Don’t get me onto the topic of why you should avoid work that doesn’t bring you joy – if you’ve heard me speak about “Joy-Stealers”, you’ll know my views on that! But sometimes, we actually do have to do stuff we would really rather not, just to keep afloat. A colleague of mine refers to this as “mini-cabbing” – doing tiresome work, to make sure the bills are paid. My wife describes it as ‘going to the ATM’.
And here’s the thing: regardless of my views about the quality of work we don’t find joyful [see here], if we once got good enough at it to get paid for it, we must have found it enjoyable at some time, on some level. No one consciously sets out at the start of a career to take on work they know they are going to hate – that would be insane!
It was my experiences with using my Opportunity Matrix tool that gave me a clue about what is going on here. The matrix plots clients’ activities and opportunities on two dimensions, Passion and Pragmatism (Profit in the image), representing what I call the “Two Big Business Questions”:
- How much do I want to do this?
- Will I make any money at it?
Obviously our holy grail are those activities that score high on both Passion AND Pragmatism – the ‘JFDI’ quadrant (if you’re not familiar with what that stands for, let’s just say it has a lot in common with the Nike motto). But many early-stage business owners find they have opportunities in the ‘Pie-in-the-Sky’ quadrant – they are really excited about them(high Passion) but they have no real idea how they are going to make any money (low Pragmatism). If they are lucky, they also have opportunities in the ‘Bread-and-Butter’ quadrant – that they can easily get paid for (high Pragmatism), but they find them rather boring (low Passion).
In such circumstances, unless they are fortunate enough to have a big war-chest of saved cash (most don’t by the time they find me – a challenge to my own Pragmatism, by the way!), I have to advise them to knuckle down and do the ‘Bread-and-Butter’ work, and use the cash from that to fund development of the ‘Pie-in-the-Sky’ so that it becomes more viable.
And here’s the thing – as soon as it’s not forever, and only a means to an end, they remember what it was about the Bread-and-Butter work that they used to kind of like! So now, not only have they reconnected with the enjoyment of the work itself, they also know it’s moving them closer to being able to concentrate on their dream work – and they can therefore do it from that place of meaning and joyfulness that brings fulfilment to our work.
There’s a whole lot more behind what’s going on at an emotional and unconscious level in this situation, far more than I can cover in a single post, but here’s my question to you this week: what is Pie-in-the-Sky for you at the moment, and what is ‘Bread-and-Butter’? And what could you change about the ‘Pie-in-the-Sky’ project, if you invested the money from what you *can* get paid for?