Abstract Factory Blog

Doing What You Love

05 Sep 2013

This post is about working for others versus working for yourself.

Being employed means doing someone else’s bidding. If that bidding aligns with your dreams then congratulations – you’re one of a lucky few.

I’m sitting here watching one of my co-workers, let’s call him Jeff, in a desk-meeting over a project he dislikes. And yet Jeff is stuck doing it. And has been for a few months now and for the months to come.

The cost? Luster. Motivation. That twinkle in his eye. Manifesting themselves as backache, being generally rude and in drowning ones boredom in music.

But why?

If it were up to me, I’d always work on my wildest fantasies (oh yeah) and yet throughout my entire career I’ve only had brief run-ins with it (not the way you think). Why?

Ultimately, you might say, work is for survival. For money. And there’s the rub. To survive and dream at the same time there has to be compromise and working for someone else is that compromise.

So how do you get the upper hand?

This particular project is commissioned by doctors in an attempt to visualize the heart. It’s anatomy and function.

Jeff has no interest in human anatomy. So you might ask, why did he agree to do it? Well here’s yet another rub. Jeff is employed.

When you’re employed and get assigned a task, you can either like it or don’t. Do it or quit. Your function at a company is not to follow your heart (no pun intended) but to execute what you signed up for. To fulfill your duties. And your duties was most likely not related to satisfying your need for accomplishment.

I keep seeing the same thing. Having freelanced exclusively since the start of my career I keep bumping into the full-timers who never get to do what they want. They’re grey. They’re dull.

You might think

“Aha! Freelancing is the answer!”

Not exactly. The compromise is still there. Rather than being given assignments you don’t like, you have to hunt for them. Hunting is very much like being given something by chance. Unless you’re rich, you’ll eventually have to give in to one of the options you’ve got laid out in-front of you, thus making yourself do things you aren’t particularly fascinated by.

What’s the solution then?

One way is to lower your expectations. Expect life to suck and consider every job a blessing. However, an opposite and better way is:

Get good

Given that you are sufficiently motivated (read “skilled”), throwing a bigger net over potential projects gets you a larger smörgåsbord from which to stumble across something that matches your desire more closely.

Ultimately, you want to do what you love and have people pay you for it. The trick is finding someone who will and not get RSI in the process.

The people paying you, by the way, doesn’t have to be a client or the accountant at your office. Ever thought about that?