If you don’t love what you do, you’re not trying hard enough.
The highway looks wet in the distance, but that distance never arrives. You never reach the wet spot. It’s a mirage, an optical illusion.
In your life, you say, “When I’m doing what I love, then I’ll try hard. Then I’ll be happy.”
And you keep your eyes fixated on that wet spot in the distance. You don’t arrive, so you don’t try hard and you aren’t happy.
All the while your life is flying by, one kilometer after the next, this constant journey. You don’t see the sky, the signposts, the deer in the ditch, the wildflowers. You just see the wet spot.
Effort = Satisfaction
Maybe you’re working as a fry cook right now. And you’re saying, “Allysia, this is garbage. I’m not happy because I’m a fry cook. It’s a miserable job. This is about as far away from living my dream as it gets.”
So you show up miserable to your fry cook job, and you put in the minimum effort required before miserably returning home, and then repeat the cycle miserably.
The radical idea I’d like to suggest is this: What if you said, “Today I’m going to be the best fry cook in the world.”?
You show up for work, determined instead of miserable. You give it your all. I’ve never been a fry cook so I have no idea what this means in actual terms. Maybe it means you’re more precise. You’re really paying attention, you’re really being present inside each moment. You’re focusing on positive and helpful interactions with coworkers. Maybe it means listening to high-quality podcasts or audiobooks.
What happens at the end of the day? Do you miserably slump your way home?
Probably not. Maybe being a fry cook isn’t your dream job. But there’s a deep satisfaction you get from doing a job well. So instead of slumping home, there’s a spring in your step. You gave it your all.
You were present. You lived your life instead of disparaging it.
Being a fry cook forever
What if you never reached your dreams, and you were stuck living as a fry cook forever?
What if it were literally impossible to do anything else? Maybe someone’s holding a gun to your head and saying, “You have to be a fry cook forever”. That’s basically the only scenario I can imagine where it’d be impossible for you to opt out of fry cookery.
Yes, that would be a sucky fate. But you know what? Some people have sucky fates. They lose both legs, they’re born with cerebral palsy, they’re given a cancer diagnosis. Any sucky scenario you can imagine has probably happened to someone. There’s probably even someone out there who had to be a fry cook forever.
What do you do with that? Bemoan your fate? “Life sucks, I have to do this stupid job forever.”?
You have a choice
The thing is, even if you can’t chose your circumstances, you can choose your response to those circumstances.
Your job might suck. But whether or not you’re miserable because your job sucks is 100% your decision.
There might be two fry cooks in an identical situation (gun to head, fry cook or die). One is content, the other is miserable. How is this possible?
They make the choice – be miserable or make the most of it.
This isn’t my own original concept. In his powerful book Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl talks about life in a concentration camp, one of the suckiest fates of all. He observed how some people were kind, generous and upbeat despite being in a concentration camp, whereas other people withered in misery.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Love Fry Cooking
Ironically, learning to love your life as a fry cook can be the very thing that brings you more opportunities. It can help you move toward your dreams.
People tend to think, “If I embrace fry cookery, then I’m resigning myself to that life forever. I need to fight my life as a fry cook in order to change it.”
But the complete opposite is true. By bringing your “A” game to whatever you do, even if it’s not your dream job, you’re telling life that you know how to be happy with what you have, regardless of what it is. You’re saying, “Whatever you throw at me, life, I can handle with grace.”
Life says, “Okay, awesome. You’ve passed that challenge. Here, let’s move on to more interesting challenges – such as how to channel your ‘A’ game motivation to something more interesting than fry cookery.”
Putting your all into a job, regardless of it it’s your dream job or not, will bring you daily satisfaction. The mere act of doing your best is satisfying. With this, you start noticing the road instead of just the wet mirage in the distance.
My job history
I’ve worked a lot of terrible jobs. And I’ve spent most of my adult life not having very much money.
I’ve waited tables, peddled popcorn, answered phones at a call centre, chopped endless pounds of vegetables, and sorted through thrift store clothing. Eventually I stumbled upon piano teaching and that was finally not terrible.
I’m proud to say I’ve always brought my “A” game. I showed up on time and I did the work as best I could (even when I hated the work). I wanted to be the best and most efficient server, and I hustled hard. I didn’t really know how to be a popcorn-selling master, so I chose to enjoy the summer sunshine and constant socializing. Sorting through clothes was boring, but long conversations with my friend at work was not.
Even if I was gun-to-head forced to keep peddling popcorn, I would probably have a pretty good life. Not a lot of money, but fresh air, cheerful interactions and great blues music. I could still have a rich family and social life. I could still read tons of books and play music and do all the things I love.
How to find happiness and love what you do
When you’re satisfied on a daily basis, you get unstuck. Misery is stuckness. Miserable people lack ideas and creativity. They lack the ability to say, “What can I do next? How do I change this situation?” They spend all of their energy being miserable, which perpetuates the misery.
When you work hard and do your best, it’s hard to stay miserable. You’re moving. You’re creating momentum. That momentum then spills into other areas of your life.
Suddenly you’re trying your best in your personal life, in your day-to-day relationships. You’re bringing your “A” game to parenting. To cooking. To your leisure time. Suddenly your life is infused with effort. You care. You’re trying. You’re doing things. You’re moving.
This motion is what moves you beyond fry cooking. You learn new skills and have interesting new experiences. New doors open. You come up with creative ideas.
You’ll learn how to kick that guy holding a gun to your head in the groin, skip town and change your name.
You’ll learn that the mirage in the distance isn’t going to make you happy. How could an illusion make you happy?
It’s the process, the day-to-day, the working hard, the doing your best. That’s where you’ll find it.