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Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,

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Is DWYL bad for the individual and society? The Case Against “Do What You Love”

A lot of gurus are advising us to 'do what you love'. Should we follow the advice?

'If you’ve ever been in a career transition, or have been a recent grad, there was probably a moment where you weren’t quite sure what was next. Usually, well-intentioned folks like to suggest that you “do what you love” (DWYL) and somehow the rest will magically follow. In Slate, Miya Tokumitsu makes her case why that advice is bad for the individual and for society:...'
http://99u.com/workbook/21797/the-case-against-do-what-you-love

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  • Jan 27 2014: I tried "Do what you hate." It didn't work all that well. (Tee hee?)

    All seriousness aside, though, "Do what you love" is a luxury. Most people will never get the opportunity to do that as more than a pastime or hobby. Making it some kind of imperative only sets us up for more misery. If you can "do what you love", wonderful! Making it some kind of rule for life means that most people will see themselves as failing YET ANOTHER mandatory rule of life.
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      Jan 27 2014: Bullseye Bryan! Just come to think of it. The fact is we all live our lives doing what we hate---until we achieve the success that breaks the monotomy. We wake up, take a bath, brush out teeth, go to school or work, do the dishes and laundry, clean our rooms, etc..., every day of every year. No wonder a lot of us acquire some kind of mental problems or burnout! Doing what we hate is actually the mandatory rule of life.
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        Jan 28 2014: Do you think most people hate doing things like taking a bath? I think people's days consist, typically, of doing many things they are neutral about as activities but that lean toward the positive when considered as part of a larger picture.

        While some people do hold a philosophy that one should do only things that are fun and easy, breakthroughs likely tend to come more to those who have a taste for challenge. Martin Seligman in his TED talk and Mihalyi Czikzentmihalyi in his find and share that people's satisfaction with life is positively correlated with successfully facing challenges, including solving problems, rather than just taking it easy.

        I think it is productive for people to think in terms of building into their days time to do things they really love doing. Some people love to sing, others to look at flowers, some to cuddle a cat, some to volunteer, some to talk with friends... What I think is not good advice is the counsel not to do anything one isn't passionate about. This posture tends to lead to great disappointment and limits opportunities to learn and broaden ones experience. Such a posture makes collaboration difficult, because no one wants to work with someone willing to do only the most engaging parts of the job.

        One fascinating thing about Studs Terkel's classic book Working, a compendium of interviews with hundreds of people in hundreds of jobs, is that almost all in describing the work manage to build in aspects that are gratifying to them. We all have different tastes in what we read, but because you posed this question, I think you might find that book intriguing.
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          Jan 28 2014: '...people's satisfaction with life is positively correlated with successfully facing challenges rather than just taking it easy.'
          Yes. Some personalities just don't thrive without challenges or 'rushes'.

          'What I think is not good advice is the counsel not to do anything one isn't passionate about...'
          So again, 'Do what you hate' is the better advice.
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        Jan 28 2014: I don't think "Do what you hate" is good advice or better advice. I think four word sound bites taken out of context tend not to be very valuable as advice, and this is such a case.
  • Jan 26 2014: I think the slate article you linked had a valid point about dwyl being an option open to only those people lucky enough to be born into financial security. I was raised to believe that there is value in hard work, that whatever it is you are doing to support yourself and your family, you should do it as well as you can. I worked in warehouses for years, I did a/c work on garbage trucks, I dug ditches for awhile to pay my rent. None of these jobs were glamorous or fun, but they had value to me. Most of us here in the states (and i assume it the same around the world) don't realistically have the option of doing what we love, only doing what we can to survive. It seems to me that you should try to find some joy in whatever work you are doing, some contentment. That is hard to do, though, if you are not being paid enough to support yourself.
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      Jan 26 2014: Excellent example and great points Jacob. I also held various jobs: metal worker and oxygen tank delivery before I had a break to being a graphic artist---my real profession. You assumed right that it's not only in
      the States where most workers don't realistically have the option of doing what you love and only doing
      what you can to survive. That's also the case in the Philippines.

      'It seems to me that you should try to find some joy in whatever work you are doing, some contentment.
      That is hard to do, though, if you are not being paid enough to support yourself...'

