October 23

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The 3 Stages of Doing What You Love: Which One Are You At?

You've probably heard that you should do what you love and you will never work a day in your life, the money will follow, yada yada yada.

Well, let me tell you: that's not true!

Exhibit A*

Myself, right now:

I love what I do. Most of the time. And yet, after just finishing my intense 30-day writing challenge, the last thing I want to do is write anything. Even this blog post. (I still love you, though!)

* Yes, I used to be a lawyer... what gave it away?

Exhibit B**

A redditor shared this story of a young man who decided he wanted to be a great writer.

He declared: "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!"

He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages.

** Yes, I still used to be a lawyer. But hey, it beats writing error messages for Microsoft, right?

(Yeah, the second example was just a joke but it still shows that you should be careful what you wish for.)

Having helped tons of people do work they love (that doesn't involve writing error messages for Microsoft...), it occurred to me that there are different stages to getting paid for your passion:

The 3 stages of doing work you love: 

Stage 1: you would like to do what you love but you don't know what your passion is        

Stage 2: you started doing what you love but you're not yet getting paid for it

Stage 3: you are doing what you love... and yet there are challenges along the way

Well, I guess there's also Stage 4 ("Happily ever after") but I personally think "happily ever after" is more of a fairy tale, so let's explore the other ones in more detail. 

I also give a roadmap for getting to Stage 3 in the final lesson of my FREE mini-course on doing what you love:

FREE Do What You Love Mini-Course

Join Now!


Stage 1

Stage 1: you would like to do what you love but you don't know what your passion is

In that stage, your priority is to discover your passion. Let's explore the common challenges to that:

Challenge 1: not knowing what your passion is

Often, the best way to find your passion is by changing the question. (Newsflash: "What the hell should I do with my life?" is not a helpful question. The same is, ironically, true for asking directly about your passion.) 

Here's how I described it previously:

"While 'follow your passion' can seem like elusive advice, many people find it easier to answer related questions, such as:

  • What excites you?
  • What makes you feel alive?
  • What energizes you?"

Challenge 2: having too many interests and passions

Another problem many people encounter in stage 1 is not that they don't know their passion, it's that they have too many and can't decide between them.

If that's the case for you, commit to something that I call "serial monogamy with your passion" and explore one passion for 2-4 weeks.

Here's what I previously advised:

"When people continue to think about their passions and interests without taking external actions, at some point it turns into a mental loop (which feels very uncomfortable)...

The way to break that mental loop is by taking external action to deliberately explore what you’re passionate about, one interest at a time."

3 Weeks to Start Your Passion Business

If you want more help with finding and living your passion, I have an entire course about it.


Stage 2

Stage 2: you started doing what you love but you're not yet getting paid for it

In that stage, your priority is to find a way to get paid for doing what you love. Let's explore some of the common challenges that can stop you in that stage. 

Challenge 1: running into the money-or-meaning dilemma

This dilemma is very common in our culture. As I've described it previously:

"It is based on the societal belief that we can only have money or meaning in our lives. 

... according to this belief system, people have the choice between two bad options —to either ignore their desire to do the work they really love to do, or to sacrifice their need for financial security."


The key to moving beyond that dilemma is to refuse to believe in it. You are not choosing money OR meaning. You are choosing AND: 

(That's supposed to be a "plus" sign, not a cross or national flag component.)

Choose money AND meaning. Passion AND profit. External success AND internal fulfillment.

Alright, that's a huge shift that goes beyond societal conditioning. How do you get there? 

Well, start by looking for people who get paid for doing what they love. 

When you find someone who does, don't downplay it. Don't say: "Well, it works for them but it wouldn't work for me." Instead, explore how they made it happen.

Don't fall into jealousy, either. Their example shows you that it's also possible for you to do what you love. 

Challenge 2: not charging for doing the things you love to do

Another thing that can hold you back in Stage 2 is not taking the appropriate action to start getting paid (perhaps because you don't think you should be paid for doing things you love to do?). 

Here's how I described it previously:

"Ultimately, there's only one way to find out if you can monetize your passion project: give people a way to pay you and see if they respond.

Over time, you also want to try out different ways to monetize your passion. If the first one doesn't work, perhaps it just wasn't the right one."

If you want more help with marketing and monetizing what you do, I have a very affordable masterclass about it.


Stage 3

Stage 3: you are doing what you love... and yet there are challenges along the way

In that stage, your priority is to make work fun again (or keep it that way). To do that, you have to resolve some challenges.

Perhaps you're overworked and want to have more free time. Or you might like to try out something new. Maybe you need to redefine your work.

Let's explore the common challenges in this phase:

Challenge 1: being overworked keeps you from loving your work

From time to time, I find myself in a place where I don't like the work I'm doing (which I find a bit embarrassing, given that I've branded myself as the "Work You Love Coach." 

Almost always when I feel that way about my work, it's because I have too much going on. As I described in a previous article, here's what has helped me with that:

"The most important thing I did to fall back in love with my work was to stop overworking.

Concretely, I gave myself a set time to stop working each day. I only allowed myself to work longer if I either had to meet a deadline or if this was to accommodate an individual or a group who otherwise couldn’t talk to me (such as a client or a webinar).

I also stopped doing things that weren’t supportive of my business...

The results of working less? I was more productive and increased my income (presumably because I focused on the things that actually made a difference in my business)."

Challenge 2: needing to redefine your work

Solving challenges might also just be a matter of redefining your work. For instance, if you work with customers, here's one way of redefining your relationship with them in a way that makes work more meaningful:

"Stop saying that the customer is king. Kings have most of their needs fulfilled. But B2C is all about how we can help people meet their unfulfilled needs.

That's why I see my clients as something else entirely: I see them as the hero in the story.

As a passionate entrepreneur, you're not the bored court advisor to a tired monarch... you're Merlin who helps a young Arthur come into his own."

If you want help in resolving ongoing challenges along the way, my coaching services might be a good fit for you.


What stage are you at on your journey to having work you love?

Hopefully, this article has dispelled some illusions and myths about doing what you love. While it might take you some time to get there, it's definitely worth it.

After all, as Craig Ferguson so accurately put it: 

"I found out it is just as hard to make a movie that you are not proud of as it is to make one you love." ― Craig Ferguson (@CraigyFerg)

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Alright, over to you: where are you at on your journey? Leave me a comment below; I'd love to hear from you!

Additional resources

Especially if you are in Stage 1 or 2, I also recommend this free mini-course: 

FREE Do What You Love Mini-Course

Join Now!


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