If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.—some over-privileged neophyte to real life that probably wasn’t Confucius
Have you ever heard this phrase and felt your blood (a) boil at the utter inaccuracy of this statement or (b) chill at the utter ignorance of the speaker?
If you’re some dewy-eyed high school kid, this statement might seem rather true. I mean, look around. People are making money in more and more unconventional ways. As long as people are paying you to do it, you can do whatever you want. We live in a world where you can literally make money by opening packages/watching videos and filming your reactions.
But to say that they’re not doing work simply because they love it is to be mistaken. (Okay, I’ll admit I look at pro video gamers with an eye of “is it even okay to be making money like that?” but I’m not denying the work that goes into their jobs.)
Why? Let me explain.
To begin, the statement’s context, of course, is in the light of a job. I mean, a job as in work. The statement suggests that if you find a vocation/calling/purpose that you enjoy, doing it won’t feel like work.
Maybe that idea is true sometimes, but to say something as broad as you’ll “never work a day in your life” is downright inaccurate.
Because in every job, you’re going to have to work with people, work with deadlines, work out problems, and basically, work.
And that’s where things get tough. Even if you like your work, you might not be particularly fond of the people you work with/for/under. Still, you’ll have to show up to work and get your job done. Sometimes you just need a break, but there’s a deadline to meet and you have to kiss your sleep and maybe your weekend goodbye to get it done on time. And of course, sometimes you’ll run into unexpected situations like tech or equipment failure that will take hours or days to solve and will probably feel very much like work.
I can already hear the protests from my artsy-fartsy friends in the castle-on-a-cloud department, saying things like “but we’re planning on working freelance!” and “freelance means I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want!” and random things like that.
And of course, I’m pretty sure our inspirational quote of the day is directed mostly at these kinds of people, who braid flowers in their hair (not that that’s wrong) and take photos for a living (not that that’s wrong either) and then sell them on the streets on Asian countries to fund their holidays (you come to my country trying to do that and I’m pretty sure you’ll get arrested, so don’t even try).
But just because you work freelance doesn’t mean life is going to be a bed of roses. (Actually, those have thorns, so maybe it’s not too bad of a description.) Because (surprise, surprise) you still need to eat. And that means that you’re still going to have to get up every day and do enough work to pay the bills.
Sometimes, of course, you won’t want to do that. Some days you want to roll back into bed and pretend the world outside doesn’t exist. Sometimes you’re having a creative block/unhappy boss/impending deadline you don’t want to face. Or sometimes you’re just like me and you accidentally deleted a 1,000 word blog post without saving it and have to rewrite the whole thing.
And on those days, even the work you enjoy might feel like a drag. A slog. A obstacle between you and your next Netflix drama. (And, well, your next paycheque. And meal. And litre of running water. But you usually don’t think about those things first.)
If you get up anyway and do the job in front of you, then good. You’re working for your living.
But if you didn’t (and it’s not because of a valid reason like illness or some other actual problem), then yes, maybe the above quote is actually true for you: that you haven’t really worked a day in your life.
And maybe I’m being judgmental here, but if you really have the freedom to do what you love and quit when you like, then it’s not a job. It’s a hobby.
And if you’re the kind of person who can do a hobby as a job, then either you’re quite smart with money and don’t need more, or of course, you’re an over-privileged neophyte to real life, with enough cash to meander through life, one “job” to another without actually working.
In which case, I think the quote that is more appropriate for you is this:
If you have lots of money, you’ll never (have to) work a day in your life.—totally not me
Probably not as catchy or inspirational as the original, but hopefully, more accurate.