Why “Do What You Love” Is Terrible Advice
By Tom Popomaronis 思含 选 马玉芳 注
Do What You Love.
It’s got its own acronym—DWYL1 (try Googling it). It’s printed on cushions and plastered over inspirational JPEGs on Tumblr.2 It conjures up images of a utopian paradise where we all go to work skipping, sing during our lunch break, and can’t wait to go back the next day.3
But it’s terrible career advice. It’s misleading. It’s elitist4. It’s not even realistic. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone I care about to “Do What You Love.” Here’s why:
1. It’s Dehumanizing5
If we live in a world where Do What You Love is the ultimate career goal, where does that leave anyone who doesn’t love what they do?6 Most people don’t love their jobs in the way they love their dogs or re-runs of The Simpsons.7
If you are one of those managing to be legitimately joyous at work,8 then you’re one of a lucky few. As an entrepreneur, I certainly love what I do and I’m not afraid to admit it—but I also realize that I’m incredibly fortunate.9
The point is, too much emphasis on DWYL could leave those who don’t love their work feeling ashamed or like failures. Sure, they have a job, but do they love that job? No. So they must not be doing something right. Yet for many, doing what they love at work isn’t as important as supporting those they love at home. Who is to say one is better than the other? For those not in a position to DWYL, the obsession with it risks devaluing their work and dehumanizing them in the process.10
2. It’s Inaccurate11
Most people work incredibly hard, and not just those who work manual labor12. While writers, coders, and real estate agents don’t have calloused hands to show for their toil, if they’re any good, they work hard.13 Really hard. And to tell them that they should “love it” is just plain insulting.14 Because working hard means dedication, focus, and constant self-improvement.15 And it’s impossible to love every moment of these processes without being a masochist16. Sure, great work brings great rewards, but for every moment of joy, there are many more moments of banging your head against the wall, or ripping it all up and starting again.17 That’s the price of success. Even those we hail as the gods of DWYL—i.e., athletes and musicians—work really hard, and doubtfully love every second.18 Many of you have heard it, but Michael Jordan used to put in hundreds of jump shots a day between gym time in the off-season; a young Eddie Van Halen would sit on his bed practicing all night,19 while his brother was out dating.
3. It’s Elitist
High-status jobs are in short supply. And due to the nature of supply and demand, there are many more people who want to be CEOs, lead guitar players, and successful tech entrepreneurs than there are jobs. The vast majority of those who do get these jobs have massive advantages due to their socio-economic status, ethnicity, or just plain good looks.20
In other words, it’s not a level playing field—even at the entry level, where businesses recruit via unpaid internships.21 This requires job hopefuls to bankroll their living costs while earning nothing.22 In fact, in this case, Do What You Love needs a caveat23—If You Can Afford It. You’re going to need rich parents or benefactors if you want to live in NYC and work for free.24 What’s the advice for those who can’t afford it? Find a sugar momma/daddy25?
So if Do What You Love isn’t good advice, what is?
Do what you’re naturally good at.
It’s not a searchable acronym and it’s not printed on cushions. But it’s great advice, backed up26 by social science research.
First off, studies show that the greater the mismatch between your job and your skills, the less happy you’re likely to be. In other words, if you don’t do something you’re good at (even if you “love” it), you won’t be happy. Secondly, according to leading happiness researcher Martin Seligman, the best way to find a job that will truly satisfy you is to focus on one that aligns with27 your core strengths.
In other words, where DWYL is vague and almost trite in its simplicity, Do What You’re Good At (DWYGA) is in many ways measurable and involved.28 It applies in almost every situation and it doesn’t have a minimum or maximum achievement goal.29 Are you naturally good with people? Consider becoming a teacher, a tour guide, or politician—even if you hadn’t considered it before. Are you good at working with data, and don’t particularly like working with large groups of people? Consider becoming a developer30. Social science research also suggests that just because you’re not good at a specific task now, doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future.
The point is, it can be an easy out31 to just say, “Do what you love!” It’s supported in the culture but in reality can ultimately lead to feelings of worthlessness, confusion, and desperation. By contrast, offering, “DWYGA” can require some research and reflection. It means suggesting that someone take the time to consider what their natural strengths are, and then seeing which jobs align with those.
So the next time you see a cushion that says Do What You Love, ponder32, perhaps, the person who made it. Do they love their job? What would your advice be to them?
1. acronym: 首字母缩略词。
2. cushion: 软垫；plaster: 占满，充斥于；inspirational: 鼓舞人心的；JPEG: Photograph Experts Group 联合图像专家组（一种计算机图像格式）；Tumblr: 中文名为“汤博乐”，成立于2007年，是目前全球最大的轻博客网站。
3. 它使我们联想到一种乌托邦式的天堂：我们蹦蹦跳跳地去上班，午休时欢声歌唱，第二天还会迫不及待地想去上班。conjure up: 使在脑海浮现；utopian: 乌托邦式的。
4. elitist: 精英主义的。
5. dehumanizing: 使失掉人性的。
6. 如果我们所生活的世界将“做你喜欢的事情”作为终极职业目标的话，那么那些从事着自己并不喜欢的工作的人们将被置于何地？ultimate: 最终的。
7. re-run: 重播；The Simpsons: 《辛普森一家》，美国福克斯广播公司的一部著名动画情景喜剧。
8. legitimately: 正当地；joyous: 快乐的。
9. entrepreneur: 企业家；incredibly: 难以置信地。
10. 对于那些不能“做你喜欢的事情”的人来说，一直执迷于此会降低他们的工作价值，使他们丧失自我。be in a position to: 能够；obsession: 着迷；devalue: 使贬值。
11. inaccurate: 错误的。
12. manual labor: 体力劳动。
13. 尽管作家、编码员、房地产经纪人没有长满老茧的双手来证明自己的辛苦，但值得肯定的是，他们都努力万分。 coder: 编码员；real estate agent: 房地产经纪人；calloused: 长了老茧的；toil: 辛苦工作；any good: <口>有用，有任何用处。
14. (just) plain: 十分，完全（表示强调）；insulting: 侮辱的。
15. dedication: 奉献；constant: 持续不断的。
16. masochist: 受虐狂。
17. bang: 猛撞；rip up: 把……撕碎。
18. hail as: 称赞为；athlete: 运动员。
19. Michael Jordan: 迈克尔·乔丹，美国篮球明星；jump shot: 跳投（篮球）；gym time: 健身时间； off-season: （一个赛季末和下一赛季初之间球队的）休赛期；Eddie Van Halen: 艾迪·范·海伦，美国著名重金属乐队Van Halen的吉他手，20世纪最杰出的吉他演奏家之一。
20. socio-economic: 社会经济的； ethnicity: 种族特点。
21. 换句话说，这是个不公平的竞争环境——甚至从初始阶段开始（就是不公平的），有些企业招聘的实习生都是不带薪的。level playing field: 公平竞争环境；recruit: 招聘；internship: 实习。
22. hopeful: 此处指有希望成功的人；bankroll: 为……提供资金。
23. caveat: 警告。
24. benefactor: 资助人；NYC: 纽约市（New York City）。
25. sugar momma/daddy: 甜妈/爹，在青年男子/女子身上滥花钱的老色迷。
26. back up: 支持。
27. align with: 与……一致。
28. vague: 模糊的；trite: 陈腐的，老一套的；simplicity: 简单；measurable: 重要的。
29. minimum: 最小的；maximum: 最大的。
30. developer: 开发人员。
31. out: n. 脱身之计，推脱的借口。
32. ponder: 仔细考虑。