Passion and profession
March 7, 2014 8:03 AM   Subscribe

When your passion becomes your job, how do you keep the job aspects of it from draining all your passion away?
posted by roaring beast to Work & Money (10 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
By understanding, as Mark Twain said, that "work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." Even those whose work is also their passion have occasions when they simply have to bear down and get the work done. Otherwise, it's just play.

The pay-off is you can look back and take pride in real accomplishments, not just some moments when you enjoyed yourself.
posted by mono blanco at 8:19 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Enjoy the passion and fun of it, and ride that energy as much as you can. Just keep an eye out for fatigue. If I'm doing a work project I'm really into, or if my extracurricular reading is related to work and I'm super feeling it, I like to take advantage of that momentum and just do it.

I do it until I get sick of it, and if I'm at work I keep working (because work), but if I'm off the clock I give myself permission to do something totally unrelated to my job.
posted by magdalemon at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2014

For me, it helps that I believe in the mission that my work is in service of. So if you work for an organization or company that you believe in, that helps when your passion for the work itself flags. When the mission-drive flags, I think about the people I work with, most of whom I respect and admire, and my desire to be a good teammate helps.

Beyond that, I think it's important for me to maintain some division between my work life and the rest of my life. This was hard at first, but now it happens sort of naturally. I don't usually read blogs or books about my field during my off-time, and aside from professional networking events or the occasional beer with colleagues or other friends in my field, I try to keep shop talk to a minimum during my off-time. I found other things I'm interested to occupy me when I'm not working.

On the other hand, I do think a sort of whole-heartedness helps. The benefit of doing work that you're passionate about is that you do get to take enormous satisfaction in your work. So don't sacrifice that. Set up systems to take care of yourself when you're not working, and be whole-hearted when you are.

So it's not that I don't find myself thinking about work when I first wake up, or while I'm walking my dog, but I find that having these boundaries frees me up to mainly think in creative, out-of-the-box, problem-solving terms during these off-times. So I'm not, like, obsessing about TPS reports, but rather thinking about how to take a project further and make it more successful.
posted by lunasol at 8:50 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another way to think about is is that, for most people, your "passion" might be something you do 4-8 hours/week, in your lesiure time. If it becomes your job, you might be doing it for 40+ hours a week. If you look at it like that, it makes a lot of sense to mentally free up your leisure time for a new passion.

I work in a field that I was very, very interested in. That's why I do what I do! But now I spend so much of my time thinking about it that I'm comfortable NOT thinking about sometimes, too. Also, I have found that the cold, hard reality of learning more about the field tends to temper my "passionate" feelings. I'm personally OK with that.
posted by chocotaco at 8:57 AM on March 7, 2014

I worked as a musician. I remember vividly closing the trunk of my car, having put my guitar inside after my final gig, standing there in the street and thinking to myself, "That was the last time I'll have to play anything. For the rest of my life, it's whatever I want to play." That was a good moment. It wasn't a music moment, strictly speaking—I was just standing in the street—but it was a big moment in my life as a musician. It's one of those I imagine would be included if my life ever flashed before my eyes.

What I'm saying is, I think it's difficult. I have subsequently taken up photography, and I am very wary of getting into paid work. So far I've remained a hobbyist; and while other people might use that word derogatorily, it's meaningful and positive to me. Hobbies are healthy and important.

My advice is to maintain as much separation as you can. On the business end, try to think of the administration as being separate from whatever your passion is. It's just paperwork, phone calls, etc that you need to do as part of being an adult. And on the passion end, try to keep some portion of it as a hobby. If you get paid to shoot senior portraits and weddings but you really love landscapes, then make yourself get up for sunrise occasionally and shoot what you love. It can be hard sometimes, if your work day involves doing a very similar thing and you just feel like crashing, but it's worth it. It's worth the legwork to keep some edge of it personal to yourself, as pure, unpaid passion.
posted by cribcage at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2014

Don't get on any committees, and resist getting "promoted" out of what you like doing into a management position.

Speaking as a librarian at a large university.
posted by gyusan at 9:42 AM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love what I do, and if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd keep working. But not every freaking moment of every day is "passion" flowing through me. Yes, I'm in the zone for a large part of the cool stuff, but if I was impassioned all the time, then that state would be business-as-usual, and there would be no high point. When everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful.
So, I savor the cool parts and handle the other stuff that allows me to do the cool parts. That's what working as a adult means, to me. My passion doesn't get drained away by making a spreadsheet, it's on a little hiatus, recharging itself for the next cool part.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:51 AM on March 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I work at a publishing company, with people who spend a lot of time bemoaning that their love of reading books got them into a position where they never get to read for fun.

Perspective is helpful. No one here reads as many books as they want, but we probably all read dozens and dozens of books a year, and are exposed to hundreds more. That's amazing! For a while I was freaking out ("this job has ruined my love of books!") because I sometimes didn't feel like reading on the subway on the way home. But, you know, I had just been reading books for nine hours straight. It was cool to spend half an hour playing Angry Birds and not worry that reading had been ruined for me forever.

Having different contexts for the passion helps me. At work, I read ebooks on an iPad sitting at a desk. At home, I read print books lying in bed. I'm part of a book club that picks books I would never choose myself and discusses them in a way I'm never called to do at work. I go to the library regularly to get fun books and very rarely bring books home from work.

But I agree that it's hard. When I'm tempted to dwell on the downsides, I consider that the alternative would be having a job I didn't feel passionate about.
posted by teditrix at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2014

Lots of great thoughts here.
posted by roaring beast at 11:13 AM on March 7, 2014

You might find this topical. I found it in an Ask Metafilter link and it spoke to me as someone who does what I love, but frequently finds it draining (teaching).

If you follow the advice of the article, essentially, remember that your day job is work and compartmentalize as necessary.
posted by mermily at 8:35 PM on March 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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