It sounds counter-intuitive. We grow up being taught that the way to success is lubricated with elbow grease, that the harder we work at something, the more successful we can expect to be. And there’s a grain of truth in that–success does involve effort. It involves honing skills, paying your dues, and learning to profit from criticism. But it can never happen unless you truly, truly love what you’re doing.
And these days, it’s particularly important to start out doing something you love. Chances are good that, no matter what you’re doing, your income is probably not what you expected to be making by this time a few years ago. I once heard a friend describe her job, and her reason for staying in it, as “golden handcuffs.” It paid well. It had great benefits. It didn’t use all, or even most, of her abilities. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was boring. But she stayed.
The good news is that, for many of us, the golden handcuffs are gone. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, the way it happened is wrong. But here’s the upside: we’re free. We’re free to dig deep within ourselves, find those skills we thought we’d never use, and change. We have an opportunity here to reinvent ourselves both personally, and as a nation. It’s time for us to stop relying on the big businesses that have proven they do not have our best interests at heart to somehow take care of us. It’s time for us to stop expecting them to be anything except heartless, brainless, behemoths that make good servants as long as we keep a close eye on them, but terrible masters.
In my case, losing the golden handcuffs freed me up to do what I loved more than anything–writing, designing, and publishing books. I started a small publishing business–but with a difference. Because I was starting this business on a shoestring, and I understand that my clients are publishing on a shoestring, I’ve learned to maximize a lot of resources to put together a publishing plan that enables just about anyone with a book inside them to let it out. By making a good decision for my own survival, I’ve been able to create a business that helps people achieve a dream.
If the job market has taught us anything, it’s that it’s time for us to stop trying to fit into the “corporate” mold. Take the part of yourself that you’ve been squelching all these years, the part that makes you different, that doesn’t fit into the corporate structure, that you keep stumbling over, and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. That’s the part of you that will help you survive now. It’s the part of you that’s unique, original, and–if you take the time to train and nurture it–indispensible to someone. Do what you love. Do it as hard as you can. Find a way to make it pay. Life is too short, and paychecks are too small these days, to do anything else.