Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Focus on what you love, not what you make
Published on August 24, 2007 By Draginol In Business

The number of college students I meet these days whose life goals are purely to accumulate wealth is getting pretty distressing.

They pick their career paths based on the path of least resistance to "getting rich".  When they meet me and ask me questions, my answers tend not to be reassuring.

What I tell them is this: Do something you love that happens to make money. Because if you love what you do, you'll tend to get very very good at it.  And only through being the top of your career path, whatever that might be, will you ever make a lot of money.

There is, a second problem they have to face too -- to love what you do you can't have money be the object.  I got into computer game development and desktop utility software because I loved doing it.

For instance, back in the late 90s, when we were fiddling around with customizing the way Windows looked, nobody had any idea if anyone wanted to do this sort of thing.  The term "skinning" wasn't really known outside of Quake yet.  And there was, contrary to what some people have tried to argue, no "community" of skinners or developers out there.  But we loved tinkiner with how our computers looked and felt and over time found other people who felt the same and teamed up.  But we had no idea whether it would make money nor did we really care.

The problem with materialism as a goal is that it is ultimately empty.  The first problem is that money is a means. Not an end.  Personally, I tend to use money to buy me time.  That is, I'll purchase services to provide more time that I can then spend with my family (for example).

The second problem with materialism is that you get into diminishing returns more rapidly than many people (especially ambitious college students) realize.  The lifetstle of a billionaire and someone who has $50 million is probably indistinguishable.  By contrast, there's a huge difference in lifestyle between someone who makes $20k and $50k.

In my limited experience, I'd say the real point of dimishing returns hits somewhere after $10 million in liquid assets.  You can buy a dream home for $5 million (if you don't live in a super expensive area to begin with).  The best cars that aren't obnoxiously conspicuous are less than $200k.  And a chartered private jet costs about $10k per ride. 

In short, what happens after $10 million is you simply have more of the same.  It starts happening actually before that.  So the quality of life of the person who brings in $4 million a year and $20 million a year might be remarkably difficult to discern -- materially.

But the quality of life of someone who loves what they do for a living and has time to spend with their friends and family is very easy to discern.

on Aug 24, 2007
Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

And no one has ever gotten rich doing what I do for a living.
on Aug 24, 2007
i am a university student and in making my career choices it was never about money, it was always about finding and building a career that i knew i would love. what is the point of getting up every morning dreading the work day ahead of you, this is not my goal in life.

money is only an object as far as food, shelter, clothes, tuition, and feeding my cat. i am horrible at saving money because when something comes up like going out for dinner with my friends, vs not spending the money, i'd rather spend the money, and make some memories that will last a lifetime.

i have to say all of my decisions in life are about either doing what makes me happy, or trying to help out a friend.
on Aug 24, 2007

You also have to consider the college students who major in unemployment.  They get a degree that is very esoteric and yes, they have an education but will they be able to find a job in that field?  I think you have to find the happy medium.  Someone has to do the crap work not everyone can be a fireman, ballerina or CEO. 

I think you have to consider the income potential of the field you are entering.  It shouldn't be your only concern but it's something you have to think about. 

This reminds me of What color is your parachute - do what you love, the money will follow. 

on Aug 24, 2007
I used to live in the same house with a guy who absolutely hated what he was studying - Marketing. The only reason he did it was because of the future pay. I used to laugh at him having to do something he hated till the day he died just to have more money. Good luck man..

On the other hand, if you're (to quote Lacamama) majoring in unemployment, you'd better be able to do something else too or be real good at your chosen profession
I think having academic skills may be just as great an asset as a relevant education for some jobs, you'll just have to prove yourself in the interview. Just make sure you have done other things that gets your future employer interested in you as a person, be adventurous and sure of yourself.
on Aug 24, 2007
I love what I do, or I wouldn't do it. I could've gone into something else in the accounting field, and I still might if I find I like it better. But I love what I'm doing now.
on Aug 24, 2007

This article speaks to me because right now I am looking at returning to get a Master's Degree this winter.  I want to contribute to my family's income since my husband carried the bread and butter load for so long.  But everything I am naturally talented in, and love to do, pays very little or would require living in places my husband won't even consider.  (Writing, movie/television production, etc)

So I am thinking maybe an MBA.  Yeah, its generic, but it also is the most versatile degree which allows me access to the things I love to do.  I could manage a newspaper or magazine.  I could manage a television studio etc.  

