Do what you love. It will never feel like work.

That title is a quote from a recent interview with Bill Belichick. I found it while researching an essay I’m planning for this blog, and it stuck in my head for a long time. It reminded me of this girl I knew; let’s call her Julia.

I participated in a reading at my graduate school years ago and, besides how nervous I was, I remember what Julia got up and read. Well Julia is this small, soft-spoken girl, but the story she read was about this insane church that had no roof. The preacher paced the aisle giving a scary, apocalyptic sermon while teasing the crowd. Physically touching them, looking into their eyes. I was riveted. Everyone was.

Later that year Julia published a short story about Jacob and Esau (from the book of Genesis) in our school’s literary journal. The story is about them and other cursed Old Testament figures eating soup in a random cafe. It was hilarious. I read it several times. I still remember the turn of the story, when Esau cries into his soup because he loves it so much–this soup that he had given up all life’s blessings for (read Genesis!).

Once I read this story, I sought out Julia. “JULIA!” I said, “Please tell me you’re planning to write for a living??”

She shrugged, shook her head. Then she told me: “Nah, not interested. I really love writing. I wouldn’t want to ruin it.”

I will never forget this. Even today it dissappoints me. How many other brilliant imaginations have been dimmed by the thought of work, that dismal, gray thing that taunts us like a wicked preacher?

Why do we assume that work starts with pain? Why do we feel the need to protect our imaginations from the work that would get those imaginings into the world?

Better: What does the world lose when we look at the thing we love and say “I wouldn’t want to ruin this dream by pursuing it.”

Who loses when we choose expedience over the call of our imaginations?

But I know why Julia thought that. I’ve thought the same thing for years, though I’ve tried to ignore it… that sense that if you love doing something, if it turns on all the lights of pleasure in your heart, then probably shouldn’t pursue it. Why ruin a good thing?

Maybe we feel guilty for enjoying ourselves. Or we feel lonely on the road less traveled. We might even be embarrassed to have such high expectations for ourselves. Who are we, to expect something from life that everyone else isn’t already getting?

Good question: Who are we? Who are you? You think you’re unique? That the rules don’t apply to you? Huh? You some sort of big shot or what?

Well, I can tell you at least one person that the rules don’t apply to. Bill Belichick.

Not only have more than half of his seasons as a head coach ended in the AFC Championship game or better; he’s also one of the most creative innovators the NFL has ever seen. He has a defensive game plan in the NFL Hall of Fame!

Think about that: he did such a remarkable job that day that they preserved his game strategy for the historical record (This is not something that is done with regularity in the NFL Hall of Fame, by the way).

The thing is, work is only miserable if we accept it will always be miserable. Bill Belichick works around the clock doing the thing he loves because he loves it. What are the results? Innovation, imagination, success, admiration. He’s turned on all the time when he coaches. He’s engaged, he’s focused, he’s driven.

Does this describe you at work?

For those of you who have a lover: would you ever consider preserving that love by going your separate ways? Of course not!

So why are we always doing it with our life’s occupation?

And who is missing out, today, on the benefits that your labor of love could produce?

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