“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Harold R. McAlindon
I’m not one of those people who can do things just for the money. I used to be. I tried this approach for years and always ended up feeling half empty.
I’ve got nothing against making money, in fact, it’s the best measurement of value there is. But I’ve found that it’s no longer possible for me to pursue money for it’s own sake.
Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m not in touch with reality, let me put your mind at ease. I’ve tried many times to do things just for the money. It’s just never really worked out for me over the long haul.
I’ve worked at boring jobs for years. I’ve hopped from one job to another hoping to find a better situation and something that I could be more excited about.
I’ve joined startups hoping to get rich from stock options. But those things never worked out. I never chanced upon a job that dropped millions in my lap.
Why I’ve never been able to do something like that, I don’t really know. And at this point, I’ve given up caring.
Here’s what I do know.
I have this affliction where I actually have to care about my work or I just won’t last long. It’s always been that way and I don’t think it’s something I’m able to change. It’s just how I’m wired. And over the years, I’ve come to realize that my inability to do things “just for the money” (for any extended period of time) is actually a constraint I should embrace. These days, it’s slowly becoming a non-negotiable part of my life.
My goal is to make a living doing what I love and to help 1,000 other people do the same thing.
Sadly, I can’t guarantee that if you do what you love, the money will follow. I wish that were always true. To be truthful, doing what you love doesn’t always lead to riches…at least not right away.
My wife is a yoga teacher and she loves teaching yoga more than anything in the world. But you don’t make a lot of money teaching yoga classes for other people.
But you start with what you love and then there’s always other doors that open up. Other ideas to pursue. And other opportunities that await.
After my wife started teaching yoga, she began leading yoga retreats and then creating her own yoga programs for other teachers. She found new ways to add more value and create more income doing what she loves.
Now she’s at the point where she’s getting paid to make a difference.
My point is that I don’t think you should do what you love thinking the money will follow right away. I think you should do what you love because why would you spend your life doing anything else?
And once you get really good at offering the work you love, people will show up. And when they do, you will offer value and people will happily pay you for it.
It really is as simple as that.
What about being rational?
Coming at life from such an “idealistic” point of view immediately triggers the rational reflex for most people. That’s the feeling we’ve all been trained to use to reinforce our story about what is and what is not possible. It keeps us in line. It keeps us under control.
“I can’t just go doing what I love…” we say. “I have a family to support…” “I have obligations…” “I can’t just do that…”
These are all valid and rational responses to the idea of making a living doing what you love.
And it’s your choice whether or not you want to allow your life to be governed by these thoughts.
The fact is, in 90 years, no one reading this article will be here. 90 years is a blip. It’s going to be over before you blink. That means that everything matters and nothing matters all at the same time.
Sit for a moment and see how your brain comes to terms with an idea like that. It’s not something that’s meant for your brain, it’s an idea that’s directed right at your soul.
We have been making “rational” choices about our livelihood our entire lives. But when you are taking your last breath, do you want to have regrets for the adventures you never took? Or do you want a sense of peace knowing that you gave everything you had?
We often endure decades of misery in pursuit of making a living in the way we’ve been told to do it. I can certainly relate to this.
We have been brainwashed into believing that we are “caught” and cannot escape. Little do we know that our walls are of our own making. Little do we know, we hold the key to unlock the door that blocks us.
Something needs to change. And that something begins with you. It begins with your choices about how you are going to live your life.
It begins with your decision to walk towards the dreams and ambitions you have for yourself. This isn’t a journey you start in order to reach fulfillment. It’s a journey you start because pursuing your dreams is something worthy of your life energy.
Why most people do things they don’t want to do.
We humans think we’re pretty evolved but history has shown we’re not too many steps removed from the animal kingdom. Once the luxuries of modern life are stripped away, our similarity to animals becomes very clear, very quickly. Just take away the necessities and see how long it takes for people to start behaving like animals.
But there’s one trait that animals don’t display that we “evolved” humans do. Animals won’t ever pursue an activity they don’t feel is in their own best interest.
And they certainly wouldn’t do it 8 hours a day… for years and years.
But we humans do this all the time. We do it for many reasons. We do it because we’re told to do it. We do it because we’re worried about what others might think of us if we didn’t. We do it because we don’t know any better. We do it because we don’t believe in ourselves. We do it because we’re scared of the alternatives.
