There is an old saying: “If you love what you do, then you will never have to work a day in your life.” So it looks like there are two kinds of “work” that are being addressed in this saying. One kind of work (the kind that is being recommended) is: “pleasant self-exertion in an activity that also pays the bills.”
The other kind of work is what we usually think of when we talk about work. It is the sense of “voluntary self-exertion in an activity that produces a perception of suffering – in order to pay the bills.” Usually this is done in order to make money – but it could also be done in order to produce any of a number of desirable outcomes.
Work-1 and Work-2
So there are two kinds of “work.” Lets call them Work-1 and Work-2. Work-1 is pleasant self exertion in an activity that also pays the bills. Work-2 is un-pleasant self-exertion in an activity that also pays the bills.
Its best to stay in touch with Work-2
There are two reasons that learning the skill/habit of “voluntary self-discipline in the face of suffering” (Work-2) is an important “life add-on” for a person who has become acclimated to a lifestyle that only requires the enjoyable, pleasant kind of work (Work-1.) First, for the Work-1 acclimated fellow, if his environment suddenly changes in such a way that he must now engage in voluntary self-discipline and suffering (Work-2), then the period of adjustment to the necessary change can be a real shock to his system. For some folks who go through this shock, it can even be fatal.
A second reason that it is worthwhile to get up-close and comfortable with the (Work-2) skill of voluntary self-discipline is that, many of the affirmatively positive benefits in life can only be gained by pushing oneself beyond the boundaries of the enjoyable & pleasant. So, for the fellow who manages to “get by” with only doing the (Work-1) things that he likes to do – it will eventually become apparent that he is actually missing out on some of the best parts of life.
A new old saying?
Maybe we should re-write the original old saying? How does this version sound:
If you love what you do, then (possibly) you will never have to work a day in your life. But – if you only do what you love, then the likelihood is that you are going to sell yourself short by living too deeply within your comfort zone. There is also a good chance that (by only doing what you love), that at some point in your life, you will be awakened by a rude shock that forces a change in your lifestyle. When this shock hits you may find yourself being forced to do things that you 1) affirmatively dislike and 2) that you are especially un-suited to perform due to your accustomed lifestyle of ease. (Because a lifestyle of ease and pleasure can, unintentionally, atrophy your ability and willingness to voluntarily embrace self-discipline and suffering when it becomes necessary to do so.)
But I wonder if that version would ever make it as an old saying?