The unfairness of doing what you love

A lot has been said about “following your passion” but the thing that sticks out most to me is this quote from a Freakonomics podcast episode I listened to nearly five years ago:

Enjoying what you do, loving what you do, is such a completely unfair advantage to anyone you are competing with who does it for a job. People who love it, they go to bed at night thinking about the solutions. They wake up in the middle of the night, and they jot down ideas. They work weekends. It turns out that effort is a huge component of success in almost everything. We know that from practice and whatnot. And people who love things work and work and work at it. Because it’s not work — its fun.”

Steven Levitt, Freakonomics, Think Like a Child

This stuck with me because it’s not just about personal satisfaction. Pursuing your interests is the path to doing your best possible work. It’s good for everyone.

Now, there’s a lot of good, nuanced, thinking out there about the pros and cons of following your passion in your work. We should be careful about jumping head-first into an unmarketable passion. That goes without saying.

But whenever I find myself at a crossroads, trying to decide between a choice I’m excited about and a choice that gives me more status, money, or security, my mind always goes back to this quote.