      I strongly agree. My brother had a high-earning job he enjoys here in Manila. He migrated to the US and
      now, he accepted a part-time second job that pays only $16 per day! Of course he accepted the job just
      to enhance his resume. But I doubt if he still enjoy the job he loved before.
      • Jan 26 2014: That brings up a good point. How much do we still enjoy our hobbies when they become our jobs. I've been making and installing cabinets and furniture for years now. I enjoy certain aspects of it but there is a noticeable difference in how much I enjoy it when I am on the clock as opposed to when I am at play. I wonder how common it is to lose the joy of what you do when you have to view it as a business and depend on it for your livelihood.
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          Jan 26 2014: I am glad you posed this as a question, because I don't think the answer is obvious. I don't know how common it is to stop enjoying a hobby when it becomes ones job. For some people it may be too much of a good thing. For example, you may love doing aerobics but teaching classes of it eight hours a day, five days a week, might be physically too demanding to enjoy.

          Many people love to cook or bake but would hate to be a cook in a restaurant or a hotel.
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          Jan 26 2014: Jacob-
          Some workers or paid sportsmen enjoy time pressure when they are bored. But time pressure is undesired when we recently suffered stress. I would still enjoy paid pressured work if I could see that I'm moving forward towards a goal.

          Fritzie-
          '...you may love doing aerobics but teaching classes of it eight hours a day, five days a week...'

          2 ways money is involved (again) here. You continue paying for aerobic classes which means you enjoy it---unless you are forced to take the lessons. You teach it eight hours a day, five days a week---whether you enjoy it or not---because you need to earn a living. You don't enjoy that.

          'Many people love to cook or bake but would hate to be a cook in a restaurant or a hotel...'
          Because they would not enjoy the pressure at the workplace.
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      Jan 25 2014: You've just triggered a new interesting question Lilly:
      Do we have the free will to do what we love? Will our financial status allow us to afford that?
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          Jan 25 2014: '...life is too...influenced by the stronger other...'
          Too deep for me Lilly! Spoken as if you're a philosopher or guru. Well, my best
          guess is you mean 'the stronger other' is a malevolent negative being.
          May all your days be good days too.
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          Jan 25 2014: Now you are forcing me to think lol
          Are the electrical and biological effects caused by the evolution of a species greater
          than us humans? I don't think so Lilly. If we could control ultra-modern tech (which
          we can) instead of letting it control us, how much more we can the effects caused by
          the evolution of a species?

          By the way you talk, you paint a human with a great thinking mind :-)
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          Jan 26 2014: I beg to disagree Lilly, but it's obvious that you're bright, interesting, and original. And because of that, I wish I'll see your feedback in all my convos. More confidence to you!
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          Jan 26 2014: '...sad fact, why humans can never truly find another human interesting from birth to a hundred year death...'
          That's indeed a fact. Probably why I keep joining forums---looking for really interesting humans.

          'May you have a heads up life to avoid the things that just seem to popup ...from nowhere...'
          A wish I badly need fulfilled! All my life, all kinds of unwanted things--human or not--keep popping up! Thanks!
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          Jan 28 2014: '...life for a conscious human is one fraught with blockages!'
          But we are blessed. We see more things than the others right? :-)
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          Jan 29 2014: '...so maybe the majority that died early are the blessed ones.'

          One thing is sure about the dead---they exist in total peace if they died in harmony with the benevolent Spirit.
    • Jan 30 2014: The problem with humans is they're always being tugged by the stronger humans ideas of their something and than like children saying they had free will.!

      I think, that 'stronger humans' don't have free will either, they may entertain this illusion, it's what make them control freaks :)
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        • Jan 30 2014: A human comes to earth ...
          From where ?
          " Nothing in this abyss is alian to you"
          Nature is neither our friend nor enemy, it's us.
          Thank you very much for responding !
          I do appreciate it !
          Be well !
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        • Jan 31 2014: Thanks for responding, lilly lilly !
          " humans became so mind formed they will never know most truths"

          Truth is singular, and it is not hidden, it's simply too obvious to notice.
          Believe me, i have nothing to convert you into and don't see any need to disagree with you. Your description looks true enough , but i think, there is much more to it.
          What is lacking there is the play of Light and Dark ; existence is a dual thing, you know :).

