How To Do Work You Love – Even When It Seems Impossible

Posted by in Career Success | 10 comments

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about what to do if you’re unable to dream about the kind of work you’d love. Yet, what if you’ve discovered work you think you’ll enjoy but can’t bring yourself to go after?

(im)possible - 282/365 Niklas Morberg via Compfight

This is very common because we often talk ourselves out of doing work that aligns with our passions before we’ve even begun.

We’ve already started down a particular career path and it would take a lot to change our course and undo this trajectory.

In addition, life has a way of loading us with responsibilities we believe hold us back from pursuing work we’re passionate about.

Debt, supporting a family, specialized experience and skills, the list could go on and on.

The spectrum of advice for how to handle this situation ranges from ,”Throw caution to the wind, fly, and be free. You’ll be fine if you just believe” to “Doing work you’re passionate about will never pay the bills. Just suck it up for 40 years, retire, and then maybe get to do something you enjoy.”

I think the practical answer lies somewhere in between.

We don’t have to always choose the “either or” solution. We can choose to look for an “and” solution.

In other words, let’s be practical and do work you enjoy and are passionate about.

So how do you do that?

There are three areas you’ll need to commit to in order to find your “and” solution.

Responsibility – You likely have duties and obligations that need to be met. LIke a family, a job, church or volunteer commitments. Those are the things life is made of and you must commit to maintaining those life enriching responsibilities while you pursue your passions. Life is more than just your career. However, make a list of non-negotiables in your life that you will commit to as priorities. You’ll definitely need to streamline your commitments and cut some things out but your non-negotiable responsibilities come first.

Experimenting – Experiment with your dreams and passions. Try before you buy. You don’t know for sure you will love it as much as you think you do. If owning a bakery is your dream, go work for a bakery part-time while you still keep your day job. Get up at o’ dark hundred, deal with sometimes cranky customers, and make the best bread you’ve ever tasted. If you’re still in love with your dream after that you’ve done two things. You’ve tried it out with zero risk for you and your family and you’ve made some side income that can fund your dream. Whatever it is you feel compelled to do experiment first before you dive in head first.

Hustle – Nobody said this would be easy. If it were, everyone would do it. However, if you want to change your life and your career it’s going to require some hustle. No scratch that, a lot of hustle. It may require working a part-time job, getting up early, working on a weekends. Your situation will be unique to your dream. But in order to fulfill your non-negotiable responsibilities your hustle time will be on your own time.

Pursuing work you enjoy and work that matters to you comes at a cost. The cost is unique and different for everyone depending on what they’re pursuing. For some it may be sleep, others free time, and money in some instances. However, if you are willing to pay the cost you will experience one of the greatest gifts you’ve every received in doing work you love.


Question: What other ideas do you have about finding an “and” solution?

  • Chris Callen

    Great post Adam. How can you experiment if art is the direction you want to take? I’m a classic car artist trying to start a side business doing custom car paintings . I’ve also thought about graphic design as a way to get out of my miserable factory job. Most art jobs require a degree. Any suggestions or ideas on how to work the art field part time? Thanks!

    • Thanks Chris. It sounds like you are already working a side business doing custom car paintings so that’s the first step. In my experience you don’t need a degree to be an artist and sell your own art work. Take a look at Dorsey McHugh’s website She sells her artwork online, through galleries, and art shows. I have no idea if she has a degree or not, but I don’t think it matters. People purchase art because they like the way it looks or stimulates some sort of emotion for them not because the artist has a certain background. I think art is a fantastic side business you can hustle on during your non-day job time. After you create something you can sell it online or maybe at classic car shows or at a gallery. Talk to other artists who are making it happen to get some ideas on how to market your art. Stay with it Chris and stay focused on the future with all the possibilities available for your art.

  • Joe_Stickel

    Finding an “and” solution can be a test of how much you really want to change your situation. Is your idea of finding work you love just an idle dream, or maybe it’s an excuse to be less than your best at your current job? Finding an “and” solution means getting out of your comfort zone. It may mean a part time job, or taking classes after work. It may also mean having to reach an understanding with your spouse about responsibilities that will need to be rearranged in order for you to pursue a dream. When you are sincere in your desire to find work you love, taking the path of the “and” solution will give you the best chance of success, and won’t be the burden it might be to one who is less committed. I’m reminded of a quote by an unknown author, “Challenges can be stepping stones or stumbling blocks. It’s just a matter of how you view them.”

    • That’s so true Joe. In my experience, challenges in life often push us out of our comfort zone and give us an opportunity to explore ideas and experiences we never would have pursued otherwise. Thanks for your comment.

  • Hearing this message over and over again helps me to stay motivated to find the “and” solution. It IS possible and I WILL get there. Currently reading Start. by Jon Acuff. Great post! Have a fabulous day!

    • Yes Lauren you WILL get there. It may take longer than you thought, it may be harder than you thought, but if you focus on your goal you can find solutions that will lead you to what you want. I think you’ll really enjoy START and I hope you have a fabulous day as well. Thanks for your comment.

  • Really enjoyed your post, Adam. Hustle is what separates the men/women from the boys/girls. Too many people I work with think they can start a new career trajectory from the same point they are at in their current career. You have to hustle and put in the same hard work for career #2 that you did in career #1. I also see folks who limit themselves to two (usually bad) choices – when there really are 30 or 40 choices…the challenge is in being creative to find an AND solution.

    • Thanks Tom, yes ultimately hustle is what will get us to the next step in our careers. As you mention, we also have to get creative sometimes in applying that hustle and finding work that is the best fit for us. The good news is there are so many different kinds of work models and opportunities now compared to even a generation ago. It’s up to us to find them and take the necessary steps to move in the direction of our choosing.

  • Dave Unger

    1 – Commit to iterating as many times as necessary. “If at first you don’t succeed…”

    2 – Remember that, for most of us, the job we have today isn’t the first job we have ever had. Nor is our next job likely to be our last. We often hesitate to make career changes because they feel like life-or-death decisions. But they aren’t. They just feel that way sometimes.

    3 – Aim for improvement, not perfection. Many people talk themselves out of job changes because of small details. Or they use minor quibbles to justify staying where they are and maintaining a comfortable status quo.

    • This is great Dave. Yes, career changes are not life and death. Work is important but so is every other area of life. When we put deposits in those other areas of life we can better navigate the inevitable ups and downs of our careers. Improvement is the goal and not perfection – right on!