And that’s why, on any given morning, millions of people in this world trudge off to spend their days doing things they hate with people they can’t stand. We spend a large percentage of our lives practicing things we have no interest in being good at.
And when we eventually do become good at those things, we have to search for something to fill the void that our “right work” is meant to fill.
“But what would I do to make a living? What else could I do?”
I used to think that I had to have answers to those questions in order to move forward. I searched long and hard for those answers, but they never came like I wanted. I wanted complete answers… but all I ever got was a spark. One spark here… another spark there.
These days, I realize that the journey to joy begins not with my ability to answer questions but my ability to ask questions and then take a single step.
Do something you care deeply about.
For me, my answers began to appear only after I was willing to let go of finding the perfect idea and just DO something I cared deeply about.
I started this simple blog because it’s the only thing I could think of to start doing.
Then I started coaching a few people on how they could move forward because it was that next thing I could think of to start doing.
Now I’m in the process of building a web show where I will interview accomplished entrepreneurs because it’s the current thing that I can think of doing.
The answers are in the doing. That’s the secret I’ve discovered. It’s taking that next step, however small and insignificant it may seem. Taking the next step is powerful because it always informs you of the next step to take.
While making a living doing what you love will have it’s own set of challenges, I believe it’s the most rewarding path we can take.
For years, going to my job became the easy thing to do, until I couldn’t stand the thought of doing it. Then it became the hard thing to do. All of a sudden it felt empty. Years of doing the work that someone else ordered me to do, and for what?
It’s only after I began my journey to make a living doing something I loved that I truly began to feel completely alive. It’s one of the best challenges I’ve faced. It requires a great amount of planning and persistence to become an entrepreneur but it’s also the richest and most rewarding thing that I’ve done in a very long time. And I’m just getting started.
I think that pursuing the challenge of making a living by doing what you love is a direct route to a life well lived. And given how brief the time we’re all given is, I don’t think there’s a more worthy destination than that.
P.S. Tell me one small step that you are planning to take towards making a living doing what you love. I would really love to hear about it.
It takes a lot of courage to pursue the unknown. When I was doing work that I didn’t care about (pretty much every job that I ever had), I could only take 3 or 4 years of it before I felt like a caged animal – miserable and unhappy. Then I would make an exit for whatever job I could find, usually as quickly as I could. The thought of endlessly bouncing from position to position, or from job to job every 3 years for the rest of my life was hugely depressing to me.
Yet, something happened inside that made me cry out “ENOUGH!” I’m not exactly sure what it was, maybe it was just getting older, but I decided that unless I took action, I would continue to make excuses to myself for the rest of my life. There are thousands of reasons why you shouldn’t take the chance, and you never stop being afraid of those reasons. You can choose not to listen to them though.
I guess the simplest way I can say it is that if your life isn’t quite what you want it to be, you need to change it, because it won’t change on its own. You need to start yesterday, and plug away at it night and day. It won’t happen fast, but you will figure out how to make it work eventually. The only other alternative is to do nothing, and continue doing what’s not already working out for you… Good luck with that I say!
Love this, Johnny! Thanks for having the balls to speak the raw truth. It’s refreshing and real. There comes a time when enough is enough and almost everyone has a breaking point where we realize that we can continue to make excuses or we can make change happen NOW!
I appreciate you sharing your perspective here.
This is a very well-crafted piece. When I realized how long it is, I went looking for your other posts, and I discovered that you are consistent. When you tackle an idea, you probe deeply and shine light on every facet. I applaud the depth and quality of your work. I do wonder if all your active seekers will stick with you to the end of each post. Just a thought.
Also, I suppose the absence of dates on your posts is intentional. I only wondered because I was trying to figure out how often you post. I concluded that you do it weekly. The nature of your posts makes me think that is a good schedule. I just hope your seekers do stay with you all the way, because they will miss something good if they drop out early.
Katherine – Thanks for stopping by and visiting! I write a new post once per week on average so they tend to be more detailed. Thanks for your kind comments. The most important thing for me is writing in my own style and voice. I’ve never really surveyed my audience to see if they read the entire post or not. That’s a good idea though. I started with this very basic blog format and will be launching a new site and new brand in the coming 2-3 weeks.
Thanks for your insights and support. I appreciate it.
Thank you for this great post, Michael! I can completely feel you, and I love your new ambition “My goal is to make a living doing what I love and to help 1,000 other people do the same thing.” I know you are on the right track. Good luck with your current projects!
