent in these activities by the time they are in high school. They may sing on the school stage, play on the school basketball team, or get an “A” in Advanced Art.

That means they are on their way to a career as a rock star, an NBA player, or the next Dali, right? Tragically, almost certainly not. While it’s true that a few very special individuals will win those coveted careers, the clear majority will not.

We often hear about the five-foot-ten, second-string high school basketball player who still dreams of playing pro. He knows there is a chance if he just shows enough drive and determination. And he’s right, there is a chance, just not much of one. Here are the statistics: Millions of young men will play high school basketball. Of those, only 3% will play NCAA basketball in college. Yes, that means 97% of those high school stars will be benched forever. But wait, if you make it into that 3% you have it made, right? You’re going to the big show! Well, actually, no. Of those 3% who play in college, only 1.2% will go on to the pros. That means 0.03% of high school players will achieve their dream of the NBA.

Evaluating Your “Do what you love” Career Options

In determining your chances of doing what you love, it’s important to evaluate three factors:

  • Factor 1: Innate Ability: These are the intrinsic, inborn gifts received through biology. We’ve described these as “Winning the Genetic Lottery.” These can include the top 1 – 2% of size, strength, speed, beauty, talent, and especially, a very high IQ.
  • Factor 2: Acquired Ability: These are the extrinsic skills and behaviors that can be learned through effort. These could take the form of education, practice or preparation.
  • Factor 3: Intangibles: These are the behaviors that you demonstrate on a personal level that make a difference within factors one and two. Intangibles are behaviors such as drive, ambition, effort, tenacity, self-discipline, personality, and temperament.

Let’s apply these factors to a hypothetical situation. We’ll assume for a moment that we could assign a score to each person’s innate abilities, acquired abilities and intangibles, and that success requires achieving a score of 100 points in each area. Let’s try an example.

Hypothetical Scenario: Internet Billionaire

Required factors for success:
  • Innate: IQ of 140 or above.
  • Acquired: Technical abilities in the top 1%.
  • Intangibles: Drive, vision, leadership, risk-taking, creativity.

Example person: Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Estimated IQ: 152. Score: 100%.
  • Technical ability: Began coding in middle school. Was called “a prodigy” by his tutor. Score 100%.
  • Intangibles: Drive, vision, risk-taking, creativity. Score 100%.
  • Result: Created Facebook.

Example person: Above average college graduate.
  • Estimated IQ: 115. Score 50%.
  • Technical ability: Bachelor’s degree in computer science. Score 75%.
  • Intangible: Drive, effort, personality. Score 75%.
  • Result: Works at Facebook.

As you explore your career options, look closely at doing what you love. In many situations, depending on the level of the dream, you may have the unique set of factors that can make that dream a reality. But, be aware that some dreams require factors out of your control. Once you have a list of career possibilities, evaluate each against a realistic appraisal of your own innate abilities, acquired abilities and intangibles. If you score well in each factor, do what you love!

We hope you enjoyed this JobQuiz article! To learn more about your future career, be sure to take our Career Test. It takes about 12 minutes, evaluates hundreds of career possibilities, and allows you to discover your perfect career.

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