Doing What You Love: The Battle Of Passion, Product, and Practical

A Critical Doer generates motion from “why” more than “what” 


Many pundits have proclaimed the following sentiment that I will paraphrase:  “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  It’s a beautiful sentiment and one we should all hope to achieve.  There’s one important assumption in the sentiment that needs addressing…what of what you love to do is no longer loved by your customers?

Forbes Magazine contributor Delores DeGiacomo recently penned a thought provoking piece entitled “When Doing What You Love Doesn’t Pay” where she challenged the idealistic notion of following your passion with the practical aspect of earning a living.  She made great points with the anecdotes, which had both happy and unhappy endings, that operating conditions change over time.  Those who are willing to find new ways to adapt their passion to the changing conditions are the ones who succeed in the long term.

To give you some actionable mentoring, let’s set the stage with a model I’ll call the “3P Model” of doing what you love and making a living.  There are 3 poles in this model…passion, product, and practical.


In a perfect world, you get to do what you love, the product is relevant, and you can earn a living in the process.  The problem is…the world is not perfect forever.  Competition, new technologies, social expectations, and many other factors can lessen demand for the product and strain the practical aspect of making a living.  If you aren’t firmly in tune with your “why” there is temptation to define yourself by a product that is no longer relevant and the price could be the premature demise of an organization.

Case in point…once upon a day there were companies that manufactured horse drawn buggies and accessories.  Companies that defined themselves by their product could not adapt to the advent of the car and they perished.  Those that defined themselves as transportation solution companies had the mental and cultural agility to change product lines but still maintain their purpose of providing transportation solutions.

I’ve been in organizations, and I’m sure you have too, where a product or process rather than a passion or purpose has been embraced as the raison d’etre.  In critical junctures, train your ear to listen for phrases like “that’s not what we do” or “we’re not that kind of a company.”  If you hear those phrases bandied about, you have an unambiguous indicator of a “what” more than “why” mindset that’s capable of producing a high quality irrelevant product all the way to bankruptcy.

Your challenge is to constantly communicate with those around until your organization’s “why” flows off their tongues as reflexively as their names.  Achieving this takes time and repetition.  As Zig Ziglar once said “motivation doesn’t last but neither does bathing…that’s why we do it every day.”  Commit yourself to defining your culture, beginning with an enduring purpose, and your organization will be prosperous and relevant for the long haul…doing what you love.  It’s also what a Critical Doer would…do!


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Updated: May 14, 2015 — 1:25 am