Love What You Do, Even If Others Don’t

I need to get something off my chest. It has been on my mind for a while now, and I feel like it’s time to come clean.

mountain maniaI love running hills.

Yeah, I know. You might question my sanity and wonder about the safety of my family. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I couldn’t let that stand between us any more…

Okay, so let’s take a little step back toward serious for a moment. The point of today’s post is that you need to love what you do, even if others might not understand how or why. I have several examples of how this has played out in my own life, a second opinion from a noted economist and another HR expert, and a solid conviction that this is the right way to go. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Learn to love what others hate

The way I have put it for years is this: learn to love what others hate. Now, I’m not saying you need to all of the sudden fall in love with [insert evil vegetable here] or [that weird guy nobody can stand at work]. I’m saying that you can be great–truly great–by learning to love the things that others won’t do. It’s one of the easiest ways to stand out, make a name for yourself, and/or be seen as an expert.

godzillaOne of the silliest examples is when I started a previous job. There was a monstrosity of a fax machine that the HR department used, but it was finicky and fairly old. My first few days on the job, I realized how much everyone truly hated that fax machine. So I spent a few hours and programmed in all of the internal and regularly-used external numbers in, saving everyone a little hassle.

You’d think I had killed Godzilla with my bare hands. The staff in the department was a little over the top appreciative, and I was sitting there in my first “real” HR job trying to figure out what just happened. Because if I could repeat it, I knew it would mean good things for my career long-term.

Back to running for a second

I’ve recounted some of my running tales here and here in the past. It’s one of the activities I truly enjoy. This year I have set a few personal records (PR’s, for those who like acronyms), and it’s because I really started working on a few things that other people hate–hills, speedwork, eating smarter, etc. In fact, I not only did them, but I really started to enjoy them. It became a game…

  • How much could I improve over last time?
  • Could I set a new record today?
  • Let’s try a new vegetable/fruit this week.

You get the picture. I’ll never be world class, but I can be competitive for my age group. And it doesn’t happen by doing what everyone else does–you have to be willing to do the things the others won’t. That’s when you really get results.

The running analogy might not fit with everyone, but here’s where it matters:

  • What if I applied that at work?
  • What if I was constantly trying to improve my skills and abilities in the workplace to better serve the people around me?
  • What would the result be?

Learn to love what others hate. 

More Freakonomics

Another enjoyment of mine is listening to podcasts. Fun fact: I never listen to the radio in the car. However, I will occasionally listen to an interesting podcast to keep my mind occupied on long trips.

A few weeks ago I heard this and knew I had to write a post about it. Steve Levitt, author and economist, talks about loving what you do. Here’s the transcript:

LEVITT: I think fun is so much more important than people realize. And I’ve seen it in academics. When I interview young professors and try and decide if we should hire them. I’ve evolved over time to one basic rule, if I think they love economics and its fun for them I am in favor of hiring them. No matter how talented they seem otherwise if it seems like a job or effort or work then I don’t want to hire them.

DUBNER: Persuade me that they won’t just be nice to have around because they love fun, but that having fun at what you do makes you better, or different in some way that is positive.

LEVITT: Enjoying what you do, loving what you do is such a completely unfair advantage to anyone you are competing with who does it for a job. People who love it they go to bed at night thinking about the solutions. They wake up in the middle of the night, and they jot down ideas, they work weekends. It turns out that effort is a huge component of success in almost everything. We know that from practice and whatnot. And people who love things work and work and work at it.  Because it’s not work — its fun. And so my strongest advice to young people trying to figure out what they want to do, is I always tell them: try to figure out what you love, especially something you love that other people don’t love. Everyone want to be rock star or everyone wants to be in the movies, but that’s terrible you don’t want to compete head on. Find some…if  you love ants, go study ants. Because no one else loves ants and you’ll have a big advantage over the people who are just studying ants because they can’t think of what else to do. Source

I underlined the pieces that were specifically powerful for me. The big takeaway: find out what you love that others don’t, then go do that well.

People who are passionate about a topic have a massive competitive advantage over those that are not. You can’t outwork someone who’s passionate about what they do.

Closing thoughts

When I first got into HR, I had someone tell me, “Wow, you really have a passion for this stuff. Don’t worry, that will die down soon enough.”

At that moment, I promised myself that I would never let that passion die. It’s expected. It’s common. And it’s something I’m unwilling to budge on. That is one of the underlying motivations that drives this blog year after year–the commitment to not only being excited about what I do, but also to help others continue to be excited as well. HR isn’t something many people would want to do. But it’s something we can be great at.

In the past few weeks I was on a NextChat with the team at SHRM talking about what it takes for students to get into HR. Here’s a piece of advice from a friend of mine during the discussion that I wholeheartedly endorse. I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments–do you think what he says is true? What about the comments from Steve Levitt above?

 

One thought on “Love What You Do, Even If Others Don’t

  1. John C.

    Great article, Ben! I truly believe that passion is a great equalizer when comparing an inexperienced candidate with someone with years of experience. In the hiring process I always look for people that are energetic/passionate about the job rather than how long they’ve been doing it.

    Reply

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