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Do what you love ... enough to do the hard parts

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Well, I guess, now that it’s May, our high school seniors are all going to be spending many minutes over the next month or so receiving some variant of the message “do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Right? We’ve all heard it before, and, to a degree, it’s true. That’s why we keep hearing it.

But, let me tell you something counter-intuitive: love may not be enough.

I once had a job that I absolutely loved: for six years I bounced out of bed in the morning with purpose, I worked 10-12 hours a day, Saturdays, and spent most of my off hours putting materials together for the groups I worked with. I thought my job was working with kids.

And, it was. In fact, I am still friends with many of those kids 20 years later, and take great pride, when they accomplish great things, that I didn’t screw them up.

The problem is, I thought my job was *only* working with kids. It turns out that there was a lot more to the job, from public relations to managing adult groups to working within a system of multiple schools. And, it turns out, I wasn’t so good at that. I didn’t love that part. And that is why I failed at it.

You see, the question isn’t always “do you love it;” the question is usually “do you love it enough to do what needs to be done?”

This quandary shows up in many arenas. I’ve written before about my daughter, the dancer, who needed to really focus on ballet at one point in her development before she could become as good a dancer as she wanted to be. It took her some time, but, once she embraced that classical training, she flourished! My other daughter loves playing music, just like I do, and she’s even thinking about continuing on in some way with a career in music (having not learned from her old manz). I don’t think she loves the conversations we’ve had lately, though, about loving it enough to practice three hours a day and to learn to play the piano. And my son, who is all of 11, has also had some tough conversations of late about wanting to be one of the best soccer players in the world, but not wanting to go to practice twice a week or play through fatigue. The conversations are very different, given their ages, but the message is, basically, the same.

Of course, these are all performing arenas, and those are a different beast — if you want to sing, or act, or be a professional athlete, you have to be willing to do what it takes to be in the top one percent of the one percent. But what about more conventional professions?

You want to be a surgeon? Okay. Do you want to be a surgeon enough to grind through cell physiology and organic chemistry so you can get to the ‘good stuff’? You want to be a lawyer who argues in front of the Supreme Court? Okay. Do you want to be that lawyer enough that you memorize the minutiae of arguments made about the Commerce Clause in 1879?

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here. My failure at one job led me to another job that I also love, which has also allowed me to be a much better father and husband than I would have otherwise been, and has allowed me to pursue other passions. Sometimes, Plan B is vastly superior to Plan A.

But, since you, high school senior, are still working on Plan A, be a realist. If you love it enough, go after it with everything you have. If not, be open to all the possibilities in front of you, and figure out what you do love enough.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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