I’m recently left a corporate job myself and have founded a new company to do work I love by creating mobile apps. So far so good. The money needs to follow but I am making more than small steps daily 🙂
Hi Jo. Thanks for stopping by and taking a look! Great to have you here. We have something in common since you have recently left a corporate job to pursue your own company. Exciting times!
Here’s to your continued success with your mobile apps business. It sounds like you’re off to a great start. Just keep the momentum going and don’t hesitate to drop by for a chat or to share something inspiring about the progress of your business.
All the best to you!
This reminds me of the studies that I was told about while in college where people end up making more money by pursuing what they love rather than studying something that they think will make them lots of money. I can relate to this article. It is most certainly those steps that you take on the path that help you get to where you want to be and it isn’t about the money. I get more satisfaction from helping someone and making their life better than from monetary gains. Numbers don’t move me. Helping does.
I absolutely love this – “I think you should do what you love because why would you spend your life doing anything else?” So true!! I don’t understand why anyone would continue to sacrifice and be unhappy. There are other solutions in life. I find sometimes it is hard to believe that everything will work out, but I have witnessed and personally experienced many examples where situations worked out just fine.
One step I am doing now is creating keep it equal with blog posts and quotes and soon a free e-book while working part time and not making as much money as I would like.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Khrystle. Faith and trust are such a big part of being a successful entrepreneur. We must have faith in our ability to succeed and trust that we have the strength to keep going and know that everything will work out.
Congratulations on your blog and e-book. Building an audience is such a key part of having a successful online business and this is an important step that takes time. It’s smart to start it on the side while you still have another source of income.
Please continue to share your journey and let me know how I can help in any way.
Love this man and couldn’t agree with you more. This definitely resonated with me 100%. For me, doing what I love was at first, just trying to find a way to be make money for myself and get out of my day job (which feels more like a prison). I wanted to work from home, have enough money to not have to worry about how I would make the next payment, be able to give my daughter better opportunities.
It took some time…some life lessons…some self growth, etc. but I finally started to care about different things as well. I saw just how closed my eyes had been. I was taught to follow the rules, color in the lines, do things because, “that’s just the way it is”. It’s all lies.
I wanted to do something that made a difference in the world. I wanted to do something that made my life matter. I was tired of not really living and of walking through life with my head down. I knew other people had to be tired of it as well. So, I took action on my ideas instead of just day dreaming.
I figure if I can make a difference, help people in some way, and help my family believe that there still is hope for a better world and a better life out there by doing what I love full time, then I don’t care how long it takes to make it happen, I’m doing it. The other options are just too scary to live through. I can handle my “day job” I no longer can stand as long as I’m following my dreams. I can’t handle just going with the norm, knowing that the norm will never change.
One small step at a time indeed. It’s a journey for sure! I’m just enjoying the ride 🙂
Thanks for your comments Justin. Isn’t it great when the fog clears and you realize that you can create your own reality, no matter what everyone else does? I can vividly remember heading out on a business trip one morning at the airport, seeing all the people that looked like zombies in a trance, just going through life for that next pay check. It actually scared me and I felt a surge of adrenalin shoot through my veins. I knew I had to make a change.
I believe that one of the greatest art forms in the world is the ability to create a sustainable business offering something you love. Some will dismiss this as ‘pie in the sky’ thinking but to me it’s the most real thing there is.
Congratulations on taking action on your ideas and moving forward one step at a time. You are making a difference by taking a stand and designing your life. That takes courage and resolve. And you’re right, what are the other options?
So great to hear from you and know that we are on similar paths.
I’m also not a person who can work at a job that I hate, just for the money. I have had a wide variety of job experiences, though, from paper carrier to school bus driver to minister, and including all kinds of temporary jobs and retail positions. I actually lasted 8 years at delivering newspapers in the wee hours of the morning, because most of the time I enjoyed it. It was like getting paid to exercise and talk to people, but at some point the amount of disrespect from the company got to me, and I finally made my break.
Ministry is my true calling, and I’ve loved it when I’ve been able to work. Now that I have a diagnosis of narcolepsy, and haven’t figured out a way to function in the morning, I’ve decided to start my own congregation, and make it completely accessible to all kinds of people who have similar issues. It’s so difficult that I keep considering going back to the paper, but I know in my heart that this time I really will stick with my calling.
