The Dark Side Of Do What You Love: Roundup

Let’s take a look at the dark side of that bit of advice “Do What You Love?”

  • The Introduction – What’s this all about?
  • Your Situation – Your situation probably is messing up your dreams as is.
  • Psychology – You could well be your own worst enemy.
  • Skills And Abilities – What you need, what you don’t have, and worse, what you don’t know.
  • Breaking In – Knowing what you’re doing doesn’t mean you’ll get into the career you want.
  • The Job – Even if you get the job it won’t be what you expect.
  • The Change – Things will change on you even if you get what you want.
  • When It Works – But there is a reason to take “Do What You Love” to heart . . .

– 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


Do What You Love: When It Works


And so here we are, at the end of a multicolumn, multiweek rant on why the idea of “Do What You Love” ends up confusing us, distracting us, and screwing us over. Special thanks to Rowan Atkinson, Dave Barry, and Dennis Leary for your inspirations in being sarcastic.

So at the end of it all, let’s face it “Do What You Love” has become a trite, distracting, and in many cases elitist phrase. Yet, despite my criticisms, why haven’t I suggested abandoning it? Why do I use it, albeit cautiously? Why don’t I just say “screw it?”

Because there is something to it.

The problem is the value of saying “Do What You Love” has been lost. Maybe we never knew what it was very well, so I’m going to spell it out.

This is the part where I talk about what matters in “Do What You Love.” Here’s why, sometimes, it is good advice – because if we know when it’s useful, we can make it work without turning it into a problem.

It Makes You Think

First of all, advising people to “do what they love” can and should make people ask what they value and they love. What are they good at, what do they care about, what matters?

If someone gets the answer right away, the answer is probably (but not always) wrong. The value in this statement “Do What You Love” is to make people think.

My personal story here is that I never realized until I became a Project Manager of what my loves meant. Oh I had some ideas, inklings, half-baked ideas. But really I’m a person who Makes Things Happen. Arranger, fixer, coder, manager. I just never had good words for it.

So use this question to make you think.

It Makes You Consider What’s Important

Here’s the tricky thing – doing what you love also involves figuring out what’s important.

Maybe what you love is getting out of a bad situation and working your way up – so you have to take jobs and even do a profession you hate. Maybe you do that for two, three, five, or ten years.

Maybe what you love involves changing the world. So you have to consider what you’ll give up to work for charity, join the ministry, get a difficult degree. Maybe do do some things you love you have to give up others.

It makes you ask what you really love.

It Should Encourage The Next Stage

So when you say “Do What You Love” the next question when people find what they care about is to ask “What’s The Next Stage?”

So, fine, you want to find what to do with your life. You want a career beneficial financially and psychologically. Then you have to figure how to make it pay the bills.

See if this is so important, you have to figure how you’re going to make a living at it. This is where a lot of dreams fall apart.

When your dream doesn’t fall apart when you ask what’s going to put your bank account together, then you’re getting there.

It’s A Beacon

And here’s the big one. The real big one.

When you “Do What You Love” you have a goal. There’s things you care about and want to achieve. Really thinking about this, really considering it helps you set an idea of an end goal.

And that operates as your beacon, your guiding star, to getting there.

Just having a dream of a dream job can be nothing more than mental masturbation. It’s that creative visualization B.S. we hear about – well you can visualize it, but that’s at best imagining an end state. It’s when you navigate towards it that you succeed.

Thinking about doing what you love means finding the place to go.

Me, as I go into my late 40’s my goal is to have a great career so I can teach people, and to help do more for the geek community. That boils down into assorted goals and actions – and this essay is one of those actions.

It Tells You What To Give Up

And here’s the hard part – sometimes you have to give things up. Doing what you love also means asking what doesn’t fit in that picture. Once you know what belongs – you know what doesn’t.

Maybe you have to move. Maybe you can’t get that degree. Maybe you give up dating for a year while you work at a startup. Maybe some things aren’t in the picture.

When you can look at doing what you love and know what you have to give up, then you’ve really got it going.


Finally, it can be a driver.

This is also powerful. When we care, really care, we’re motivated. When we are really motivated we work hard. Sometimes we work hard even though we’re awful at things, and then get better at it.

