I have a good friend who has joined me recently in this transition from employee to free agent, which has triggered some dialogue around what the actual goal is.
We are conditioned from an early age to conform and gear up for a long career of working for other people. However, we are simultaneously infused with the goal of doing “work we love”.
This is the ultimate ideal in many of our minds: If I can just monetize what I love to do, I will have truly won. So at mid-career crisis time, when many of us realize we simply cannot perform within the confines of a typical organizational hierarchy, we begin searching for work we LOVE.
This is usually a mistake.
I love to cook. I love to garden. I love to read. But no one is going to pay me to cook, garden, or read – at least not without a long upfront investment in establishing expertise and marketable skills in those areas.
The second downfall is this: Even though I really, really love to do those activities, doing them for many hours a week for other people isn’t going to translate into that same blissful experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have folks who are pursuing any means to produce instant wealth.
If you don’t want to ruin the activities you love by turning them into hourly labor, why not come up with the next big idea? Whether it’s an app, a new tech widget, or the next infomercial rotisserie, the idea is that you can invest a lot upfront in order to create long-term income, allowing you to cook, garden, and read all you want.
This is fraught with risk.
I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who are pursuing the next big thing dream, and I wish them all the luck in the world. I know a few people who have made a real career out of launching new products, but they also still work 40+ hours per week and they’re in their late 40’s, so I’m not sure they are gardening or reading much. Ultimately, most of the people at the entrepreneur events are upside down in debt and praying their next attempt flies.
So what is the ideal intersection of ideal work? What is realistic for any one of us to accomplish while also providing an enormous amount of fulfillment now, rather than hopefully in 10 years at IPO time?
A good friend started a business about four years ago, pretty close to on accident. She has an affinity for cupcakes and has mastered her own unique method for creating the most scrumptious filled cupcakes on the planet.
She shared some photos and ideas on Pinterest and now she caters adult birthday parties and other celebratory events.
Her business combines the freedom and autonomy of being self-employed with a genuine personal interest and talent. It’s never going to attract a million dollar buy-out. It simply monetizes something she is great at.
In my humble opinion, ideal work is the combination of producing your own results doing what you are already amazing at while claiming the freedom of soaking in the hot tub at any odd hour of the day.
It’s about freedom, and if we are all honest with ourselves, our best days are now.