in life

Work vs. Play

“…It’s dangerous to suggest that work can be anything other than work. Doing what you love can certainly make it a more enjoyable experience. But you’ll also experience a new side of that activity, and it won’t be comfortable. You’ll have to face the inescapable truth that there’s no fooling yourself. Work isn’t the same as play, no matter how similar they might appear on the surface…”

This is an excerpt from a well-written and opinionated post on Forbes about the age-old career advice of “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day”.

Yesterday I wrote about the concept of “No More Mondays” – that dreading Mondays is synonymous with disliking what you do, which leads to frustration, stress, and discomfort, something that ideally you don’t feel about your career.

But, today’s question comes from the opposite side of the spectrum. Should you love your work? Is love too strong of a word? Is it possible to legitemately LOVE what you do?

When you start working on something that you love, do you lose a little bit of that passion? Here’s another excerpt from the Forbes article.

“…it’s a wonderful goal to strive for finding work that you enjoy. In fact, it should be a goal for everyone. But this absurd axiom suggests that you can simply take what you already love, turn it into something for which you get paid (meaning, you have clients and bosses and deadlines and obligations…) and it won’t ever feel like anything other than that thing you love.

This is a blatant, hurtful lie that far too many people fall for. And they end up feeling like something is wrong with them, when really something is wrong with the idea they’ve been sold…”

Work is work - whether you love it or not. A job is still a job and at it’s core it’s about making money for survival. And while I love what I do, if money was no object, I’d much rather be traveling with my wife, playing with my dog, or dominating 12 year olds in Call of Duty.

So I come back to the original question. Should you love your job? Maybe love is the wrong word. Maybe it’s about finding work that fulfills a side of you that the “play” side does not. Maybe it’s about a career that completes the puzzle. Maybe it is about work/life balance after all.


(Photo credit)

Add Your Voice



    • Agreed. The Forbes article is cynical, to say the least, but also brings to light a good point, that work is and always will be work – and for the most part, if we’re given the option we’d rather not be working than working, right?

  1. Great question! I think it’s important to find a career that’s fulfilling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to love every second of it. A good workplace is a place where you feel like you’re contributing something valuable. I also think people who don’t love their jobs can find other ways to feel fulfilled, like volunteering or starting a blog. Sometimes quitting your job just because you don’t love it is not an option, so you have to find other things to help you through the rough patches. My dad posted this quote on Facebook today, which seems appropriate for this convo, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White

    • Good quote Adrienne. Another reader brought up a great point on yesterday’s post – that it’s not so much about loving your work, but loving who you work for and what your work is about. We all have the desire to do meaningful work – we want to claim ownership of our work and be proud of what we pour our energy into. I think that’s much more important than loving the daily grind – it’s being able to feel satisfied and fulfilled, personally and professionally, about the work you do.

  2. I had my dream job right out of college. I was the Technology Coordinator and teacher my old high school. I loved it. I never dreaded going into work (unless I had a hangover). I arrived early and stayed late because I wanted to. I attended school functions on my own time because I wanted it. I loved that job.

    Now, I enjoy my job. Mondays aren’t brutal, but not what it use to be. Another job I dreaded. My main concern is that do I look for a job with more money and more work? Or be at a job where I’m content, though going nowhere, but it allows me to travel and work on side projects. Thoughts?

    • There’s no clear answer here – money is important, to be sure. But if it’s a money vs. freedom and personal fulfillment question, I go with the latter every time. That being said, if you’re stuck at a place that isn’t challenging you and it’s essentially a dead-end, I’d start looking for something that has a little more potential – the impatient and ADD side of me would get tired of being in that position very quickly.

      • And that, I completely agree. But it also allows me to blog, run and make YouTube videos (I’m a partner thanks to the free time). All of which are very important to me and I probably won’t be able to do all of them at another job.

  3. Great thoughts here, Matt. I think that you’re right – love might be too strong of a word. I think fulfilling is just about perfect. Work isn’t everything, but it is incredibly fulfilling to do work that you enjoy and are incredibly good at. I’m with you – I’d rather be traveling with husband and playing with my dog too! ;)

    • If you’re not doing something that’s fulfilling, something will always be missing – doing work that you believe in and are passionate about is one piece of the puzzle to having a “complete” life.

      Another note you hit – focus on doing work that YOU are good at – and find ways to work with others who do things you’re not so great at and/or don’t want to be doing…

  4. I think the problem is thinking that you’re only going to love something all the time. Do you ever feel that way about anything all the time? Or is it always momentary? You can love your job, but you’ll probably also hate it at the same time. It’s like yoga, we have to learn to embrace the union of opposites and seek balance, not nirvana.

