Do What You Love

Citywire, 20 June 2008

London, UK -- Marsha Sinetar had a well-paid, secure job, a nice home and a circle of family and friends nearby. Even though her work was unfulfilling, promotions and material success stopped her from doing anything different. There was a nagging feeling, though, that she should be doing something else, and although she believed in self-growth mantras like ‘What man can conceive, he can achieve,’ she clung to the familiar.

However, one day she was driving along when a thought struck her: ‘Do what you love, the money will follow.’ Not long after, she changed the direction of her career and moved to the countryside. In the years that followed, she worked only on the projects she loved, and her financial needs were always met.

Sinetar wrote Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow both as a manual for the ‘how’ of doing what you love, and also as a guide to the spiritual aspects of work, sometimes called ‘right livelihood’.With its classic self-help title the book is easily dismissed, but it has acted as a private champion for thousands of people who needed a nudge to leave behind a job that left them hollow, for work that expresses who they really are.

First the love…

Part of the enjoyment of the book is the many examples of people who were in Sinetar’s predicament. She is careful to note these were not people ‘who woke up one day to find themselves rolling in a "fun job" and money’, but individuals who went on journeys of the self in their desire for a ‘right livelihood’.

Right livelihood is a Buddhist idea, Sinetar says, referring to ‘work consciously chosen, done with full awareness and care, and leading to enlightenment’. Work that is consciously chosen naturally expresses the interests and abilities of the worker, and in doing it, he or she becomes a confident and satisfied individual.

From the title of the book, many readers expect to be able to quit their job one day and start earning big in their new profession within a month or two; but things rarely work out like that. The money will eventually follow the path you have taken, Sinetar observes, but you have to be prepared for a waiting period, to pay your dues.

Doing what you love does not always mean doing what you feel like doing. To pursue a new career you may first have to do hours of training, or take on part-time jobs to pay the bills while you make your transition. Yet you will gladly do this if it allows you to do what you were meant to do.

…and then the money

People with low self-esteem often require assurance of success before they do anything. Whatever they embark on must result in some kind of ‘flashy victory’. The reality is that such victories may be years in coming, and you have to keep up a sense of self-worth even when there is limited success. If your focus stays on how much money you can earn in your new career, you are not likely to be able to stick at it in the early days. However, if your emphasis is on right livelihood, you will find you always have just enough money to pursue its development.

Sinetar employed a builder on her house who did slow, careful work. She sensed he was someone who had trusted ‘the money would follow’ and got talking to him. He had a Master’s degree in English and had begun an academic career, but did not fancy the treadmill of ‘publish or perish’. He opted out and took his chances as a carpenter. At first he had earned a low wage as an assistant, but learned the ropes sufficiently that, a few years later, he could set himself up on his own. Now, he said, ‘I trust myself to be able to earn all the money I need.’

Such a person is almost a rebel against a money-seeking culture in which high net-worth is often equated with personal value. Yet this man was sure of his value, even if he had no expectation of getting rich. The paradox is that by pursuing what you love you tap into a source of energy that fires you on to do excellent, unique work that inevitably gets recognised.

Take the leap

Leaving behind secure ways of working, most people have a feeling of stepping into an abyss. Yet if there is a need to do the new thing, it will help overcome any fears. It also helps to look back on a history of success in other areas, remembering: ‘I took that step, even though I was afraid, and look how well it turned out.’

Yet choosing to take the path you love is best seen as a choice rather than a risk. You have to bank on your own resourcefulness, skill and intelligence to solve problems, and draw on your reserves of self-confidence and self-esteem. If you can weather the challenges and emerge in control of your work and your life, it will have been well worth it.

Don’t be so hard on yourself

Work you don’t like, Sinetar claims, is usually work you are not suited for. She comments: ‘We are not born to struggle through life. We are meant to work in ways that suit us, drawing on our natural talents and abilities as a way to express ourselves and contribute to others.’

Humans are no different to animals in being designed and built for certain purposes. People with high self-esteem believe they have a right to do work that is rewarding and enjoyable and that makes them happy. There is little difference between the work they do and recreation.

Many people who try to climb up the greasy career pole long for a less stressful occupation and a simpler life. They have taken their chosen path thanks to parental or peer-group pressure, the media’s idea of ‘success’ or their own punishing expectations. Such people, Sinetar suggests, simply need to be kinder to themselves. The world will not fall apart if they earn less money; on the contrary, their lives will flower when they realise that life is about self-expression, not self-aggrandisement.

Work as enlightenment

In Sinetar’s last chapter, ‘Work as love, work as devotion’, she writes: ‘All major cultures have, somewhere within their instructive tradition, grasped this central truth: that work, done rightly, affords the individual an understanding of the key principles of life and the universe.’ Everyone who loves their work will recognise the truth of this statement. Though what you do produces a tangible result or product, what draws you back to it is the way greater knowledge in your speciality somehow illuminates other things. You love your work not just because it teaches you a lot about yourself, but because it becomes a key to understanding life, the universe, and everything.

Final comments

Some readers will feel that Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow contains too much psychobabble, with a fair amount of talk about self-esteem and the effects of your childhood. Yet given that the decision to do what you love is often reached after going through psychological contortions, Sinetar’s focus is understandable.

This is not a dry career manual; it is about the bigger questions of who you are and what brings you happiness. These are not even psychological questions, they are metaphysical, and trying to sidestep them will inevitably result in misery. Sinetar’s examples of people who followed their inner voice are fascinating, and yet they are not exceptional. The key is to realise that doing what you love is not a luxury, but a necessity in living a truly prosperous life.

About Marsha Sinetar

Sinetar spent five years as a public school teacher in California, then a further five years as a school principal. She was a school curriculum consultant and mediator for the California state board of education.

She has also taught management development programs at Loyola University’s Industrial Relations Center in Los Angeles, and runs a private practice focusing on organizational psychology, mediation, and corporate leadership education.

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