Recently someone said to me, “How cool that you get to do what you love. You’re really lucky.” Yeah, it is cool and I do feel quite blessed.
But, here’s the deal: If you only do what you love, you’ll go broke.
You’ve likely seen the Life Is Good company’s motto, “Do what you love. Love what you do.” To me, the most important aspect of that motto is the second part.
If you truly want to do what you love, it is far more important to love what you do.
Perhaps you’ve heard the quote:
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Marc Anthony
Here’s a better version:
“Love what you do and you’ll be doing what you love.” – David Crone
The reality is that there will always be aspects of doing what you love that feel like work.
At every phase of my career, from software engineering, to systems and network operations, to management, to what I’m doing now, I have always done what I love. But, it was only when I truly loved what I was doing that I saw success.
What would you love to do if you could? Are you willing to love doing what it takes to make that a reality?
Imagine you are the leader of a team of 15 people. You are told the company needs to make cuts and that you only get to take 5 people forward with you. Your team will still be responsible for doing everything they do now. There will just be less of them to do it. Who would you select from your team?
Oh, wait. You get to take 7. No, make that 10.
This is called the Lifeboat exercise. And I’ve done it. Numerous times. Sometimes it was theoretical; a way to rank the people on the team. Other times, sadly, it was not and I had to let people go.
The value of the lifeboat exercise is that it forces you to think about what individuals bring to the team in a different way. So many times when hiring people we get caught up in looking for individuals who have done specific tasks in specific environments, both of which closely match what they would be doing in the position we are seeking to fill. The lifeboat exercise points out how flawed this approach is.
When you have fewer people to do a job, you need people who are adaptable and who can learn new skills quickly. You need people who demonstrate the appropriate attitude and aptitude.
Specific skills can be taught. People with the right attitude and aptitude can learn specific skills quickly.
On the other hand, I’ve always found attitude and aptitude to be much more difficult to teach.
Sure, raw skills are helpful for the task that currently needs to be done. But, what about next week, six months from now, or next year?
Prepare for growth and change. Focus on attitude and aptitude. Train for everything else.
In my most recent blog post, I suggested that making sure there is a good cultural fit between the employer and employee is an important consideration. And that during the interview process, it is equally important for both the company and the individual applying for a position to ask questions around this topic.
The very next day, Dilbert started a series of comics making fun of the whole concept of hiring based on cultural fit. I won’t violate Scott Adams’ copyrights by pasting his actual comic strip here, but you can click on this link to see one of my favorites in that series. Or do a search on the Dilbert site. My favorite of the series ran on September 29, 2014.
Some people would say, “Well, he told you!” I would say, we’re both right.
In the comic, a good cultural fit is being held up as an alternative to a competent employee. Understand that competence, to me, is a basic level of qualification. Being competent is your permission to even interview for a given position. This is not an either/or, mutually exclusive decision. Obviously, employers need to find competent candidates.
But, once competence has been established, chances are very good that there will be several candidates still in the running. That is when cultural fit comes into play.
You can have both.