A lot of us were raised to believe that, if we’re having fun or doing something we find easy, we’re not really working.
And that feeling can stick with us even as business owners, consultants, or creators. We assume we’re only valuable to other people, only deserving of their approval and compensation, if we’re “working”—which really means if we’re suffering or struggling.
So we end up undercharging when we enjoy the work, and only charging a decent value when the work is difficult, stressful, or painful.
We get stuck in the trap of barely ever doing what we love—and what we’re best at—because that isn’t paying the bills. Instead, we end up doing more and more of what we hate and are worst at, because that’s the only way we feel valuable to other people.
But we’ve got to shake off those shackles and recognize that the very opposite is true. What we’re best at is where we’re most valuable to other people, and doing what we hate and are bad at is wasting our time and our clients’ money.
Strategy, as we know, is the structure to work efficiently to get what we want. As one historian wrote, “Efficiency springs from enthusiasm.” Compulsion, he says, “is thus bound to deaden enthusiasm—because it dries up the source.”
Doing what we feel we must to be valuable—instead of doing what we want and like—deadens our enthusiasm and thus our efficiency, permanently impairing our ability to do great work that’s actually worth premium prices.
Would you want to hire a professional like a plumber or a lawyer if you knew they hated what they were doing? Or that they found it extremely difficult? Would that make you feel good about the quality of service you’re going to receive?
Of course not.
You’re happy when the people you work with like what they’re doing and are great at it. And your clients will be much happier when you’re doing what you love, and what you’re truly best at. And when you’re charging prices that allow you to take your time and to invest deeply in real solutions, instead of trying to get through the painful job as quickly as possible.
This means you need to identify what you don’t like doing, and, as much as possible, stop doing it.
Identify what you like, what doesn’t even feel like “work” to you, and create a strategy—the structure—to make that the primary feature of your business or consulting practice.
As Greg McKeown wrote, the biggest thing keeping us from doing what truly matters is “the false assumption that it has to take tremendous effort.”
Doing great work shouldn’t be painful, it should be freeing and fun. Because we’re getting the fulfillment and joy that only comes from achieving our highest purpose and focusing on what we’re truly best at.
Of course, there will always be parts of our business that we don’t like—there are responsibilities, constraints, and rules that require business owners to do things they might not always enjoy.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. If you hate doing your bookkeeping, make it a game and reward yourself when you’re done. If you hate doing your marketing, create a structure to do a little bit every day, instead of wasting your entire weekend writing LinkedIn posts once a month.
Eventually, you’ll hate it less, because you’ve made it easier and more fun.
As comedy podcaster Justin McElroy wisely wrote, “Learning to appreciate things you don’t initially enjoy is the power to fill the world with stuff you like.”
Your job is to alleviate the suffering of others by tapping into your unique abilities, not to suffer on their behalf.
You’re not being paid to struggle. You’re being paid to be your best.
Which means you’ve got to love what you do.
There is no other way.