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Should your passion be your vocation?

January 19th, 2006 by Bob Bly

I’ve always advocated that loving your work is the key to being happy and successful.

My good friend, CM, doesn’t agree. He says, “Do whatever will make you a lot of money, and then you’ll have the money to indulge your passions.”

My problem is that if you don’t love your work, you’ll spend 40 to 60 hours a week doing something that bores you — to me, a miserable existence.

A recent article in the Daily News says that “people who are happy with their jobs are 4 times more likely to be happy with their lives” … a fact that supports my position.

The article also notes that 65% of those surveyed by are dissatisfied with their jobs at least part of the time. Yikes!

How about you?

Do you work to live … or, like me, live to work?

Do you love your job … or just tolerate it to make money?


This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2006 at 11:40 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

31 responses about “Should your passion be your vocation?”

  1. Eric von Rothkirch said:


    I work in the video game people where most of the people employed are passionate about their jobs. Passion is not all peaches N’ cream though when you suffer a loss of control. Imagine anywhere from 20-120 creative people, with the majority of those people have zero power or control over what they create or how they create it.

    Passion can quickly turn to discontent, bitterness, or even hatred.

    Having a job you’re passionate about would only be a net positive if you have some degree of control. Otherwise you’re just going through the motions and punching a clock like everyone else.

    Maybe freedom & control are more important than passion?

  2. Mark Lewin said:

    Hi Bob,

    Like you, I’m a full-time writer and, like you, I’m in this business because I love to write.

    However, any activity, no matter how much you love it can become a chore when you rely upon it for a living. Same with writing. Some days I get fascinating assignments to write about. On other days I have to discipline myself to write for an hour on something that I’m not finding particularly interesting (a technical brochure for a carrot-polishing machine springs to mind) and then reward myself with an hour on a book I’m writing.

    I would say that there’s a world of difference in writing for a living compared to writing for pleasure. However, it’s far from being perfect (at least at my stage in the game!) But I wouldn’t (and, I truly believe, *couldn’t*) do anything else.

    Great to hear that you’re still loving it after all these years. Your enthusiasm is contagious (and reminds me a little of the late Asimov’s enthusiasm for the craft too).

  3. Danny said:

    Ideally, do work you are passionate about for a company that inspires you. Hard to find both, but when you do work just doesn’t feel like work.

    (By the same token, I’ve also had a job I hated for a company I despised. There work was like being trapped in hell, even though the money was exceptional)

  4. Willy said:

    Sometimes love my job, sometimes just tolerate it. I work for a corporation. I moved through different departments due to restructurings and promotions. Some stints were very boring, and salary was not great. I love my current position, although it has some minor drawbacks that I consider inherent in corporations – lack of control and no direct compensation for delivering exceptional results.

    I definitely agree with findings – It is better to have a job you are passionate about, than one you hate. I have tolerated bad jobs for the paycheck, or some other benefit like tution reimbursement, until I could find something better.

  5. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob: The answer is yes… and no.

    If I were independently wealthy, I would still be writing all day (and night!). But I would make all the choices of what to write and who to write for.

  6. Pete Wright said:

    Oh, Bob. That’s a big question.

    I’m with a wonderful organization that’s just changed directions in a radical manner and for the first time, I’ve started rethinking just this question. If the organization, the job, is no longer what you signed up for in the first place, just how long do you owe it to yourself and the company to stick around?

    If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do tonight? For me? I’d write more. I’d be home with my family. I’d watch my daughters grow. I’d work with more video and develop my skill as a production professional. I’d do it from the home office and I’d shed the workaday posturing fraud that runs rampant in middle management ranks such as mine. I’d find the sweet spot and sleep better knowing I’m in it.

    I’m coming to a point in my life where I think I’ve realized that it’s impossible to have *enough* money to fund happiness. Examination in my case prooves at the same time that I don’t actually *want* everything that money could buy.

    It’s all in the process, I guess. Good question, though. And thanks for the blog.


  7. Rich Westerfield said:

    Jerry Della Famina was an early idol of mine so I wanted to be a Mad Ave. copywriter out of school, or so I thought until I found entry level agency jobs paid all of $7000/year back in 1980. And I didn’t feel like sharing a 650/sf studio in the Lower East Side with a roommate… so I guess I didn’t want it THAT bad.

    I was on a DM track for a few years, then in trade shows. I didn’t find what I loved until I was 43. And I was blessed with a perfect job for two years until 9/11 temporarily eliminated the market for our product. So it was back to DM and shows.

    Question is, who really knows what they love until they’re partway down the path of life. Priorities change, desires change, work environments change.

