Take the wide turn, love what you do.

By Mike Berg / July 7th, 2010 / Blog / 13 Comments

Update Jan 22, 2014: A very important counterpoint to this post is here. How the “do what you love” attitude is elitist and divisive. Well worth reading.

I recently heard on the radio that 95% of Canadians don’t love their job.* While sad, that information made me feel pretty good about being in that top 5%. Do you love your job?

It’s tough to quit a full-time job, even a lousy one; I think the above stat alone is proof of that. But how can you get out of that rut and into a job you’re truly passionate about?

Working for yourself is what ended up being the right fit for me, but you definitely don’t have to be your own boss to love what you’re doing.

There’s no formula for success, especially when working for yourself. I’m going to talk about the steps I took to go from working for “The Man” to being my own boss, loving what I do, and working towards doing something I love even more.

How to be happy in business, a brilliant venn diagram by What Consumes Me. Click for full size.

Start on the side

I worked at a small software company for eight years. The last five of those years I started to do web development on the side, doing smaller projects for co-workers, friends and relatives. I kept a portfolio of projects and started collecting testimonials. I love the creativity this kind of work allows me, I love the people I work with, I love making peoples’ experience with running their own website better.

I was also partly inspired to quit my day job by the song Wide Turn (iTunes) by my favourite Winnipeg musician, Greg Macpherson (Fred Jones, Pt. 2 by Ben Folds is also a good one).

Don’t stop learning

One of the best parts about doing something you love is that learning new things about it is the most fun and interesting part. You need to be good at what you do, and staying at the cutting edge helps you and your business get noticed. Your quality of work (and people skills) directly impact word of mouth. I have spent exactly zero dollars on advertising and marketing.

Be patient

As I mentioned, I was working at web design and development on the side for five years before I was able to take it full time. The more established and well-known your business is, the easier it is to stay afloat once you make the switch.

Get involved

Find social networks or groups that you can join to meet people with similar interests and “know and be known”. I am now aiming to move towards full time game development, and Twitter has worked great for me in this field. Going to 360iDev was a catalyst for all kinds of interesting things that are starting to happen that will allow me to begin to shift my focus away from web dev and onto what I am passionate about. This will also take time, but it’s all part of the journey toward making a living doing what I love.

Don’t do it for the money

While financial success can be a natural side effect of being passionate about – and good at – what you’re doing, don’t expect it. Be motivated to do what you love, rather than making lots of money. You’ll be happier for it, and enough money will (hopefully) come. Remember, be patient.

What about you? Are you among those top 5%? or is there something you’d rather be doing with your time? What steps could you take to make that a reality?

*While this stat is for Canada only, I assume the ratio is similar in other countries.