          Please, take care !
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    Jan 28 2014: currently, in education circles, there is the idea going around that school should be fun and gadgets can allow this to happen. of course, school should be engaging, but this kind of nonsense disregards the fact that hard work is sometimes more important than having a good time.

    your question is similar - doing what you love is great. it's freeing. but it's not all skipping through fields of roses and cartwheeling down to the bank. it's difficult and hard work and generally means that you're sacrificing something for it.

    it can be stressful at times (financially speaking) so it can be tough on the individual but, the benefits do outweigh the negatives. as far as society goes, ha! if i'm productive in any way, i have done my duty to society.

    i'm doing what i love and i've never felt better. mind you, i deal with music which is humankind's greatest achievement and highest pinnacle (i'm not thinking of Candy Pooper or Bouncey when i make this statement) :)
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      Jan 28 2014: That's the best thing about being a musician or an artist. Most of them always enjoy what they do whether they are starving or making a fortune out of being ones. And the dedication of artists and craftsmen is puzzling to most.

      But I wonder if producing art is doing duty to society considering that art is luxury.

      Thanks Scott.
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        Jan 28 2014: i think it's essential but ultimately, i couldn't care less about whether it benefits society or not. for some people, i'm sure that there is little time for music or joy because there are profit margins to expand.

        there's been a swelling of peoples' sense of duty ever since the internet came along. people banging on about creativity being the most important thing of this century as if it's never been part of the human experience before Apple packaged it into their slick, cheesy commercials. people using banal and empty catch-phrases like "future focused", "future proofing", "DWYL". "fake it til you make it" - T-shirt philosophy.

        setting aside global warming and paying taxes, i think live music has always been essential and is even more so in the modern era.

        it allows people to step outside their 9-5 existence and cut loose. a dash of debauchery, a little letting your hair down, the trance of dancing and whirling to a beat, the communal energy of band and crowd is really the hook for me - from behind the microphone, that connection can be heart-swelling.

        save the world? note by note.
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          Jan 28 2014: '...setting aside global warming and paying taxes, i think live music has always been essential and is even more so in the modern era.'
          Now I see art doing its duty to society---it generates big money for the economy. More importantly,
          it promotes well being to citizens.

          'save the world? note by note.'
          Now that's a beautiful and powerful idea! Bravo Scott.
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        Jan 28 2014: i like this question. made me delve into why i love playing music for peanuts.

        i think of politics and i can't see that as a way forward. i think of acadaemia and the same thing applies (in my opinion, of course).

        i can't see that these things are productive, rather they are going through the motions - again, this is my world i'm talking about, not some perception of the whole wide world.

        pop songs have always held a fascination for me - the combination of melody and the execution of the lyric are powerful.

        when you think about Pete Seeger and his quiet influence on so many people and the conscientious folk movement that provided a voice for the lefties, THAT is where I think the difference can be made.

        of course, there will be people that disagree and they may be right but if they do what they do and i do what i do, together, we might be able to keep things ticking over for a few more millenia.

        diversity is key, i guess.
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          Jan 28 2014: 'when you think about Pete Seeger and his quiet influence on so many people and the conscientious folk movement that provided a voice for the lefties, THAT is where I think the difference can be made.'
          Seeger could be one the most successful passive activist that made impact on politics. But it seems to me all his activist impact doesn't exist anymore Scott. Am I right?
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    Jan 24 2014: Mr. Peralta, if doing what you love benefits others, then keep doing it. However if what you love doing is hurting people, other living things, and our Earth, then ...you know what I mean.
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      Jan 24 2014: Ahh... now you've given the better answer for DWYL sir. Bravo! I totally agree.
  • Jan 23 2014: My answer is "within reasonable limits".

    If your dream is something practical to make a living out of, go nuts. If its semi-practical or worse, like artistry or music, you may find a day job in order to avoid the whole "starving artist" stereotype, especially at first. It may be advisable to keep your love as a hobby.

    This is further strengthened when you consider the following points:
    1-doing what you love is nice and all, but you probably won't enjoy it much if there's no food on the table/you need to start taking extra jobs to make ends meet. This may be a temporary stage, or it may be permanent (say, an actor who never breaks out), and its not always possible to say which way it'll end up. Only grows worse when/if you try to start a family.
    2-doing what you love as work may not be half as loveable as when you did it for fun. Say I love watching movies, but as a critic (the job version), I'd have to watch them eight hours a day. Good movies, bad movies, whether I feel like it or not, and then write a critic of each one; probably won't be half as fun.
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      Jan 23 2014: I strongly agree Nadav.
      I have this LinkedIn convo where we talk about writing. I wrote this reply:

      "Rich writers can afford not to write for money. So they have no reason to be shy of being writers
      except if they don't really have the talent. Someone said 'Writing is the only profession where people
      don't find it ridiculous if you don't make money.'
      Might be the reason why we are shy of mentioning our profession."