    I think the answer is somewhere in the middle – have a goal, keep building your network of contacts in your ‘ideal’ field regardless what you’re currently doing, save enough money so that when you have the opportunity you can step back to an entry or midlevel position in what you really want to do if that’s what it takes for happiness.

    Or one could take up yoga and just convince yourself you’re content where you’re at…

  8. Marc Gunn, Bard said:

    When I had my day job, I was miserable. I got sick at work just about every other week. It was terrible.

    Six months ago I quit my job. Now I’m sitting in a coffee house in Austin, Texas continuing my business education. I am a full-time musician and online marketer. I work at my leisure. It’s required some adjustment learning to manage my time, but I am much much happier than I ever was.

    I agree. It is well-worth it to make your passion your vocation. The rewards are boundless.

    Slainte! 🙂

  9. Dianna Huff said:

    This type of question is difficult to answer. Some people are very good at singlemindly pursuing money in jobs they aren’t passionate about. Others need to find a purpose in their jobs . . . even if the jobs don’t pay well.

    People who can combine money and passion are fortunate indeed.

    I also agree with Rich. No matter what you do, save your money so that when your circumstances do change — or when you “come into yourself” at age 45 — you have the financial wherewithal to follow your dreams.

    Dianna Huff

  10. Richard Fouts said:

    I couldn’t imagine doing something I don’t feel passionate about for 40 to 60 hours a week. How I spend my day is where I get my rewards. Why not get as much ‘feel good’ time as you can?

  11. Rob Swanson said:

    I think the key is to OWN a business that is your passion. I write full time for a living for a pretty good company. I also freelance articles, ghostwriting and copy on the side. In essence it’s the same job, but despite my freelancing being after hours when I’m already drained, I love the freelancing much more. I’m hoping to make the switch to full-time freelance this year (suck-up moment: I’ve got all of Bob Bly’s books, which have done more for my freelance success than college, or years of experience. Thank you!).

    I’ve also worked jobs that tangentally touch a passion (or at least an enjoyment). For example, I managed a comic book distributorship for years. I didn’t get to write them, just sort and sell them, and despite the company being less than stellar, I loved it. Partially the customers (who were all wonderful) and partially the graphic stories that have always enchanted me.

    Honestly, though, the only job I ever hated was when I was a Costco greeter (a betweener job that really blew). Everything else was enjoyable because there were new things to learn.

  12. steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate said:

    If your Passion, inner motivation, insatiable curiosity, about a so and so subject is Hot Enough, it will eventually bring you fortune and book deals. Let’s hope. But I think perseverence is key, and Deming’s idea of continual improvement.

    I quoted a wonderful statement you made in your book of 1991 ‘Selling Your Services: Proven Strategies for Getting Clients to Hire You (or Your Firm)’, in a recent Blog Core Values post “Exo-blog promo: be an expert” is the title.

    Make money by publishing a book of aphorisms by you. Like the quote I put in my post. Those gems, from all your many books, each topic under a different chapter division…way cool. Okay? Email me. I want your best quote on blogs for my new book.

  13. Ben said:

    How about *starting a business* based on your passion? I say if you’re passionate about painting, don’t start a portrait-painting business. Sell paint brushes or something.

  14. Taryn Jaramillo said:

    As someone who recently released herself from the prison she called full-time employment after a five-year self-imposed term, I say do what you love or lose what you love. I almost lost sight of myself and what I really wanted to do with my life and how I want to live my life because I allowed responsibilities to completely overtake my passions, I only thought of tommorow when I should have thought of today and I undervalued my experience, talent and intuition. I have no idea where I’m headed professionally, but I do know where I’m not going. For the first time in my life, I will trust myself and my instincts; I have no doubt that I will find my path and create the life I feel I deserve which means I will do only that which satisfies my needs as I define them professionally and financially.

  15. Direct Response Works said:

    […] These are the questions raised as I read Bob Bly’s post titled Should your passion be your vocation? I’ve always advocated that loving your work is the key to being happy and successful. […]

  16. Judith said:

    Should your passion be your vocation? To me, anything other than that is a waste of time and talent. Since I got laid off from a job I hated (it made me so sick I had to go on disability – that’s when they laid me off) I’ve concluded that if it’s not my passion I’d rather be poor and unemployed.

    But as other writers have suggested, making a business out of your passion is definitely an alternative. I’m pursuing that path myself and although I am yet to earn substantially from it, I find that I sleep well at nights and I am in the best of health!

    Those who continue in a disgusting job just for the money will probably one day realise that making the money is really what their passion is.

  17. Rob Palmer said:

    Freelance copywriting is a very rewarding way to earn a living – I can’t imagine doing anything else now. It’s very interesting, and profitable, too.

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