It seems like just about everyone who has ever addressed a graduating class of college seniors has said "Do what you love, the money will follow."

That's clear and inspiring, of course. But suppose it's wrong. Suppose doing what you love doesn't lead to riches. Heck, suppose it doesn't lead to you being able to make the kind of living you want. Then what do you do? Couldn't you do what you truly care about and very well go broke?

Yes. And the question is what do you then, if that is the conclusion you reached? Should you go ahead anyway?

Of course you should.

Now let's qualify the answer a bit: If you can't afford to do the thing you're passionate about--for example, if you do it, you won't be able to feed your family, or it would keep you from sending your kids to college (which is something you think is more important than whatever it is you're passionate about)--then no, you'd better not bet your economic life on it.

But even this doesn't mean you can't work on your passion a little--even if it's just for 15 minutes a day. And you should.


Research shows that people who make progress every day toward something they care about report being satisfied and fulfilled. Who's not in favor of people being happy?

And of course, the assumption embedded in the question could be wrong. You might, indeed, end up making money if you engage with your passion, even though you currently think you won't. Remember, the future is unknown. Who knows what people will buy, or what you might invent after your very next act. At any given moment, you are only one thought away from an insight--an insight that can change everything.

So take those small steps. You might discover that your passion does, in fact, make you money. After all, who knew you could make huge sums figuring out a way to connect all your friends (Facebook) or make a better map (pick your favorite GPS tool) or sell a different kind of cookie or barbecue sauce?

And even if you don't, you still want to spend part of your day every day doing at least one thing that's making you happy. Otherwise, something is terribly wrong.

It Doesn't Have to Be Either Or

There are a few of things I like about framing the question "what do you do when you have to choose between love and money?"

First, it recognizes that you have to make a living. I love the song Livin' On Love (Buying on Time) but you can't literally live on love (unless, of course, you marry someone very, very rich). No matter how smitten you are, one or both of you has to do something at some point that will allow you to pay the rent.

Second, it does not have to be binary. Invariably when you ask a question about love and money people think the solution is one or the other. When some variation of this question is posted online, people will go on for paragraph after paragraph how money cannot buy you happiness and anyone who tries is doomed to spend their life like Scrooge McDuck counting his gold coins over and over again and being miserable.

I have always had my doubts. Did you ever see the owner of a NFL team on the sidelines on a Sunday afternoon, he looks pretty happy to me.

The choice does not have to be either/or. You can devote most of your days trying to come up with the money you need to live, using whatever free time you have to work on something you love.

Third, the question recognizes that things that you do strictly for love can become profitable ventures, a la that barbecue sauce.

In other words when you are asked the question: Love or money? You may be able to answer both. You may not have to choose.

Published on: Oct 8, 2014