I do love this quote by Steve Jobs, as I believe this strongly. You need to figure out and find what you love to do, and then pursue that. Steve Jobs took this to the extreme, and the culture at Apple to this day, despite his Earthly departure, is still 80 hours a week as the norm. While I am NOT A FAN of this, or the management style that he chose to lead with, there is no doubt his impact on society as a whole will continue to ripple forward. He did some things extremely well, and clearly loved what he did.
For me, I struggled with this at various times in my life. In a moment of foreshadowing, this is how I came to the conclusion regarding LIFE/work balance and making a job out of your passion. That story is written here. This was one of the first blog posts I ever wrote, so it is much shorter than most I write these days. But it is straight from the heart, and exactly the warning message I am trying to share about this topic.
If you want to be the best at something, the very top of the food chain kind of level, there are a few things that have to fall into place:
You have to get lucky. Fortune must smile upon you in some way to get things started, to pivot at the right time, or to uncover a hidden need that the world is starving for.
You have to do the work. The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.
You have to be in it for the long haul. Most things in life worth having do not get handed to you, so you cannot be deterred easily.
You need to love what you do.
For now, I am going to focus on point number four, as it was the intent behind this post anyway. I think one of my greatest downfalls and errors in my racquetball career is I am not sure I ever loved it. I mean every part of it, the work, the wins and the losses, everything. Sure, I lived the attention it brought me, and I loved living the lifestyle of a pro athlete. But there was definitely some critical pieces missing from the equation. Two of my close friends and peers from the Pro Tour both say the exact opposite. They loved it then, and they miss the Hell out of it now. Both have had knee issues since retiring quite a few years ago, both ended up in corporate jobs that are very demanding to put it mildly (one works at Apple!) and have not had the opportunity to play the game any longer for these reasons. I have always said that my coaching career provided WAY MORE personal fulfillment and satisfaction than my own career ever did. I stayed in the game, and left the competitive part on my own accord versus being forced to stop due to injury. I had a choice, they didn’t. Maybe that factors in too.
I remember talking to people at NAU during the year I went there, and how many would share who lucky they felt to be there, how excited they were about the opportunities graduating from college as going to afford them. I was jealous that I didn’t feel that; I wanted to, but I didn’t. My family made it seem like this was the answer, that college was the path to having what you want out of life, but I just didn’t make that connection. So I decided that I would pursue the only thing I was sure about at that time, and that was paying racquetball competitively. It was at this moment that the sport lost its luster for me. Once I added all of the baggage that went along with quitting school to be a Pro Racquetball Player, I was defending this decision every time I stepped onto the court. It was no longer something I loved, and it clearly showed. And I was susceptible to losing to people who did love it, who wanted it more, and for the right reasons, not just to prove I had made the right decision by quitting school.
I, on the other hand, decided to make the pursuit of my racquetball career my defining and DEFYING moment in life. I balked at the idea that I had to do things the same way everyone else did. I wasn’t a fan of school, so more school (college) after high school was not very appealing. I did it for a while, mainly because I didn’t have any better ideas at the time. I went through the motions…and it showed.
If your parents want you to become a doctor, and you do not want this as your life’s path, you’d better speak up quick. As soon as things get tough, you will falter. Yu will not have the same intestinal fortitude as someone who LOVES the idea of being a doctor, and who s committed to seeing that through. It doesn’t mean you can’t, but what I am saying is the odds of you ever being great at your profession and/or enjoying it are highly stacked against you.
I have a good friend who went through a similar struggle with her life’s plan; she had always wanted to be an artist but was expected to go into the family business. She did that after college, but her art kept calling. Eventually she had to take a stand, and I can only imagine the family turmoil that caused. She was flat broke at one point, and not getting any help from anyone. Like “$37 dollars in my bank account” kind of broke. But she made it happen. At least from the outside looking in, appears to have mended the fences with the family business, as her art studio has moved into their high end furniture store. She loved her art more than anything, and fought tooth and nail to get where she is in her career. I don’t think I looked at my craft that same way; I made it to the highest level DESPITE my outlook on it. It wasn’t out of love of what I did, it was out of fear. The fear that I had made a bad decision about leaving school, and that I was wrong and everyone else was right. I respect the Hell out of her for the journey she has been on. You can see her work here. Amazing stuff!
So please, heed my advice: If you want to be great at something, you have to LOVE it. You have to feel it in your bones that this is the path you should be on. Even if working your day job is necessary to fund your passion, be sure you love what you are pursuing. It will take the edge off the bad days, the tough losses, and the daily grind. The PROCESS will take precedent over everything else, and you will be blessed to be doing something you love every day.