“You Give Love a Bad Name.” -Jon Bon Jovi
4.3 Billion. I searched for “songs about love” on Google and in less than 1 second, 4.3 billion search results were returned. To say that our culture has...well, a love affair with love, would be an understatement. And for good reason! Love is a wonderful, powerful, and driving emotion. Something that we seek out and sacrifice for. Like great art, it’s something we can’t describe, but we know when we’re in the presence of it. We apply the feeling of love to nearly everything important in our lives; even our jobs.
“Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” -Unknown
That familiar quote is a wonderful and well-meaning sentiment, suitable for graduation cards, heart to heart talks with co-workers, friends and family members as well as bumper stickers. It’s not bad advice, but I’d argue that it’s incomplete advice. Standing alone, as it so often does, the statement infers that one should love everything about the job and career they choose; and if your day isn’t filled with things you love, you might be in the wrong line of work. This kind of thinking has led in part to the unstable workforce environment we find ourselves in today. In my humble opinion, the old cliché gives love a bad name.
Take my job for instance; on Mondays I do expense reports, on Fridays, I do summary reports for leadership. Every day of the week I do activity tracking and record my meeting notes for future reference. Sometimes I must travel and spend nights away from my family. I work long hours because I’m always on call when a client needs me, and I get a LOT of windshield time crisscrossing my territory. I don’t necessarily love doing any of those things. But they’re all part of the job; and I LOVE what this job allows me to do.
In this job, I meet new and interesting people every day. I get to help people. I work with really smart colleagues; I get to develop new systems and ways of helping others. I get pushed out of my comfort zone and I am challenged. I’m home in time for dinner most of the time. I get to take my daughter to school in the morning and sometimes I’m around to pick her up in the afternoon. I coach soccer, I volunteer for my church, I play golf, and I have the bandwidth to support my wife as she pursues her passions. In short, the things I don’t love about my job are essential parts of a job that allows me to align my career with my values; with those things that are most important to me.
Does this all mean that you should just grin and bear it no matter how tedious the day to day routine of your job is? Take your lumps and put in your time even if your day is filled with things you don’t love? Or should you tap out and find something new? The answer is maybe, but here’s some food for thought: Don’t get bogged down by the minutia of your everyday work. You don’t have to love everything about what you do, but I’ve found that the ones below are essential:
Love where you work – the environment you work in must be healthy. The organization you work within needs to align with what you believe is important, right, and is in harmony with your values.
Love who you work with – your co-workers, leadership, direct reports, and customers are all part of your environment. Like the parts of your job you don’t love, there will be parts of who you work with that you don’t love either. You must decide: aside from what you don’t like, does what they bring to the table enable you to do things that align with what you value?
Love what you do creates. – the work you do should align with what you want for your life. It should create the opportunity to pursue and achieve those things that matter most to you.
Maybe the sage advice above would be better worded as
“Love where what you do is taking you, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
How would that look on a bumper sticker?