      A reply:
      'Pocholo, you could absolutely be spot on! It's the sheer passion that drives us to do this rather
      than any money that might be sent our way.'

      Then I was amazed when someone in our convo replied as if he can't understand that!
      Now I mentioned that convo because I think writing might be the best example when we talk about
      doing what we love. Always great to exchange ideas with you again Nadav.
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    Jan 30 2014: 60+ years ago, my mother started presenting this idea...."do what you love and/or love what you are doing". Not only did she present it verbally....she lived it in every moment, and I observed the results:>)

    For me, it has been a way to "be" in the moment, "being" mindfully aware and involved in the process of living life to the fullest. It makes no sense to me, to be doing something and complaining the whole time. It seems logical and reasonable to me, to learn and grow with each and every interaction.

    I have never perceived anything magical about the idea. For me, it is simply a way to "be" fully engaged in life with compassion and contentment, rather than frustration, anger, distress, discontent, complaint, etc. In my 60+ years of life, I have discovered that there is ALWAYS something to learn with each and every situation, so I LOVE the explorations, even in the face of challenges. I believe it can be beneficial to the individual AND the whole, and there is nothing "magical" about it....in my humble perception and experience:>)
  • Jan 26 2014: Said this in another conversation, my thesis adviser said to know what your profession and your hobbies. Some people do not have the talent to make their hobbies into a profession and they may not love as much the profession that will make them a living.

    I would say try it out but always be brutally honest with yourself about your talent and the life you want to lead. I have a friend whose son wants to be an actor. He is willing to live ok but not well with the ability to drop everything to take an acting job. He has made that choice. If you look at his earnings, most of his money is derived from being a waiter or cook, not being an actor.
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      Jan 26 2014: 'He is willing to live ok but not well with the ability to drop everything to take an acting job...'
      And that is why DoingWYL demands being responsible too Wayne.

      'If you look at his earnings, most of his money is derived from being a waiter or cook, not being an actor.'
      I think that is mostly the case now for the majority whatever their choice job is, even if they are good
      and responsible workers.
      • Jan 26 2014: I think it has nothing to do with being good and responsible. In acting, the people who are doing the casting must decide who can do the part the best plus other factors. You might be too tall, too short, too young, too old, etc.
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          Jan 26 2014: 'He is willing to live ok but not well with the ability to drop everything to take an acting job...'
          I see I misunderstood that phrase yes. But now I see lack of determination in that phrase.

          Being unfit for an acting role is a very good example of being rejected for job applications in general. I might be more capable than another applicant but the other has the specialty the firm is seeking so he was the one accepted.
  • Jan 26 2014: Hi Poch,how about'Love What We Do"?
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      Jan 26 2014: Great idea Edu. But as Jacob has said: '...try to find some joy in whatever work you are doing, some contentment. That is hard to do, though, if you are not being paid enough to support yourself...'

      I'm not earning enough now and might eventually not love what I do anymore :-)
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    Jan 24 2014: I think it depends on what you love doing, that can change and even be altered by yourself if you put some effort into it.

    There's a quote from the movie Gladiator where Maximus asks Cicero

    "Don't you find it hard to do your duty?"

    And Cicero responds

    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to."
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      Jan 24 2014: I just had an insight from your quote of Gladiator:
      Don't you think the luckiest people are those that enjoy or love doing their duty? And I mean
      duties as a professional worker. It's rare that doing what we have to do is fun.
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    Jan 23 2014: Poch, I often hear on TED follow your passion and now the catch term Do What You Love (DWYL) ... they are much the same.

    Millions would love to be beach bums, drink for a living, party in all sorts of manners .... we had that in the 60's we called them hippies .... they didn't last long ... great hours lousy pay.

    I think that the nanny society has convinced many that generational welfare is alright ... that the means of becoming rich is re-distribution of wealth .... in short that the ones who worked for it owe it to you. Cow droppings.

    The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

    If you are lucky enough to have the financial resources to do what you love ... great. If not get your butt to work.

    From the feeble mind of the old guy.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jan 23 2014: I don't think that's a feeble view Bob lol
      So, like with Nadav's reply, we veer to our personal finances and should rightly so. We three
      agree that we should put work first before doing what we love.

      In my reply to Nadav, I used writing---a profession where more than half can't earn a living---
      as an example.
      'Writing is the only profession where people don't find it ridiculous if you don't make money.'
      How can you love and do writing if that's the case!?