Then it never feels like work, right?
I actually have a bit of a problem with that statement, and my rub with that is coming into clearer and clearer focus every day. So I want to explain, in case it resonates.
From Passion to Profession
In the late 90′s, I took a job with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
As a former music major, I was in heaven. I never really wanted to be a performing musician, but I really loved the idea of the business behind the arts. Making them accessible. Making them prevalent. Keeping them strong as a pillar in the community.
So that job seemed like utopia in a glass at first. So did my job after that with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.
Except for one thing.
I had made a career out of my passion, finding a way to work side by side with the music that I loved so much. So I was immersed in my passion, day in and day out, working with it and breathing it and surrounded by it.
Which was precisely the problem.
My passion became my job, which meant it became less and less my passion. Because I saw all the behind the scenes stuff that wasn’t so neat and tidy, the difficulties and the politics of non-profits, the not-so-flattering sides of the music business, and the reality that arts and arts education have a very complex place within the community.
I had free tickets to music performances, more than I could want. And I never used them. Because I was immersed in that day after day after day, I couldn’t even think about enjoying a concert or a performance because I needed a break from all of that each day.
For a long time, it really stifled my enojyment of the art and environment I once loved so much.
The Profession That Balances
Today, I work as a consultant, advising businesses on things like culture change and operational adaptation, mostly the stuff brought on by the emergence of the social web. Our firm, SideraWorks, is doing cool things in the social business space.
I really, really enjoy that work.
I find the puzzles interesting. I find the dynamics between people and organizations fascinating. I’m rewarded by tackling complex issues inside of companies and feeling the relief and the enthusiasm that emerges as problems start to unravel and solutions start to emerge.
It energizes me, challenges me, rewards me both professionally and financially. And there’s something immensely satisfying (and exhausting) about building your own business, so I value that experience immensely.
I’m excited by what I do. I really enjoy it, and I like my career.
But is it My Passion?
If you’ve been following along with me, you’ll know that I’m in the midst of a cross-country adoption of a sweet pit bull named Hope.
If you were to sit down and ask me what I do, I’d tell you about my work with SideraWorks.
If you were to ask me about my passions, I’d probably talk about animals.
Animal rescue is something I’ve been involved in in some capacity or another for many years. All my animals are rescues, I’ve volunteered and worked with rescue organizations, and I have a particular interest in helping bully breeds restore their much-maligned (and ill-deserved) reputations. I believe in it, and I’m passionate about it. It moves my soul. I think it’s part of the reason I’m on the planet.
Social business is what challenges me day to day, and what gets my brain engaged in new and exciting ways with clients who are trying to build their business, and I find that really rewarding and interesting. I love business challenges and complexities. I love the work I do. But it’s not necessarily my purpose.
Is it meaningful? Yes. Does it make a difference? Absolutely. Is it purposeful? Without doubt.
If I had to quit doing it tomorrow, would I feel like a part of me was missing? Probably not.
The truth is that working hard to build a profitable, successful business is, in part, what enables me to also find time to pursue my passions. The things that complete me emotionally and philosophically.
Having a fulfilling and challenging career that also pays the bills is what can keep my passions something I can be passionate about, instead of something that becomes a must, becomes a chore because it’s the thing I also have to do in order to keep a roof over my head or keep my kid fed and clothed.
The False Mantra
When you read about entrepreneurship and career paths and developing yourself professionally, you’ll often hear the advice that you should do what you’re passionate about because then it will never feel like work. You’ll always have a reason to get out of the bed in the morning.
My split hair here is that I think you should pursue a career that you enjoy, that engages your brain, that you can spend your days doing and feel interested and fulfilled and that you’re doing something you can be proud of. That’s important to your well-being and your sense of accomplishment and worth around how you spend your time.
Be mindful of mixing passion with profession.
Sometimes they blend well. Sometimes, they can cannibalize each other, leaving you with little energy for either. And what a tragedy that is.
Someday, I hope that SideraWorks is so successful that I have the financial freedom to work in animal rescue as an avocation, not necessarily a profession. Something I can afford do to because I do something else for a living, or that I did it so well that I’m financially independent enough to pursue other things.
That’s the balance. When you can pursue a passion because you succeeded at a profession.
At least, it is for me. Someday, maybe One Hope At A Time will be more than just a Facebook page. But for now, it’s a passion project that gets extra energy when I have it to give.
Have you experienced this collision? Felt the friction between what you love and what you do and felt guilty that they weren’t necessarily the same thing in the same way? How have you approached all of this?
What’s the right balance for you?