Love what you do, and the money will follow. Or will it?

I recently read an article on how an author went around interviewing rich people in an attempt to find out their “secrets to success”. What he found was that these rich people tended not to seek money for its own sake. In essence, the author found that you should pursue what you love, for the money will follow. Those who seek money for its own sake are doomed to failure.

This recommendation made some sense. Doing what you love should lead you to want to do it more and doing it more should lead to an increased skill in doing it. As you get better at what you do, you have increasingly fewer competitors who can compete with your skills, allowing you to charge more for your services. But as much as I’d like to agree with this very romantic notion of do what you love and the money will follow, I find a few serious flaws with the author’s findings.

Firstly, you have to be able to monetise what you love to do. It is of no monetary use being able to balance a straw on your nose if you can’t figure out a way to make money out of it. It takes more than just love for a particular activity to make money from it.

Secondly, such findings cannot be verified unless a similar study was conducted on the less wealthy, and it was found that they were seeking money for its own sake and not loving what they did – in other words, the study lacked a control group. Many people could love what they did while still earning less than those who hated what they did.

Finally, I was reminded on how my enjoyment to any activity often depended on my success in it. For example, when I was pretty good at football, I found that my enjoyment of it rose; and when I was bad at it, I tended not to enjoy it as much. If I were a rich man who enjoyed his riches, I’d probably tend to think of what I did in a more positive light. It’s really difficult to tell which came first: the money or the enjoyment?

I’m all for the idea that you should do what you love and the money will follow. But I’m just not so confident that the logic works. Many people love what they do but the money doesn’t follow, while others hate what they do while watching the money roll in. It’s also too hard to tell when the enjoyment started – did you like your job before you started getting rich from it, or did you start liking your job after you started getting rich from it?

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