When I’ve dispensed career advice, I’ve been known to say, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” And the reason I do is that I love what I am doing already, without having to change careers. I’ve been fortunate to work in a field that I truly enjoyed.

But, of course, that’s not true of everyone.

And when you are not working in the industry or the position you love and your joy comes from a skill that has thus far not produced a living wage, well, then what do you do?

Lest you think I’m dithering on my position, let me be clear: there’s nothing inherently wrong with the advice. No doubt, thousands – if not millions—have found their true passion and their job positions to intersect and have profited both mentally and financially from it. Bravo! That’s great if you are “livin’ the dream”.

The problem, however, is that this advice doesn’t really work for everyone, and frankly, we need to stop being disingenuous and start being more realistic.

Ditch the idea of “do what you love.”

“Do what you love” is short-sighted career advice, failing to take reality into account. It ignores the difficulty of living in a capitalistic society that makes it impossible for most of us to do what we love while making it easier for others.

If you are independently wealthy or the folks are allowing you to hunker down in your old bedroom, it is a whole lot easier to “do what you love”.

It is easier, as well, if the what-you-love skill is deeply technical (programming or practicing medicine or fill-in-the-blank-here) and fits in with the value notions of the community you live in. It is less easy, certainly, if you are an artist, a journalist, or in a marginalized community and you are struggling to cover the rent and put diapers on the newborn.

Economic mobility is significantly different than it has been in previous generations: by the time 93% of those US-born in 1940 reached 30 years of age, they were able to out-earn their parents. Compare this statistic with those born in 1980 who only have a 45% chance of out-earning their parents by the same age. Doing what we want is just not an option for most of us.

For a moment, let’s ignore the fact that our hobbies – which we are encouraged to monetize – are meant to take us away from the drudgery of our 9-to-5, to refresh us, to inspire us, to engage us with our higher selves.

If I engage in my most-beloved hobby at a higher capacity and with a business plan designed to support my financial needs and put money in the bank for my teen’s college education, how long will my love for that new direction last? At what point, will the Hobby become a Hobble?

Let’s build the life you love.

Research shows us that not working isn’t good for our brain function. But, of course, the other end of the stick is that overwork is not good for our brains either.

Yet doing the work that we enjoy brings us satisfaction, recognition (also satisfying) and actually reduces the stress. So where is the middle-ground between a soul-sucking job that pays the bills and a passion-filled position that pays insufficiently?

Ask yourself tough questions about

  1. the life you want
  2. the choices you’ve made
  3. and how you can move forward.

Job satisfaction, after all, is not all about the money; job satisfaction is also about what the work provides for you and your family. Provisions like a comfortable lifestyle, or free time (i.e. personal time off) to pursue your passion projects, or have enough money to take one or more vacations every year.

If cooking is your passion, the conventional wisdom would tell you to get a job as a chef and grind away until your passion pays the bills. In actuality, it might be easier – and more fulfilling – to work part-time as an administrative assistant, getting a steady paycheck, that ultimately pays for the cooking classes in Italy. The admin job may not bring out your passion, but if it allows you to fund those trips to Italy, the trade-off might be worth it.

Yes, easier said than done, but starting with those tough questions is the first step.

You really are more than what you do.

It’s time we challenge the mythos that connects what you do with who you are and encourage people to chase dream LIVES rather than dream JOBS.

Can’t manage to ask – or answer—those tough questions on your own? Let’s connect and have a conversation about where you can find that middle-ground, how you can have a job that fits the financial profile of your family and yet still allows you time and inspiration to carry on with your passions.