I agree money shouldn't be THE ultimate goal, but it does matter enough to be factored into the "what do I wanna be when I grow up" equation.

on Aug 24, 2007
"I agree money shouldn't be THE ultimate goal, but it does matter enough to be factored into the "what do I wanna be when I grow up" equation."

I disagree. If you factor money into it, you cut yourself off from enormous wealth. A lot of things are created because people worked to turn what they love to do into a viable business.
on Aug 24, 2007

I think some missed a key phrase:

Do something you love that happens to make money
(emphasis added)

on Aug 24, 2007
It really depends on your definition of rich. If you're working a job you hate to save up enough of a nest-egg to give you, say, a 40k income without having to work at all (enough that you can cover the mortgage and basic expenses and then do something you like part-time), then you could probably do that by reaching middle management and staying there for 10 years or so, depending on whether or not you have kids, your ability to save and the amount you earn.

An income of $4 million a year isn't everyone's idea of rich - as often as not it's the idleness people crave, and that is pretty affordable so long as you've got reasonable skills in a paying industry. You don't have to love it, although if you want to be really wealthy you do.

So if you're idea of rich is flying private jets and associating with Paris Hilton, it's going to cost you.

But you can have a good life of idleness without being that rich.
on Aug 25, 2007
This does kind of contradict Scott Adams (of Dilbert) career advice. Link Since he advocates finding two different fields and becoming above average in both of them, and it's not likely you'll love both. Maybe both advices are good: do what you love, unless you don't love anything, then pick two things you don't love, because you won't have to compete against many people who love both.

Also note you're probably going to like your job OK no matter what you pick; most Americans do. I wouldn't call line monitoring in a factory "what I love," but I'm happy to go in to work in the morning.
on Aug 28, 2007

It is good to see someone who has made it giving this advice.  Those of us who are not rich, but well off, and love our jobs can say that being rich is not everything, but then who would listen to us (those who have basically found that out as well - but not the wanna be rich ones).

I cant think of any rich people - who made it, not inherited it, who would disagree with you - or think that working at a job you hate for money is the secret to sucess. 


on Aug 29, 2007
The problem with materialism as a goal is that it is ultimately empty. The first problem is that money is a means. Not an end. Personally, I tend to use money to buy me time. That is, I'll purchase services to provide more time that I can then spend with my family (for example).

But are the people in question wanting to accumulate wealth for the same reason? You started out talking about accumulating wealth, and then went to materialism. What if the quote above is the reason they want it? The reason this stuck out to me is that the quote above is exactly why a bunch of people I know want to make that money - basically all the stuff that cactoblasta mentioned. They would like more time to do what they want - which is what a good savings and/or a lucrative position can buy you (for example, occasional high-paying contract work can give you some nice free time between jobs, etc).

Materialism is a dead end, but accumulating wealth doesn't have to be - especially if you have clear goals and a plan about it.

I read somewhere that this is a characteristic of Generation Y; they are very interested in work / life balance and having time to do the things they want - as opposed to being okay with dumping their whole life into work. (Now this can cause a whole raft of other problems, because they can also tend to think they are entitled to it no matter what - but I digress).

For my own datapoint, I picked a career I knew I wouldn't mind, was already good at and could make a decent amount of money in. Computers were always an interest, everything concerning them and programming was intuitive, so I went that route and am now making a good living in software development. By and large I don't super-duper love it, but it is reasonably interesting and not terribly demanding - giving me time/money to do what I wish outside of work (which is what I wanted - and thus fall right into my Gen Y stereotype ). My fiance is the same way. She really isn't super-interested in anything such that she could go "do what she loves", but she is good at school (and fast - undergrad and MBA finished in 5 years) and so is just going to do something that is "fine" and make a good living for now.

And that brings up another point: Having the money/career/experience/skills up front can allow you the freedom to do something interesting/different later - if you find something you really like or want to do (work-related or not).
on Aug 29, 2007
double post - delete please