What if I do what I love and the money doesn’t follow?

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I’ve been enjoying the Amazon series, Mozart in the Jungle. It’s a light, easy-to-watch show about life behind the scenes at the New York Symphony. In the second season, one of the main characters, a free-spirited conductor named Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal), hears the general manager, Gloria (Bernadette Peters), singing in the shower. When he tells her that she has a beautiful voice and should sing in front of an audience, she explains that she doesn’t sing in public because:

“I’m not an artist like you people are. I’m just an amateur.”

He replies:

“‘Amateur.’ You say that as if it was a dirty word or something, but ‘amateur’ comes from the Latin word ‘amare,’ which means love, love. To do things for the love of it.”

I’ve always been a believer in doing what you love and the money will follow (see this New York Times article, “The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love” for one reason why), but I think there is a danger to living by this philosophy as well.

Especially in the States, we love to hear stories about the person whose passion leads them to financially and socially beneficial work. It goes something like this: a woman, who has always had a passion for baking, bakes for her child’s school bake sale. Her baked goods become so popular that she starts a pop-up shop, which evolves into a brick-and-mortar bakery, which becomes a franchise, which allow her to start a nonprofit that trains young people how to bake for a living.

While a sequence of events like this can and does happen, sometimes, for whatever reason, it doesn’t.

Should the woman then stop baking?

At the end of the scene between Rodrigo and Gloria, Rodrigo says:

“We are notes in this beautiful concert of existence. If we don’t play ourselves, nobody will.”

If you are doing something you love and the money isn’t following, please don’t stop. It can take a long time and a lot of hard work for your passion to become financially viable, but if it never does, the world still needs you to play your note and do the thing that you love, for the love of it.

Photo by me.

5 thoughts on “What if I do what I love and the money doesn’t follow?

  1. Have you ever read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic? I highly recommend. She dives into this question quite deeply and has such a great way of explaining why it’s so important not to focus on your craft making money for you.

    • I have picked it up off and on over the past 6 months, or so. I’m about 2/3 of the way done, but I do remember her talking about how she always had a day job so that she didn’t need her art to make money.

  2. Beautiful thoughts. Persistence is is the cost of a vision. Sometimes there is failure and those experiences are knowledge and wisdom builders. Your post reminds me of the Brazilian woman from the infamous favelas who was the first person to win a gold medal for Brazil in the 2016 Olympics. All is possible, noting is impossible.

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