Your bliss and your paycheck

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

I saw a recent social media post from a celebrity that indicated that one of the things that made the last year better for them was concentrating on doing the things they liked, just to do them. It wasn't intended to be a hustle or a job or whatever, it was just for the joy of it. That's certainly possible if you're a celebrity, you have the freedom to make choices like that.

The rest of us have a romanticized view of this, but I don't think that most people are actually living it. A lot of self-help posters and Internet memes talk about following your bliss and doing what you love. It's not that easy, of course. Someone has to do the crappy jobs. I've had a lot of jobs that I would consider pretty good, but I wouldn't describe most of them as bliss. Usually what I can remember about them is the time spent with the people, but the work itself is often forgettable.

This is also an interesting topic for entrepreneurs. Businesses are often started for the potential joy and satisfaction they might bring the founder, like restaurants and tattoo shops, for example, but is the guy who starts a company that makes rubber pipe gaskets passionate about rubber pipe gaskets? I mean, I guess it's possible, but I would be skeptical. The things you do that are fun or bring you joy tend to be hobbies, not jobs. The intersection of the two is possible, but I wouldn't say it's typical.

I enjoy what I do for a living, leading software development efforts. That means I don't write code, which I enjoy, but never particularly cared for doing it as my primary job function. I do that a lot in my spare time, and the level of passion comes in fits. For example, in late 2020, I was laser focused to build my cloud music player. I didn't really know I had ADHD then, but the whole hyperfocus thing toward an outcome, that was it. Over the years, I've had similar things toward the forums or the sites. All of that effort is just for the joy of it, and having something useful at the end.

Where things got blurry was the fact that the sites have made money almost from the start. I still have the naïve idea in my head that I can put something on the Internet and it equals profit. That might have been true to some degree in 2000, but it's not true now. So when I think about new projects I would like to try to build, I'm approaching it entirely from the point of, "How can I make a buck with this?" Because when you start making bucks the way you want to, you're closer to that celebrity freedom. Sort of. You get to make the choices, but you have to keep it up indefinitely if that's how you intend to live. Again, when the bliss becomes the paycheck, it's more complicated.

I suppose where I'm going with this is that conflating what you love to do and what you do to make a living is a toxic exercise in impossible expectations. I like work, and during periods that I haven't worked, I've been kinda bored. But work isn't typically euphoric, and I don't think it has to be. Hanging out with Diana and Simon makes me happy, and working on hobbies and playing games and building LEGO makes me happy. Work provides satisfaction of accomplishing things, a big intrinsic motivator, which is a flavor of joy, but it's not in the same category as the other stuff.


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