Susan – I absolutely love that you are following your true calling! This makes me smile really big! 🙂 It sounds like you are taking your situation and making the absolute most of it while following your heart and inspiring others at the same time. Stick with it and let your heart guide you. There will be challenging times but there will also be the reward of doing work that you are meant to be doing.
This is something I can relate to 100% Michael! I too cannot have money be my main motivator, it leaves me feeling empty and depressed. A little over a year ago I quit my well paying job in the corporate world to pursue my passion as a fashion designer. The last year has seen me juggling a part time job with pursuing my design dreams of starting my own business. I’m not there yet on the money end of things but I can tell you I’m about 1000 times happier now leading a life that lights me up every day. All the money in the world can’t do that.
Since I quit my job I’ve also discovered new passion areas, I’m now growing a community of creative people from around the world with my website and I’ve just started studying a masters degree in sustainability which is something I genuinely care about and interests me greatly. Once you start following your true passions one thing just leads to the next 🙂
I love your story, Michaela! Anyone that follows their desire, especially when it involves letting go of a well paying job, is a hero in my eyes. It can be such an emotional roller coaster to follow your heart when the majority of our culture is so focused on the short term goal of making money without regard for doing work that makes us happy.
And now look at you! All kinds of new and exciting passions are emerging. You are an inspiration. Keep at it and I am looking forward to hearing how things evolve for you.
Great post, Michael! This really resonated with me:
“My point is that I don’t think you should do what you love thinking the money will follow right away. I think you should do what you love because why would you spend your life doing anything else?”
I absolutely agree, and that’s how I’ve been living my life. It’s always trial and error, and like you said, the answers are in the doing. Trying something out is the most effective way to figure out if it’s what you want, and in my experience, the clarity usually hits you with some serious impact!
I’m happy to say I am making a living doing what I love. There are certainly tweaks to be made (always), but I’m on the right track.
Hi Amy. Thank you so much for contributing here. It’s so exciting to hear from inspiring people like you who are on the path of doing what you love. It’s true that it’s as simple as taking one step at a time and making adjustments in-between. The key is always taking the next step.
Looking forward to hearing about your next steps!
Wow. Just wow. Your article was written by me. ! Well ~ at least it could have been in terms of the content~ is what I mean. How many gems can you squeeze into ONE post? Hmmm…. soooo many. I love it. Reading your post I remembered what it was like walking around my office and feeling like an outsider. The only WEIRDO who actually couldn’t stop wondering: why? And How? Why on earth do human resign themselves to the sad truth that there is only one way and this is it? With every new job it was the same for me.
I would meet new people, get excited, enjoy doing my technical work- network, socialize, and then feel a sudden strong disconnect from everyone at some point where my heart switched off and said to me “yeah, this is where you’re on your own. I don’t go any further..” which always forced me to quit and then try another job. And now, in the blogosphere- I’ve found where all the weirdos hang out together!!! It’s almost like I’ve finally found my own kind. And I am so happy to be here. I am happy to be around people who are dedicated to helping others- and to living life on their own terms with no bullshit politics.
I am bookmarking this post because it is really a gem. Thank you.
By the way, I love your writing style! You have a very unique and clear voice of your own that’s like stepping into the ocean for the first time and getting hit with the wonderful but cold water. Fresh and a bit raw too.
Hello Jesicka. Thank you so much for your comments. It’s so great to meet another WEIRDO! 🙂 I felt like that weirdo for so long and I spent so much energy trying to act ‘normal’ and cover it up and just do my job. I was always wondering why I felt like I didn’t belong in that environment and why everyone around me seemed so resigned to working this way day after day, month after month, year after year. I had to get out!
It’s always a breath of fresh air to hear from someone else that has experienced something similar and then decided to leave all the BS behind and go add value and enjoy life.
Hey Michael, you have just spoken directly to my heart. Time and time again I meet people just like you who don’t want to stay stuck doing what they hate doing even if they are earning lots of money! I also meet people who are also consumed by the thought that if they don’t earn a certain amount of money, doing a job they hate, they just couldn’t cope! But what makes me laugh is those people are the ones who bury their head in a bottle of vodka at the weekend or do other mindless activities to escape from the pain of their situation. It’s madness!
I am the exact same as you, i have flitted from one idea to the next, to one job to the next in search of my ideal one. And I now know finally that I don’t want to work for anyone else any more. I want to serve and provide a beacon of light to those who suffer so.
