A woman sells souvenirs outside Red Square, Moscow, Russia. June 2008. © 1998 Photo by Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com. CCBY-SA 3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons

It was more fun when I didn’t make money

E. Forrest Christian Overachievers 3 Comments

Some time ago, I spoke with a man who played the piano. Extremely well. So well that he had got paid to play it. Which he did, for all his money. He loved playing. It was a great joy to him.

“Having to do what you love for a living is a great way to drain the joy out of it,” he said.

That’s not what you hear from the YouTube and Twitter crowds. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!”

Trouble is, I know that he has a point. Because writing my first weblog was a lot more fun than writing this one.

My first blog was started a great number of years ago, predating WordPress. Or Internet Explorer. Or Netscape. It was an exercise in trying new things, being ridiculous, and staying completely anonymous. It was great fun. Of course, those were the days before “web logging” was a thing.

My second blog started back in the days of Movable Type, as a way for me to record what was happening to me as I lost the best job I’d ever have (I thought), and the ensuing term of after effects. I wrote constantly, had thousands of readers each month, and was embroiled in several “controversies”. I was known in a niche circle.

It was fun. In a way that this blog never has been.

At some point, I decided to “get serious” about using my writing to get work, and I converted this successful (albeit not monetized) and very personal blog into this business-oriented one.

And took all the fun out of it.

I’m not sure that it is all about monetizing it. There are many people who do that and maintain the joy.

But not me. Nor the pianist.

It’s a problem worth thinking about before you try and take your love into money making. It may not just not make any money: it may take your joy away.

Why does that happen to some people and not others? Because we’re all different, and we are ignoring some key things about how we get energy. Some of us are weirder than others: we don’t get energy in work like others do. It’s what lets you get to answers quickly. It’s what lets you do things that others can’t, and prevents you from doing what they can.

This has to do with your native language of decision making. How you use words to talk about work. If you don’t use words the way normal people do — and let’s be honest, almost none of you who read anything I write do — you will struggle to turn your passion into cash.

Which is strange, because you are the exact type of person for whom “follow your passion” actually makes sense, as long as you hold your endeavour in a certain way.

These are not simple things. You must walk with eyes open along a narrow path. You can’t provide value and not be compensated, for the Peoples of the Book all hold a truth like this in sacred text: “Don’t withhold the wage from the one who did the work: give the worker his wage!” Does this apply less because you are doing the work under your own company? Of course not! Yet you also cannot simply monetize it, because putting money first will drive the joy out. There is something about having the right clients or students or “recipients of your art” that is key. There is not straight answer: it is a hard balancing act, and some have it work out easily, and others struggle.

Image credit: A woman sells souvenirs outside Red Square, Moscow, Russia. June 2008. © 1998 Photo by Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com. CCBY-SA 3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps individuals and companies find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants, both as individuals and as leaders of organizations at least as diverse. [contact]

Comments 3

  1. How does SST address the fact that level 5 thinking and upward, is usually assigned to positions that are hard to reach? A lot of things have to line up really well in order for people to be prepared, trained, recognized, “tapped”, socially accepted, “seen” and promoted into those positions. Not always does that perfect line-up happen to people who in fact are level 5+ thinkers. And quite often, 5+ individuals will never get anywhere near that line-up because they are weird or simply invisible (especially when they are also minority). If you read organizational theories, they tend to sound like everything will fall into its natural place, but I just find this to be rare, actually. Not the norm at all. Did Jaques even recognize this, or was he an old white straight male, after all?

  2. Post

    I’ve written about this at length (Google ‘hidden high potential site:Manasclerk.com’) so maybe that’s the best way to answer. A short answer is difficult. First, yes ,there is a tendency to even think that way, at least among RO consultants. I have thought more like you, based upon the fact that I consulted to all types of businesses and couldn’t spit but to hit a high mode individual who was severely underemployed. I’ve said before that one reason why RO consultants don’t find them is that their first step in building the requisite organization is to fire them. Not always true, of course: there is a financial concern in South Africa who used it to find black workers that should have been promoted and raise them up.

    Warren Kinston’s pointed out that this level 5 thing is a bit of a cheat: it only works on “regular” workers, including their executives, and fails on Knowledge Workers. Entry level (Str 1) biotech lab workers use Concepts as their way to talk about work, same as Organizational str5 execs. They can’t unpack the concepts, though. His expansion into the 7 work domains (he uses a different nomenclature now) is extremely useful. The general idea works across all domains but breaks down in specifics. It is an under appreciated expansion to SST. He wrote few paper that I think I have posted here on expanding worklevels — at least one with Ralph Rowbottom and the rest on his own — that include a great story about young doctors and matrons/heads of nursing that illustrates this point nicely.

    There is also the Baby Boomer problem. After the Second War, much of the world experienced a sudden jump in births. This led to an ossified top of whole industries. Nick Forrest, now retired, talked about how the engineers at a power company in Canada (all Boomers) had a hard time bringing in replacements because they were all the same age and had been working together for so many years that much of the ways of working were personalized and unwritten. These Boomers all got hired, got stuck under other Boomers in front of them, and then no one younger could advance. Or find a job in the industry.

    And there is the absolutely horrible life advice that high mode people get when they are younger. They have to get specialized advice because the normal rules do not apply. They backfire.

    But more specifically: the stratum of thinking required is determined by the work. Not the worker. The work of an executive requires them to unpack high levels of complexity and to have a vast knowledge store. It is hard to do and hard to do well. Lower level roles do not require Stratum 5 thinking. They require the level of thinking determined by the work at that level. You can get some benefit from burning extra capacity in a role, partly by being able to do things faster, but as I wrote about earlier here, bosses cannot see over-performance. So the extra capacity is wasted for earning money.

    High IQ people are often portrayed as weird. Part of this is a coping mechanism to obfuscate the power they bring to the room. If you think I’m weird, you won’t see me as a threat and attack me. But they also simply don’t need what normies do. For example, friends. They tend to be bellwethers but often so much so that no one notices. Not being “recognized” (modal recognition) creates a permanent hole. Poke around: I have had much to say on this.

  3. Thank you for elaborating; will read your older posts. Working on this atm. It´s been an eye opener for a middle class male like me. Once you look at it systematically, you begin to understand. 5+ capability is concluded in certain types of people, even if it´s not truly there, because they “look the part”. While many decision makers wouldn´t recognize an 8 even if it were right in front of them, because the “packaging” isn´t right. Same in school, college etc. Who says A matters more than the content of A, because A will be understood vastly different if said by a different person. I think this is a fundamental flaw in many theories – there is a bias re the kind of people who succeeded in obtaining certain positions as of now, without fully correcting for how navigating a hierachy is a set of skills and experiences of it´s own, and seperate from actually being the most capable. Almost no people from all the “othered” categories ever get to experience “being tapped” or being carried through a logical succession of milestones. I do suspect though, that sheer profit and productivity thinking benefits from organizational realities as they are; it´s effective. But to truly and honestly include other goals (not for PR value etc. but for meaning), we have lots of work to do. Thanks for the chat. Best regards.

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