Do What You Were Meant to Do – Even If You Don’t Get Paid For It

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Recently, DF, a friend and colleague, wrote me: “From the time he was a small toddler, Mozart was playing the piano. He could play the piano and violin at a virtuoso level before he was 10. There was never any question like “Is this the best career for me?” in his mind.

“Rather than ‘motivate’ himself with placards and desktop signs and daily planners with inspirational messages, Mozart did what he did . . . the one thing he was, for all he knew, put on this earth to do.

“I actually know what my ‘one thing’ is — and I’m willing to bet that a lot of other people know theirs too. Tapping into that one thing, whether you do it professionally or not, must be a great secret for success.

“If you feel you were put on this earth to do something, doing it could give your other endeavors a great deal more oomph. In my case, it’s acting. I could easily despair that acting is too tough as a career. Rather than do that, I just act as an avocation and reap the benefits of the incredible feeling of confidence it gives me — confidence that spills over into other things that I do.”

I don’t see the universe exactly the way DF does. I don’t think anything is “meant to be,” for example. Mozart had a great gift for music, but he became a musician because his father was a musician who forced his son to do what he himself did. I haven’t read any Mozart biographies, so I can’t tell you whether young Mozart ever wanted to get out of the game — but if I had to guess, I’d bet he did indeed wonder, sometimes, “Is this the career for me?”

That said, I agree with DF’s big point — that if you feel like you should be doing something, do it . . . even if you can’t make a living from it. DF’s avocation is acting. Mine is writing fiction. I’ve been writing short stories now for about 15 years — and during that time, I have won six literary awards and sold 20 stories (for a grand total of $600).

Obviously, my fiction-writing skills are not good enough to support me. But I continue to write, because it gives me that sense of “this is what I should be doing” and because I believe I can one day become really good at it. Since I write in my spare time, I have not made nearly the progress in fiction writing that I might have made if I did it full time — however, as I explained in Message #1003 last week, I’m not the kind of rock climber that goes up there without a rope.

The great reward for doing what you love to do (what you feel you were meant to do) is the exhilaration it gives you. The work itself is hard, but the psychological satisfaction of succeeding — even in a small way — is enormous. And, as DF pointed out, that can have a very powerful effect on everything else you do in your life.