Knowing what you love lets you know why you’re motivated. Indeed it lets you be motivated.


“Do What You Love” is valuable – as long as we get beyond the B.S. and use it as a call to understand ourselves and our goals and our situations. It’s best when it helps us get real.

So, I’m not ready to give up on it.

But as noted, I am ready to call out how it’s misused. Let’s forget namby-pamby fluffy advice. Let’s use “Do What you Love” to take a hard look at what’s important, to get deep, get motivated, and get real.

Dreams are best, at times, when they become reality. Reality has hard, but oh-so-real edges.

– 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

The Dark Side Of “Do What You Love” – The Change

butterfly transformation waiting

(We’re winding down our dark look at why “Do What You Love” doesn’t tell you much about the career world, and in some cases deceives you. Steve continues to look at how “doing what you love” might just cover up painful truths. OK probably does.)

Facing various odds you have lived the dream. You overcame all the challenges and are now doing your dream job. You are “Doing What You Love”

I actually want to pause in the sarcastic tone of this series to seriously congratulate you. It’s commendable. In fact, I feel we don’t compliment people enough on the fact that they manage to live good dreams and make them real. Come to think of it I don’t.

So congratulations. Please, seriously, share your secrets with people.

OK, now with that said, it’s time to flip on the side of me that thinks “Blackadder” plays too nice. Let’s talk about how your “Dream Job” and the “Do What You Love” attitude ignores something else- jobs change because you change and have to change.

You’ll Grow Out Of It

Chances are no matter how much you love your Dream Job, no matter how good you are, no matter how much you think you’ll do it forever, you won’t. At some point you will go “this is not for me.”

I experienced this once, years ago, so vividly I remember it. I was in a hotel, trying to enjoy a convention, troubleshooting an IT problem for a friend. It didn’t even involve work. I was then relaxing by reading an article on IT careers, and truly asked “is this all there is?”

I realized then, I wasn’t going to say an Engineer forever.

You’ll have this too. Someday you’ll have to pick a new Dream Job as the current one isn’t for you. In a few cases you’ll just want the hell out . . .

You Will Get Sick Of It

Or maybe you like what you do but have grown to hate the Dream Job.

Not everything is what it seems. After awhile you’ll realize the pig you see every day can only handle so much lipstick. After awhile, the job may be the same, but you can’t put up with the flaws.

Or maybe after awhile it’s just gotten boring. Maybe you love what you do, maybe you don’t want to change, but you need a different job.

You have your Dream Job but the Dream isn’t that interesting.

You Don’t Have A Growth Strategy

Focusing on getting and doing your dream job can distract you from deciding how you want your career to progress. Like it or not you’ve got to change with the times, if not actually get better.

People get a might suspicious if someone does the same things for a decade and seems to be the same person with no promotions, no skill gains, nothing.

In fact, to be worse you may hate your job or need a change only because you’re stagnant. The Dream Job may be fine, but you’re the problem.

You Don’t Have A Strategy for the Future

So how does this all end?

You got the Dream Job but howa re you going to move on to another position? How are you going to retire? What are you going to do next?

Where do you go if things go south (which will happen at some point)?

Where does it end? What happens when you just are tired of working.

People need a strategy for exit, progress, or at least maintenance so they know what they’re doing and can plan accordingly. We need a sense of progress or at least stability to direct our energies and stay sane. It also keeps the money flowing in.

The Dream Job Is great. But nothing is forever, everything changes, so what’s next?


So here, at the end of all things, how do we cope with the fact we have the Dream Job but face inevitable changes.

  • Growing Out Of It – Will happen. You can make it conscious and always seek to grow and evolve and stay aware.
  • Getting Tired Of The Job – Also happens. What you can do is keep your options open, stay aware, try to improve, and make connections. Also keep up with those recruiters that big you
  • Having No Growth Strategy – Get a growth strategy. Keep learning – and know what you’re learning. Get certifications. Get degrees. Fill that portfolio. If you can answer “How will I grow professionally in the next three years,” you’re good.
  • Having No Future Strategy – Do retirement planning or get a retirement planner depending on your inclinations. Plan out your career goals and be willing to adapt and evolve. Make a plan – yes it may fail, but at least you have a baseline.

Maybe dreams are best when they grow, like we do.
– 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