The Ethics of Doing What You Like

Now and then when I talk to people about their careers, there seems to be a strange undercurrent of guilt when they discuss having their ideal career.  They feel that what they truly want to do is useless, that it doesn't benefit people, or that they're being selfish.  I usually encounter this among artists or people interested in video games, but I see it everywhere.

In short, I meet people who think "Doing what I really enjoy doesn't make the world a better place, so I shouldn't do it." 

What they're really saying is "I should do something I hate and would be lousy at in order to attempt to make the world a better place."  It's a strange kind of moral argument.

It's also one I don't agree with at all.  In fact, I'd argue that doing what you truly enjoy and are good at is the ethical thing to do.

To do what you're truly good at is to be good at what you do.  You will deliver the best value, the highest quality, be it art, programming, video game design or more.  To do what you're skilled means that you will do a good job – which has it's own virtue.

To do what you truly like to do is to be honest with yourself, and to be focused and inspired.  To express your passions is to be motivated and driven, to achieve great things in your career of choice, and to be driven to improve and grow.

To do what you like to do and are good at is to mean you are a happier, more well-adjusted individual.  If you spend your days in misery, hating what you do, being bad at it, your actions and achievements will be diminished or nonexistent.  Even if you're hoping to save the world, you'll be lousy at it.

Not following your dreams and skills is to lie to yourself and end up doing a bad job at whatever it is you do.  It is to be miserable and unhappy, setting you on a course for failure, and ruining your good intentions.

Instead, the ultimate ethical quality of following your skills, inclinations, and dreams, is how you apply the things you love to do.  If you are concerned about ethics, find the best way to apply your inclinations, as opposed to deny them.  Do what you want and enjoy – in a way that meets your ethical interests and goals.

Better to navigate the issues of directing your true career vision toward an ethical vision than denying the former to fail at the latter.

– Steven Savage