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The mantra of "do what you love" is a sham.

After a while I understood my problem with this mantra: It's not for everyone.

By:
Ricard Guerrero
August 4, 2021
The mantra of "do what you love" is a sham.

Before I found my way to Fuckup Nights, I had been unemployed for 4 months. Desperate, I got to a point where I thought "whatever was fine" and was accepting interviews at places I couldn't see myself working.

Many of those interviews were in those typical co-working offices where you were bombarded with positive messages with fancy fonts and bright colors that said:

Haz lo que amas <3

I always found it very ironic the contrast it made with the dozens of people waiting stressfully for the elevator.

It's the same on Instagram and image banks. It won't be long before you find a nice sign that says "Do what you love". And you know, all those #Ilovemyjob, #Blessedo #FollowYourPassion hashtags. And it just sounds so simple, doesn't it? Do what you love and you'll be happy, do what you love and the rest will come on its own.

And I didn't realize what this mantra meant to me, until it started messing with my mental health. Am I doing what I love? What if I'm not? What do I really love?

After a while I understood my problem with this mantra: It 's not for everyone.

The privilege... again

There are many exciting stories of people who quit their jobs, told their boss to hell with them and followed their passion. The rest is an inspiring story of success, renown and money. If you follow your passion, everything will align in your favor, that's the promise.

Earlier, we talked about the ladder of privilege and also about the lottery involved in being born in some countries and in certain social nuclei. The mantra of "Do what you love" is only for some, because it comes from a position of privilege and opportunity.

Okay, I will do what I love, but who will pay my rent? Who will feed my family? Who will pay my debts? "Do what you love" if you have a family inheritance, your parents' house to come back to if things don't work out, a relative in government to give you a temporary job, "Do what you love" if you have levers in some industry, if you received a quality education, if you studied abroad. Following that mantra is not in many people's reality.

It is necessary to recognize our privileges, those we have and those we don't, and to be aware that sometimes we have some that we take for granted. Privileges are not to be ashamed of, they are to be acknowledged, thanked and shared as much as possible to help others climb the ladder of privilege.

Even if we have them in our favor, sometimes our own mental health works against us. In a world where you have to prove every second that you are worth it, that you are special and unique, it is normal to get worn out and go through bouts of zero enthusiasm and willpower. A healthy mind is also a privilege to consider and when you don't have it, there is also a heavy burden of shame.

Saying "do what you love" is like saying "don't be sad" to a chronically depressed patient.

Capitalism and the culture of shaming

In my search for this particular mantra, I found a speech on the internet by a famous entrepreneur and CEO where he said:

"Your life is too precious and valuable to spend it doing something you don't enjoy. Every minute of your life should be spent doing the things that matter to you and that you love, that make you happy."

Because it is very rude of us to work just to earn money (eng) and want to survive. That's not enough. Besides, you must love it, it must inject you with a daily dose of passion, because "if you work in something you love, you won't have to work a single day of your life". Right?

The problem with "Do what you love" is the load of shaming it carries beneath the surface. Low key. If you don't do what you love you are a poor devil, you are selling your soul and your time to an evil capitalist corporation, you are leaving yourself and you should be ashamed of yourself for not pursuing your dreams. Kind of like shaming yourself for not taking a bath in less than 10 minutes, when a huge multinational corporation dries up entire springs in the blink of an eye. We are not looking at our privileges, we ignore the bigger problem: why will there be people who don't do what they love?

And if all this wasn't bad enough, there is also the:

Do what you love, the money will follow $.

Welcome to capitalism, make yourself comfortable. Because everything must be monetized, even the love and passion for what we do.

But what if what I love doesn't pay well or needs a lot of investment to perfect? What if I suck at what I love to do and no one will buy it? " Do what you love because you love it, not because it will make you money, not because you should expect to make a living at it. " Do what you love because it fulfills you and makes you happy and is an escape from real life.

Doing what you love goes beyond the economic advantage it can give you. Doing what we love is being in touch with who we are, our human side and the ability to feel useful and fulfilled from a perspective of internal validation.

Making money from it is a bonus (a very good one), but we must get rid of the promise that it will feed us, recognize that it will at least give us happiness and that is as important as the money.

Swimming against the current

And I understand, "Do what you love" comes from a positive place. It's advice that seeks to inspire you to do better. But there's something they don't tell you and I'd like to tell you because I would have liked to hear it sooner:

Do what you love. When you can and how you can. Without haste and in your own time.

Find your own definition of happiness and success. You don't need to quit your job to start that hyper-romanticized success story. Here are some things that I believe can help you do what you love, without getting into the race that is imposed on us:

  • Take advantage of what you have: You may not have had specialized training in what you would like to do, but you may have other skills that bring you closer to that. Skills that you don't usually get from educational institutions such as the ability to negotiate, adapt to environments, resilience, etc. What they call the "street smart" Where are you standing? You can develop new goals and dreams within the context.
  • Find a balance: No, you don't have to quit your job to pursue your goals. Try to find spaces to practice, learn something new or just let yourself go. Ask for vacations to dedicate yourself to what you love, save what you can to finance something related to what you love. Don't hate the job that helps you survive, maybe you can't quit to start a career as a singer, but you can quit to find something similar with a little more flexibility or a better salary and dedicate yourself to it.
  • Don't rush: Social networks are immediate, they pressure you to post everything, every step you take, what you do to pursue and do what you love and enter that circle of those who are winning in life. Take your time. In that fast-paced, fast-paced world, it seems like every day lost is another inch deeper in the hole. It's okay to take some time. Doing nothing and thinking about what you really want to do is very valuable and adds to your self-knowledge.
  • Acknowledge your privileges and help others: Within your few or no privileges there may be an advantage that others do not have. Acknowledging your privileges can be an excellent exercise in gratitude and sharing them can level the playing field for everyone. Do you know someone with few opportunities that you can recommend? At the end of the day, helping others creates a network of people who support each other and fight systemic inequality.

It is not my intention to turn this blog into an ode to conformism. Because it DOES matter to do what we love, it DOES matter to make an effort and it doesn 't mean that because we don't have privileges, our dreams are cancelled and we should feel sorry for ourselves.

It means that simply, reaching them or going after them will cost us more work. And although the culture of effort and meritocracy are issues that we should also put on the table, there are ways to swim against the current, in our own style, and ignoring how superficial a post on Instagram that demands: "Do what you love" can be.


Do you want your team to feel intrinsically motivated and improve productivity beyond empty phrases? As part of The Failure Program, we have a variety of online courses, workshops and private events, plus a survey that will diagnose how you are managing failure in your company. Leave us your details and let's start collaborating to make failure work for you.

Edited by

Raquel Rojas

The mantra of "do what you love" is a sham.
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