I am currently in a full time job and I just want to quit i really do but I have no money however I am moving into one room soon to alleviate money worries and I am so tempted to just do it! I do not love what I do and when I don’t love it I don’t have the motivation or inclination to work hard anymore. I am just not there. So in my mind I should leave so they can find someone who wants my job! Anyhow, I will make a decision too.
Your post has helped me and I thank you for that. I feel you and can’t wait to hear more from you. connections are the way forward! 🙂
Paula – Thank you for your insight and contribution here! It was only after working different jobs for 14 years that I came to the realization that needed do my own thing. I guess I’m a slow learner! 😉 The beauty is that once I knew that I wanted to work for myself, I began simplifying my life, getting rid of stuff, saving money, etc. A friend of mine once said that the only reason to work just for money is if you have a deadline for when you are going to quit and don’t ever compromise that deadline.
It sounds to me like you have made a decision that you don’t want to work for anyone else that that you have a strong desire to help others. That’s exactly how I feel! That’s the first step to breaking free. And it also sounds like you are simplifying your life so that you don’t have to worry about money. This is another powerful step. I got rid of so much stuff, my wife and I have a housemate to help offset the mortgage costs and we sold one of our cars. We drive an 11 year old Subaru and have no payments outside of our mortgage and this gives us a tremendous amount of freedom.
It’s so great to connect with you and it sounds like you are well on your way to creating your own style of freedom. And nothing is better than that!
Thank you Michael for the reminder to keep pursuing my dreams! I get way too caught up in what the end result will be… I just can’t figure it out! And being unsure about the future of it holds me back. Makes me pause.
This post reminds me to just keep moving forward and eventually opportunities will come up and I’ll know what the next step will be! And the next! And the next!
I’m excited again!
Wendy – Thanks for stopping by and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hear what you’re saying about getting caught up in the end result and the uncertainty of the future. You’re so not alone in those thoughts! I battle them every single day. The main things that keep me going are to stay healthy, do one thing towards my business every day, and just keep focused on taking one small step forward. Because a bunch of small steps add up to one BIG step!
Just keep moving forward. You got this!
Hey Michael, isn’t it a great feeling knowing that we are taking steps to build the momentum to keep doing what we love 🙂 I have certainly experienced transition over the last few years, especially when I was made redundant from a job that was well paid, however, not the ideal job for me at the time to help maintain the time & energy I needed to work on my passions. I found myself adapting in so many ways to accommodate new ways of earning money following redundancy, and eventually attracted a job that allowed me to continue growing my business skills as well as work closer to home. I discovered I could easily live without the financial support I had previously in order to reserve more time and energy towards my project and music. Sometimes all we need is a new direction to help us release that we can survive and adapt with less. It was certainly a great learning experience to be out of work for several months which gave me the opportunity to think more about my plans for the next few years and make bigger steps to making it happen. My step of action is to create the audio series for creativeflowevolution for my subscribers. Keep up the excellent work. Michael.
Hi Paul. Thanks for sharing the wisdom and experience of your transition. I love hearing how others have dealt with either leaving a job or being laid off. Everyone’s path is so unique and wonderful in it’s own way. I would say that most people don’t embrace this change and make the most of it. It’s a natural reaction to go into panic mode and accept the next job that comes along for the sake of security. I’ve done this before and then ended up in the same position a few years later wondering what happened.
I love how you were able to find a job that allows you to develop your passions on the side. This can be an ideal situation for a lot of people because it takes the pressure off of trying to make your side project profitable right away. There’s plenty of arguments for (a) leaving your job to focus on your business full time and (b) finding work that allows you to create your business on the side. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s whatever fits you best.
And to answer your question, YES! It is a great feeling building momentum around what I love. It’s great that you are going to be creating an audio series for creativeflowevolution. I look forward to hearing how this project turns out.
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Love this Michael. Especially this: “in 90 years, no one reading this article will be here. 90 years is a blip. It’s going to be over before you blink. That means that everything matters and nothing matters all at the same time.”
If you want to do something, do it, because it is immensely important to spend as much time as we can in a place of joy. If you don’t want to do something, or are scared, that thing doesn’t matter- it’s finding more joy and less fear, even if stepping into joy is absolutely terrifying!
Really appreciate the depth of this article. And as a yoga teacher, I totally relate to your wife’s story! What a great example of someone who didn’t do it ‘like everyone else’ just because that’s the norm. Thank you for sharing!
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