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The Career Navigator: Don't Pay Me for Doing What I Love

Getting paid for loving what you do is making the most of the gifts you’ve been given.

My wife, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, is a career coach whose clients are often talented, creative people. Some are not using those talents to produce income, and their reasoning is, “If I did that for money, it’d take all the fun out of it.” I never heard anything so absurd.

If one has a talent–whether to capture images, create music, spin yarns or conjure any other imaginative work–wouldn’t it be desirable to profit from it? Isn’t it an incredible gift to know that your talent will enrich you as you enrich the world? 

If one cannot profit by doing something one loves, then it follows that one must make a living doing something one does not love. In such a career, one can have little hope for success. To excel at anything requires great effort and determination. To excel at something one has no enthusiasm for is impossible.  

Most people spend a substantial portion of their lives working, talking about work, thinking about work, commuting to and from work and recovering from work. Work takes up most of our waking lives. What is the advantage of spending that much time doing something that doesn’t please or excite you?

This issue comes up often with creative people, but the principle is even clearer with “non-creative” jobs. Can you imagine someone who empties septic tanks or resurfaces parking lots as a hobby being offered compensation for such jobs? Would that person say, “No, getting paid would take all the fun out of it.” Rather, getting paid for doing something one enjoys makes it possible to do it more often.

People work hard at jobs they don’t particularly like to make enough money to do what they want after work or on weekends or on an annual vacation. If they could make money at something they love, it makes the job more enjoyable and makes the time off no less enjoyable.  

Did Picasso paint, did David Lean make movies, did Bruce Lee practice martial arts just so they could afford two-week annual vacations? No, they loved what they did, and that enthusiasm for their work enabled them to excel.

Being paid to do what you love is not dispiriting. It is the secret to making the most of the gifts you have and the life you’ve been given.


Lance Thompson is a writer, script doctor and actor living in Idaho. He can be reached at