Monday, June 24, 2013

The Separation Between Work and Passion (Or, "Why I Might Be Alright with Passionless Work")

I write about work a lot. Not necessarily whatever my job is at the time, but just working period. I read books about it, watch and listen to podcasts about it. I'm fascinated by the workplace mentality, politics, and outdated practices. We invest the most energy and time into work. Most of us spend most of our lives and most hours in our weeks co-mingling with colleagues, clients, and customers in order to fund our shelter and vices.

One of the prevailing theories about work is that if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Get paid for your passion.

The jury’s still out on this for me.

I’ve spent many an hour planning and dreaming and pursuing the holy grail of passion-filled work. And I’ve been fortunate on quite a few occasions to be paid for fulfilling and enjoyable projects. But there’s a shift that takes place when you’re engaged in that passion on your own time...and when someone’s paying you for it. With payment comes the double Ds -- deadlines and demands.

Employers, customers, clients, investors -- they want your services when and how they want them -- whether you’re feverish, bereaved, in love, hungover, bonding with your new baby, tending to an elderly parent, exhausted, honeymooning, nauseated, hungry, sleepy, entertaining out-of-town guests, or just plain out of it.

Everything I love to do becomes patently less desirable when I have to to do it. I love to read in the worst way. What if I was paid to read, but had to fit in three books a week? Way to kill the joy of reading.

Creatively, I’m more Sade than Beyonce. I ain’t crankin’ out albums every year. I like to take my time. Quality over quantity. So the concept of doing what I love, what I'm passionate about, at a 100 miles per hour, is as appealing as McDonald's french fries gone cold.

By no means am I some anti-job, wannabe gold diggin' bum; I’ve been working steadily since I was 15. I’m grateful for the position I have and positions I’ve held over the years. As one born without a silver spoon, I am accepting of the fact that work is a part of life just as menstrual cycles are a part of being a woman. You just find the best way to deal with it.

And so, maybe it's less about a dream job, and more about dream "working conditions." We all want to go work for Google (the company gets more than 2.5 million resumes a year) not because we're passionate about search engines and Android operating systems, but because employees can access sports, nap pods, treadmill desks, vegetable gardens, and a free cafeteria, among many awesome amenities.

A Google-style workplace is pretty hard to come by, though. But after being on the career path for a few years now, I've boiled down my ideal work environment to just four criteria (in no particular order):

Good leadership 
Good money
Likable job duties

All elements must be present. Let's explore.

Good leadership -  There are way more bosses than there are leaders in the workplace, and even when everything else is great, dysfunctional management can make your life a nightmare. You don't realize how significant this is right out of college.

Good money - This is where the passion debate fizzles out for me. I'm not trying to do what I love and be broke. I'm a creative that refuses the life of a starving artist. Money isn't everything, but it isn't nothing.

Flexibility - This is huge, and probably the hardest to come by. True flexibility means being allowed to be an adult -- which means handling your business in your own way. Truly, the model for flexibility is one that operates like an online class. Here's what needs to get done, and here's when you need to do it by. Who cares if it takes you 10 hours or 2 hours? If you sleep in or check out early? Show up at an office or grind it out at the coffee shop? As long as the work gets done, why dictate how it gets done?

Likable job duties - This is the catchall category that wraps up everything not included in the other three. If I dig it and I'm good at it, then doggone it, it's a likable job. One summer in college, I had a temp job, opening and sorting mail. Now, while this job didn't meet all my requirements, it was cool. I either chatted with my fellow temp or zoned out to music on my headphones while sorting work orders and invoices and sipping my coffee.


It comes down to the fact that I might be alright with the separation of work and passion. I'm not certain I want the poem in my heart to be shoved along so I can pay my light bill. And the next article I publish? Well, I'd like it to be inspired instead of tied to new tires.

Who knows? Maybe I just haven’t found the right marriage between work and passion. I'm still open to the possibilities.

Check these out too!
The Pursuit of Fabulousness
Sewing the Wild Bank Notes
Will Work for Character
Action or Inaction -- It's All Risky
Paradox. A Poem About Work.

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