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.

Add Comment

13 Responses

  • Pingback: Love what you do. Escape the rat race. | Karnak Games

  • I definitely love my job! Video games is all I've ever done — I even left university early to start professionally — and it's all I've ever known since about age 9. I can't imagine doing anything else.

    When your work is also your passion, it doesn't really feel like work at all.

  • The only problem I find is loving one thing.

    For instance, with 360Conferences, I loved meeting the community and hooking them up together, but I didn't like the dealing with hotels, ordering food, etc.

    With programming, I like to build things but sometimes I have to make features that I think are absolutely pointless for my boss.

    With writing, I can lose myself in the creation process, but not sure if I could write for a living.

    With game making, the journey has been great so far and I'm really hopeful that it's as fulfilling later as these early days are.

    My main gripe is why can't I just have ONE passion. A single topic that just outweighs everything else for me that I can focus on. I admire people who can do that, narrow it down to just one. Unfortunately, I just don't think I'm born that way.

    • I think the key is finding that part of a process that you love enough to motivate you to get through all the crap. Everything has parts that suck. I absolutely love making games, and I'm amazed that I get to do this for a living. But that doesn't mean that some parts of making a game aren't awful. There are points during every game that are a struggle to get through. There are always times during development where I think to myself, “why am I doing this?” But I remind myself that by pushing through it, I always get back to the good parts that I love. And ultimately, I think the struggle is a large part of what makes it worth it. If it were easy, I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much. When you get through a point of struggle, it makes the fun stuff even more fun.


    • Hi Tom,

      I call this question of yours the City Slickers Dilemma. From the movie City Slickers:

      Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
      [holds up one finger]
      Curly: This.
      Mitch: Your finger?
      Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
      Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
      Curly: [smiles] That's what *you* have to find out.

      I have the same problem you have, Tom. There are many things I like to get my hands and mind into. But when I stick my hands and mind into everything that I like doing, I don't do shit. 🙂 Nothing gets done if I try to do everything.

      So I pick one thing, get through that, enjoy it to hell, and end up satisfied when I finish it.

      Then I pick another one thing …

  • I love texts like this. It makes everything look more exciting.
    Since I am on the same situation, I wrote an article based on yours: http://karnakgames.com/wp/2010/07/love-what-you

    • The original stat (as I understood it) actually was that 5% of Canadians wrote that they love their job.

      As for the money part, certainly you have to make enough to get by on. My point was more that your primary motivation can't be that you think it's going to make you rich, because it probably won't.

  • Thanks for the inspiring and motivational post!

    My story is very similar to yours. A web designer/developer recently getting into game development, which has been a dream of mine for a long time.

    Unlike your story, I am unfortunately still working my day job. Thanks for the motivation to push things forward a bit more!

  • I enjoy what I do but what I am really passionate about is “owning” my work. By that I mean that after working on a project I like to know that I can stay in control of it and give it the attention it deserves without necessarily answering to a boss.

    The reason that I left my day job was not because of not being passionate about my work (which was programming and teach then too). The real reason was that I spent 5 years on a project that the company who owned it allowed to languish. What a waste.

  • Pingback: Slight Change of Plan « Retro Dreamer Blog

  • Hi Mike! This was a great post! Lots of insight. Keep doing what you love, and love what you do!

  • Thanks for the inspiring article. Party naked!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *