I am fortunate. For the past 9 years I have run my own business, helping people by speaking around the world and writing about new marketing strategies. It's so amazing to me that I can earn my income by doing what I love.
I'm a huge live music fan. I learned a great deal about doing what you love by watching musicians on stage as they "work." I'm often struck by how many are so darned happy! The pure joy on their faces is infectious, making its way into the crowd so that the entire audience is smiling with them. Just last night I caught Amy Black's gig at the Lizard Lounge in Boston. She lives for the stage. What fun to watch her work!
Yes, I am a live music geek. I have a database where I keep a record of each live show I've seen, starting with the first two gigs I caught as a teenager in May 1976: The Ramones at New Canaan High School(!) and Aerosmith with Ted Nugent at Madison Square Garden. I've seen some epic shows: Bob Marley's last concert, Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, Frank Zappa on Halloween, The Clash, Muddy Waters, Talking Heads, and many more.
For a long time, I assumed I couldn't have the same joy as musicians in my own work life because for 10 years I was stuck in large corporations, and for me that was not fulfilling. I saw this enormous gulf between my working life and the enjoyment I witnessed on stage. So as a direct result of being sacked, I made a change. And I've never looked back.
The music business has helped me shape my own writing and speaking business in so many ways. I learned to create tons of content. Besides the books and this column, I blog and do videos and interact on social networks. Free content drives paid content and the fan base drives bookings, especially those lucrative corporate gigs. For example, I took an idea from the Beastie Boys and Radiohead and made a crowdsourced video of a speech earlier this year, then took it further by layering a few hundred live tweets on top. This video, which serves to help me get bookings around the world, came directly from ideas I found in the music world.
It's sad when I encounter people who don't enjoy their work. There are so many interesting things going on that they could be doing! Like me, they could turn what they love into a career.
We are taught as children that work and play are opposing forces in nature. This is incorrect-it is absolutely possible that your work can be like play! As the old saying goes, if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.
Consider Heth and Jed Weinstein. For the past 6 years, the brothers have been on a worldwide, never-ending tour as a rock duo. They've met millions of people, played more than 1,000 shows (mostly busking), and sold more than 45,000 CDs. And they've done it all without ever leaving New York City.
After many years of fruitlessly chasing a record deal with the established music industry gatekeepers, Heth and Jed cast off the safety of their soundproof, $40-an-hour rehearsal room to take a chance on playing the concrete canyons of Manhattan. The music was embraced by millions of stressed-out commuters, and the duo inadvertently found the career they had been searching for all along.
Heth and Jed do what they love. Watch one of their videos and you'll see for yourself. They even recently released a memoir called Buskers: The On-the-Streets, In-the-Trains, Off-the-Grid Memoir of Two New York City Street Musicians.
People often end up in jobs they're not passionate about because they're living someone else's dream-their mother-in-law's, their competitive sister's, their classmate's. It is much easier to succeed at your passion than it is to fulfill others' dreams. You're much more likely to do great work if you're doing what you love.
Not only does doing what you love increase your odds of success, it dramatically increases your happiness too. You spend more than 50% of your waking adult life working, so you might as well do what you love! As with a baker, the love and care you put into your product will show in the end.