The Dark Side Of “Do What You Love” – Skills And Abilties

Tools Hammer Pliers

(Steve continues his dream-destroying exploration of why “Do What You Love” doesn’t address the darker truths of careers. Dive in for more sarcasm, dark insights, and asking how we can overcome these challenges)

So you want to “Do What You Love”, and perhaps you can overcome the circumstances of birth and surroundings and your own shortcomings. That’s pretty impressive because a lot of people don’t, don’t realize they haven’t, and wonder what happened. So, hey, good job.

Of course now you get to the point where you have to become able to do your dream job and follow your hopes. Guess what? You’re probably not ready because “Do What You Love” doesn’t mean anything for getting you actually capable to do the job.

In short, that little phrase doesn’t teach you squat. Here’s what’s wrong:

Your Basics Are Awful

Loving something doesn’t mean you have any ability to actually do the job. Odds are, compared to people out there now and people with the same dreams you are at best mediocre if not terrible at what you want to do.

You want to write but you’re not anywhere close to being on the level of successful authors. You want to code but you think “Python” is the sequel to “Anaconda.” You want to work in greentech but don’t even know the basics of solar.

You need to have some basics to even hope to get started.

Getting good at something takes a lot of factors; effort, education, training, focus, a supportive environment, and so on. Did you put i that effort? If not, you’re just dreaming (go back to the psychology section).

Oh and even if you have the basics . . .

The Basics Are A Part of It

That whole dream job ting, that “Do What You Love?” stuff? Doesn’t give you any guidance beyond the basics as well. Want to be a writer then write. Want to be an engineer, know engineering. Sure, that’s obvious.

What’s not obvious is that these basics are only part of what you’ll have to do to “Do What You Love?” Yes, I’ve covered that endlessly, and yes I’m doing it again.

The skills and things you associate with the dream job are a fraction of what you have to know how to do. I’ve met many programmers impacted by having no communication skills. I’ve met game programmers with no job search sills. Don’t even get me started on people’s basic understanding of economics (though that’s also something I write on)

Saying “Do What You Love” distracts from the fact that to do what you love requires a hell of a lot of other abilities and knowledge not even remotely related to “what you love.”

So even if you’re good at “What You Love” there’s a chance your incompetency in other, unrelated areas will crash your dreams.

Success Stories Are Distorted

OK, you know you want to “Do What You Love.” You may even get that you have to look to role models to learn – certainly I harp on that a lot. Hell, probably too much.

But the thing is success stories you read about are often distorted and unrepresentative.

See, remember you’re reading success stories. You’re not reading failure stories. You’re already reading a limited, self-selecting group of tales for inspiration, so there’s only so much you can get out of them because they are not representative of the population that wanted to pursue your dream job.

In some cases you may get nothing out of them as the people you read about are nothing like you.

In other cases as you’re not reading failure stories, they don’t prevent you from doing incredibly stupid career destroying things.

Worse, you may read enough success stories to think you know what you’re doing – and be wrong.

Sure, keep reading them, just remember what you’re reading and what inspires you may not teach you much.

Yeah I’m still gonna push it, but still.

There’s Not Much Guidance

Sure, we all have our dream jobs, we all want to “Do What We Love” An there’s books and guides and schools.

The thing is these are always wrong to some extent. Including me. Yes, even some of my advice is going to be incredibly wrong.

The guidance you find will differ because of:

  • Ages, so lessons that were applicable aren’t. What some of age 40 knows may not fit someone of age 20.
  • Changes. What works may work differently some time later. All that good advice can age poorly.
  • Is situational. It may not apply to you.
  • Costs money. Yes, you’d like to go to that particular school, but you can’t, so someone advising you to do so is wrong.
  • Has loads of bullshit. There are scam schools, fad books, and more that are out there to take your money and not help you.
  • Has fads. There’s a reason I think people recommend the same few career books, because they work in a sea of fads and tripe.

“Do What You Love” may sound like good advice, but there’s plenty of people ready to deceive you, and those giving good advice have to keep it fresh and current.

And some of it just won’t fit you.


There’s plenty of things to get in the way of you developing your skills to “Do What You Love” beyond your own personal problems. So take heart, the barriers that destroy your dreams may not entirely be your fault.

But if you’re facing own these educational challenges, I’d say:

  • The Basics – Get the basics now, study the basics, learn the basics, put them to use. You want to do this for a living, then get good, do it fast, do it often. It might be enough.
  • Beyond The Basics – Learn what your dream job really entails, and get all those skills. You have to learn and practice them like anything else. You have to get training, even if it’s from a book.
  • Success Stories – Look, keep reading success stories, but have a proper level skepticism. Maybe you can read lots of them to cull useful lessons. Also don’t discount obscure people or people who failed.
  • Lack Of Guidance – Find people and resources you can trust, and share them. Trust is one thing that, when built properly, might just help you out.

Sure your own personal issues an your circumstances can screw you over. “Do What you Love” seems distant. But with skills and knowledge you might over come some of it.

BUt it’s also a good reminder that everyone out here with a dream has lots of barriers.

And that’s not counting that where you live has repercussions . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at