Personal Finance

Advice From Dean Kamen: Work in Something You Love

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Last updated on July 24, 2019 Comments: 7

Many Consumerism Commentary readers don’t know this: I was a band geek. In high school, I played clarinet in wind ensemble and marching band. This continued into college, where I decided to major in music education. In college, I performed in a variety of ensembles on a variety of instruments ranging from trumpet to percussion and from crumhorn to gamelan.

Despite the wide range of possibility, I stuck with clarinet for my four fall seasons marching with our highly successful college marching band. Regardless, the professor and director of the marching band spoke to us once about careers and life choices. She considers herself extremely lucky. She has a career (as a professor of music education, professor of music performance, and director of the marching band and one of several symphonic bands) doing what she loves doing. Not many people would be lucky enough to be able to be paid for spending their days with the activity about which they are passionate.

So when I read this advice from Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, the words sounded familiar.

My father was an artist who loved what he did. He’d sit at his board 12 hours a day. I once said to him, “Gee, Dad, all the other fathers have time after they come home to play ball or sit around. At the end of the day, you’re working.”

He put his brush down and said, “Those fathers are doctors, lawyers and bankers. When they come home, all they want to do is their hobby. My work and my hobby are the same. Find work in something you love and it won’t feel like work.” I listened to him. And I have been fortunate enough to work at something that I love.

To find what you love doing, you have to have an opportunity to discover your talents. I was given the opportunity at an early age to have exposure to music, for example. I also had access to personal computers and the internet as I was growing up in the 1980s, unlike many other children my age. I participated in more activities, like little league baseball and karate, and this variety helped me to figure out what I could be passionate about.

I’ve changed a bit since college. Music and arts education is still very important to me, but I’ve moved away from that as my vocation. I certainly do not love my day job now. I do my best, or close to it, and I am interested in furthering my career, but I am more interested in working with the internet at this point in my life. I’m not sure that I love the internet, to use Kamen’s terminology. When I’m writing, it doesn’t feel like I’m working, but I wouldn’t say that this is my talent or passion. It does feel like work, however, when I am not feeling inspired and cannot come up with ideas.

I have so many interests that it’s difficult for me to hone in on just one that can define my vocation in such a way that it will be everything for me.

If you have some idea of an activity that you absolutely love, something for which you have a talent, and nothing else you could see yourself doing, and if you can find a way to make a living doing this activity, then you have an opportunity to be one of the lucky few. I think this may not be possible for many people. Either they haven’t had the opportunities to discover their passion and talent or, like me, they could see many different paths.

Do you have a passion? Does it coincide with your job? Could you make a living with your passion?

The smartest advice I ever got, CNN Money

Article comments

Anonymous says:

This is a perfect example of doing what you love for a living. It’s too long a story here – but my husband at the age of 40 went back to trade school to be a welder but ended up taking machining as well. He ended up tutoring many students and again – to make a long story short – became an instructor in manual machining and CNC machining. He LOVES to teach! His program was cut at the local community college however, so he is back at work doing CNC lathe work in town. Still loves his work- and is always – always! reading and learning new things about manufacturing. And he gets so exicted and happy when the company is buying a new machine:)

He has watched the Iconoclast program with Dean Kamen at least three times – I first saw the program and knew he would love that big piece of machinery (I can’t remember exactly what it is) in Dean’s house! He just loves that stuff:) and Mr. Kamen’s enthusisasm and joy about his projects – makes you want to move to New Hampshire and work for him!

Anonymous says:

My two passions are music and writing, but I was discouraged from doing either and pressured to study engineering instead. I hate what I do. Still, I was raised believing that if work were enjoyable, they wouldn’t call it work. I was also told that since no one enjoys their job anyway, I might as well go for the one that pays well. Now that I’m older, I’m slowly learning that none of what I was told is really true, but old mindsets die hard.

Anonymous says:

I went to college without much direction and never devoted much time into anything beyond school. The message I felt that I got was “go to school, do well in school and you will get a good job.” What kind of job it would be was irrelevant, but it meant getting a well-paid job in a career track that my parents felt had stability in life. 5 years after I graduated from college, I’ve learned that finance and banking is interesting and I do enjoy the job I do, but to split my time between that and my hobby of following music acts is challenging to say the least. It has its tradeoffs, but I feel that I am in a good place right now and hope to continue on a path of self-improvement that involves both finance and music. Reconciling those two interests will always be an issue for me.

Anonymous says:

I wholeheartedly agree with CJ…it pays to love what you do.

I’m a front-end web developer and I thoroughly enjoy what my job. I get up everyday always happy to get to to work, and I’m fortunate that it pays enough for me to cover my share of the bills, sock away some cash for retirement and save some cash in a rainy day. Still even with they pay were a little bit less, I would still keep the gig because I love it!!!!

Anonymous says:

I majored in Music Education too. Now I manage the print music in a local music store. I would say I love what I do, but the trade off is that you don’t get paid enough. I mean I get paid enough to own a house, pay all my bills, etc., but investing and all that is quite far out of my reach. I guess it’s better to wake up in the morning and love getting in the car to go to work, then to hate it.

If you ever want to get back into seriously playing I can get you whatever you need!

Anonymous says:

My passion is web design (I do it on the side), helping people make their lives better (I currently work in a church), and making money (isn’t everyone passionate about this at least a little). Unfortunately it’s hard to combine all of these things.

Helping people and making money are often mutually exclusive. What I decided to do was start a blog about making money (and getting out of debt). This sort of fills all of my passions. I got to design the website (passion #1). I get to help other people (passion #2). And I get to talk about money (passion #3). I’m loving it so far even if it is relatively new.

I have worked several jobs I loved and several I hated. I would rather get paid less (working at my church) to do something I love than get paid more (running my own Grand Canyon Tour Company) and not enjoy it. If you spend 40 hours of your week at work, you might as well like it. I have an uncle who is a pharmacist. He became one because of the money. He hates going to work every morning. I get paid 1/4 that he does but I am happier than he is and also happen to be in better financial shape than he is due to his piling amounts of debt.

It pays to love what you do.

Anonymous says:

Well, my passion is reading and traveling. My job involves reading and traveling. Reading empirical journal articles and traveling to conferences LOL My job might not be what my passion as a child was…but I do LOVE my job! I read somewhere that if you can do something for 2 hours without looking at the clock or wondering what time it is then that is something you love! Not sure if it’s true or not…but I haven’t look at a clock in years while working, unless it’s to see if I’m late for a meeting.