Do what you love? Or do what most needs doing?


A 2012 share titled “Do What You Love” garnered more likes (393) and more views (8,396) than any other post on this blog. My thinking has evolved (you were naive!) since that time with a subsequent share titled: Do What You Love? Wrong! and this NY Times article by Professor Gordon Marino titled Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’:

…But is “do what you love” wisdom or malarkey?

…the “do what you love” ethos so ubiquitous in our culture is in fact elitist because it degrades work that is not done from love. It also ignores the idea that work itself possesses an inherent value, and most importantly, severs the traditional connection between work, talent and duty.

…My father didn’t do what he loved. He labored at a job he detested so that he could send his children to college. Was he just unenlightened and mistaken to put the well-being of others above his own personal interests? It might be argued that his idea of self-fulfillment was taking care of his family, but again, like so many other less than fortunate ones, he hated his work but gritted his teeth and did it well.

…Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.

Read full article: Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’

Image Source: daiquiri-kisses (modified)


  1. I concede that there’s a certain elitism in thinking that one must only do what one loves. People do slog work all the time – I would venture to say that even in work one loves, there are elements that just stink. Perhaps it is better to remind those that are fortunate enough to love what they do, that they are in fact, in rarefied air. And for those who dislike their work, I would hope that in each day they could find some elements which bring them satisfaction, if not delight.


  2. they are one and the same for me.


  3. Todd Lohenry says:

    Reblogged this on Bright, shiny objects! and commented:
    Even when you are doing what you love, there will be aspects of that avocation that you’d rather not do. I think the answer is not either/or, but both/and. Have we become so soft and spoiled that we believe that every day will be filled with unicorns and rainbows if we choose what we love? Even unicorns poop…


    • Nice stated Todd. You are in brilliant company. Euripides (480 BC – 408 BC), the great ancient Greek Scholar said:

      “That mortal is a fool who, prospering, thinks his life has any strong foundation; since our fortune’s course of action is the reeling way a madman takes, and no one person is ever happy all the time.”

      — Euripides, Trojan women: The Trojan women


  4. Somebody else I respect quoted this article to me yesterday, David. That tells me this is important for people to be thinking about, now. So, thank you!. And I am lucky, too, that I can do what I love, which (1) involves some tasks I hate and (2) seems worth doing.


  5. We can’t always do what we love. Life just isn’t like that however there has to be a reason why we do things that we don’t like. If there isn’t a reason then it is definitely time to change something.


  6. Reblogged this on On the Homefront and commented:
    Do both! I am reblogging this so I have it at my fingertips–


  7. I see this differently. I wouldn’t want anyone to do what they hated everyday, especially for my benefit. Life is hard enough and while we all have to do things that we don’t always want to do…to just accept a grueling job that one hates can take the joy out of life and wear a person down. It seems as if there has to be something people can do that they won’t hate doing every day of their lives. I wouldn’t want that for anyone. I don’t think you have to love everything you do but to hate every day of your working life is like a slow death, at least to me. But we all see things in different ways. I wouldn’t want to live a life filled with hate, giving up each day, for any reason. How would that make the people around me, the people I love, feel? Sounds like a living hell.


  8. Barneysday says:

    “Do what you love” is overly optimistic, and naive at best. What does an 18 year old, fresh out of high school, really know about what he/she loves to do? We have to experience life to find out things that may interest us. But there is glory in doing work for works sake. We also need to take into account our basic skill sets. I might “Love” doing structural design work, but if I’m weak at higher level math, which I am, no matter how much I love it, I’ll never be an engineer.

    What if instead of do what you love, it were turned into do what you can find a personal reward in. A sense of accomplishment, of reward, of doing a good job might be just as good as doing something you love.


  9. Peggy Farrell Schroeder says:

    I can’t imagine hating every aspect of your job but continuing to do it, everyday. It’s as hard to believe that anyone loves everything about her/his job. Mimijk’s response is more realistic – even with a job you dislike, there must be tasks that provide a sense of accomplishment.


  10. In the end, and in my mind, that man was still doing what he loved…because it was all wrapped around his love for his family. To me, it’s all about priorities. I know some people who are struggling artists and make a living “doing what they say they love”…but there is never enough money to properly take care of the children. So, that tells where their priorities lie. In my own life, I was forced to give up a career at UC Berkeley when my youngest child was diagnosed with diabetes as a baby. I loved my job and thought I would be at UCB for many years, but it didn’t work out that way. I stayed at home to take care of my baby and eventually found a job that I could do at home. I still have that same job and work about 70 hours a week at a job that I never really wanted…but it still serves a good purpose for me. I’m available now for the grandchildren when my daughter needs help. It’s all about priorities and trying to look at things in a positive light…seeing the usefulness in what sometimes we simply have to do.


    • “because it was all wrapped around his love for his family.” That’s it Carol. That’s it. Love your story Carol – and you left off the punch line – “and now I find beautiful flowers and poetry to all my friends on the inter tunnel!”


  11. I agree with so many others above who have pointed out that there are many areas of gray in this arena. Frankly, I think the urging to ‘Do what you LOVE’ oftentimes puts undue pressure on folks, for then they become caught up in the quest to find something that they LOVE, and if they can’t, they may feel as though they’ve fallen short, even if they are in fact doing something that they like and that is rewarding. I agree with Todd’s assertion that it’s more often a both/and situation. I ‘love’ to write, but sometimes sitting down in front of a blank screen to compose a story is the last damn thing I feel like doing….

    And I’m sorry, but that ‘even unicorns poop’ comment was priceless. Wonder if I could have a t-shirt printed up? 😉


  12. I like Todd’s comment about both/and. All jobs have drudge at some point. But for the parents (fathers) who hated their jobs, I wonder if they ever considered the possibility of doing something else?


  13. If a person is doing what they love, what happens when they experience the inevitable unsatisfying day or days? Are they then off to find something else they love? It seems we are setting ourselves up for failure by not recognizing there is good and not so good in everything. Jimmy Buffet said it all in Its My Job:

    (No comment about the last who introduces the band)


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