Why You Shouldn’t Do What You Love


Saying you shouldn’t do what you love sounds crazy, doesn’t it? After all, isn’t the best-case scenario to turn your passion into a career? Not necessarily. There is an important difference between doing what you love and loving what you do. Rajini Padmanaban explains why you should keep your hobby separate from your career.

Saying you shouldn’t do what you love sounds crazy, doesn’t it? After all, isn’t the best-case scenario to mix work and pleasure and turn your passion into a career?

Not necessarily. There is an important difference between doing what you love and loving what you do.

Let’s look at Shankar Mahadevan, a renowned singer and composer in India. He quit his engineering job to follow his love for singing and has made it big. He expanded into new ventures, such as Shankar Mahadevan Academy, an online program for Indian music lessons; judging reality shows; and acting. However, late last year he suffered a heart attack and had to undergo angioplasty. Some of the attributed reasons were high stress levels and exhaustion.

It was this episode that got me thinking about how we all work in demanding environments. Especially in IT, where competition is strong and targets are continually adjusted upward, the pressure can be intense. Teams that improve velocity by 10 percent this sprint will be asked for 10 percent more next sprint. Stress-related health conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes are becoming more prevalent earlier on. The standard checklist of questions doctors ask patients includes “Are you anxious? Do you sleep enough? What do you do for fun?”

If your hobby becomes your job, suddenly you don’t have a hobby to turn to for stress relief. Now the hobbyis the source of stress.

In tech industry careers, it’s common to log days (or weeks) of overtime on crazy work schedules, so lack of sleep and time can prevent doing things we enjoy outside work. When we stretch ourselves beyond acceptable limits, even if it’s doing what we love, the exhaustion that sets in can have bad effects on our health in the long run.

What an acceptable limit is for each of us is questionable. The point here is not exhaustion and the work you do (which is nothing new); instead, think about how far you would push yourself for what you love. Imagine you love the company and the product. You are trying to change the world. I suspect you might keep pushing beyond what you would do for something else, perhaps even beyond what you thought your acceptable physical and mental limits were.

This is especially dangerous for test and quality professionals, because the brain starts to turn to mud. It becomes easier to miss problems on the screen due to tester fatigue.

Don’t Let the Cycle Start

Allow me to suggest something else. First, a hobby should remain a hobby: There are distinctive downsides to making a career out of it. If you do end up making a profession out of your main hobby, find time in your life for a new hobby—something else you can enjoy just for enjoyment’s sake. For instance, professional athletes often play another sport in their spare time that they enjoy and that will help them do better in their primary sport.

Even if your hobby isn’t related to your career as in the athlete example, enjoying hobbies helps bring a fresh boost of energy to get you going in your day job. Everyone should have a hobby that can take them away periodically from what they do for a living, without constraints, goals, or targets. And as you balance your job and your hobby, remember that it is also important to bring an element of rest into the mix. Your hobby should enable you to unwind, bring out the kid in you, and charge you up physically and mentally for your next set of professional activities.

As we figure out what our professional aspirations are and what are hobbies are, it is important to differentiate between a hobby and a passion. You can be passionate about what you do at work, but that does not necessarily mean it is a hobby turned profession, or that it is something you love doing every single day. And as for a hobby, remember that you may not enjoy doing it if you need to do it all the time; in fact, the same creative output it makes you capable of may start lacking if you take up anything beyond the said “acceptable limits.”

Align your career with your strengths, be passionate about what you do, understand the difference between a hobby and a passion, stretch yourself to excel at work, and fall back on your hobbies in your spare time to rejuvenate yourself. If you strike a good balance among your career, your hobby, and your passion—whatever those may be—it should improve your physical and mental strengths as well as your overall job performance.

User Comments

Martin Ivison's picture

Couldn't agree more. Another aspect to this is that testing is such an intensely creative activity, and that creativity is an early casualty of stress. I find that the most capable testers are often not computer grads, but lateral entrants from creative fields. I worked with a number of musicians, writers, photographers, visual artists and linguists (and I myself tick a number of those boxes), and they all share one important ability: knowing how to keep their focus and creativity fresh and apply it when needed. A big part of that is to have a rich life outside of work. Cheers.

March 23, 2016 - 12:51pm
Jon Hagar's picture

As with many things in this world, balance is important.  Hobby, family, career, specialized field, learning/skill-building, self, and passion all need to be balanced.  Testing can be a happy place, but we need many happy places.

March 23, 2016 - 3:28pm
Sujay Honnamane's picture

Very well said,Rajini. If someone says they really don't have much of a hobby per say, then something is wrong. The blog is very apt and a good reminder for folks especially in IT to ponder.

May 9, 2017 - 2:51pm

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