  5. I appreciate that your post, the discussion and the article you link to provide a more balanced view of the whole “love your work, never work a day in your life” paradigm. I particularly liked the last paragraph in the other author’s article:

    “Do I sound cynical? Perhaps a little. But too many people sit around convinced that if only they could turn their NASCAR obsession into a fulltime job, they’d finally be happy. I encourage you to take a deeper look at the things you love and what work means to you. There might be a happy intersection of the two, but don’t force it.”

    Definitely a firm believer people should dream big and strive for a more balanced, fulfilling work life, but I also think it should be tapered with a bit of pragmatism and a realistic understanding of the difference between work and play. Thanks for your post; good stuff!

    • I like @jlhenn’s last paragraph above.

      I took what I love – photography – and turned it into a job. I still love photography, but going to work is STILL work. And I don’t always love it. Making my passion a job meant adding things like accounting, marketing, client relations, etc. into the mix. Now the fun part – the photography – is less than 20% of what I do overall.

      The “do what you love” concept is a little too Pollyanna-ish for real life, IMO. Some say that attitude is cynical … I say it’s pragmatic and realistic.

      • Great stuff ladies. Kara, you make a great point. At the end of the day though, you ARE still doing what you love. You built a business around doing something you love, something your passionate about. I’ve managed to do the same over the past year – and is there really anything better than that? Yes, work is still work – but when work is fulfilling, both personally and professionally, you can’t ask for much more.

        Thanks to both of your for your thoughtful comments. Great discussion!

  6. Matt, I’d have to play devil’s advocate today and point out that there are people that travel with their wives, play with dogs, and play video games all day and make globs of money off of that. so if that’s what you really love (even morese than blogging) then you could theoretically abandon us to pursue that lifestyle and still make a living.

    but to answer your original question, in my humble opinion, it is possible to genuinely love what you do. I guess i’m mostly confused by the idea that just because a person loves what they do, they automatically forget the definition of leisure or that they suddenly become unable to engage in other activities outside of work

    ah well. thought provoking post nonetheless. you rock. keep doing your thing! :)

    • Devil’s Advocate is what it’s all about :) – And yes, you’re right, you can be doing all of those things – but I don’t think you’d make a career out of traveling with your wife and dog, you would have to have built a (relatively passive) income generator that would allow you that free time to do those things.

      That being said – I think the article I quoted above was a little too cynical for my taste, but I get the point. It’s not so much that you forget how to relax or have fun, but that when you start turning a love/passion into a career, that you may lose some of that fire with all of the business things that come into play (accounting, management, delegation, etc).

      I’m with you, though. I think you can genuinely love your work – it’s a different kind of love than the love for your spouse, friends and family, but love just the same. I think if you’re not doing something that you love, something that excites you, it’s time to find a way to go and make it happen.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. I think you can love your work. Sure there will be times that things may get frustrating, but that’s just another reason to love it when you get past the difficult part. Without frustration there is not appreciation.

  8. I love my career, but to stay home with no worries or bills to do whatever I wanted would be ideal. I’m a dental assistant, its my 2nd career.

  9. Doing work that is deeply important to you, making a contribution to humanity, and turning a healthy profit.

    I think this is what is usually implied by “love” what you do, and not love as in free pursuits that make the turbulance of life disappear for a moment. Finding the optimization between these three is where the work lies.

  10. This is something that I have spend a great deal of time pondering. I have heard many stories of individuals who have taken their hobby and turned it into their career, only to be unhappy with the result. For example, a guy who loved surfing decided that he would start a surf school. The result was that he never got to actually surf anymore, the thing that he loved doing, because he was busy running a surf school and teaching lessons. I think that in the end, it is great to love your job, but you are not going to love it in the same way that you love your hobbies.

  11. It think you’re right on target. I found during training that turning what I loved recreationally into work took the joy out of it. On the other hand, finding work that is satisfying has taken a while and it’s still work but it’s not the dreaded I-hate-Mondays experience either.

  12. I totally disagree with the Forbes article. It sounds like someone who has given up on the concept to me. Of course work can be play. The problem with most people is that they themselves turn it into work by not being confident enough to back what they’re offering to the world through their passion. They try so hard to make it “worthy” that they end up pulling all the fun out of it. Then they blame the whole thing on difficult clients.
    My suggestion is to stop overthinking it and do what you love exactly the way you enjoy doing it, and don’t try so hard to justify the fact that you are getting paid to have fun. That level of conviction is what customers buy from you. Value is highly subjective unless you are selling a commodity. Even then you can create a subjective value through a brand personality.