Midst my ramblings on the Interwebs, I came across this intriguing Slate piece that states the very saying Do What You Love is one of the innumerable privileges that certain people enjoy and others don’t. The piece resonated to a certain extent, mainly because emotionally-hijacking slogans that are squishy and succinct always make me suspicious. And so I propose a different slogan: Do What You Can.
Why not do what you love? Because what you love is a very changeable thing. And frankly, probably involves sitting on the couch a lot, eating ludicrous quantities of chips while drinking growler upon growler of beer (at least, in my fantasy). What and even who you love is not usually something emotional. Emotions help, of course, as does a reasonable amount of chemistry between you and a person or an occupation/hobby, but love mainly consists of the decision to love something. And so I think Do What You Can is much better, because doing what I can is something I can choose to do and even enjoy, because I am capable enough to do it in the first place.
We can’t simply Do What We Do Best, because most of us aren’t really amazing at any one thing. Everyone has a particular strength in a given area, but the way the human genome and the realities of modern life collaborate means that many skill-sets can overlap. Putting in enough time in a certain field until your skills are rare enough is what can differentiate you from the norm, but that’s not Doing What You Do Best…it’s Doing What You Can until you Do It Best. (I really need to stop with this random capitalization; it’s slowing down the typing speed, and bed is calling.)
So Do What You Can. Force yourself to love it? No need to, rather, take pleasure in what you are capable of doing, and focus and hone whatever is most rewarding. And I literally mean rewarding, either in an emotional, physical, financial or mental sense. That’s where the Slate piece comes in a bit more, as it talks about how many people have to content themselves with NOT doing what they love just to make ends meet. But just because you don’t love it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy doing something at least moderately well. I do not swim particularly well, but I love swimming, and enjoy it mightily whenever it gets warm enough to take a dip.
And finally, doing what you can is better than doing what you do best because even if life is short, specialization to the point of expertise is only useful to a degree. Everyone would like to be well-rounded, but few put in the effort to truly become so. The day my older brother taught me how to change the oil in a car was rewarding, not for the grime on my fingers or the dirt on my shirt, but because I had acquired one more facet to my skill-set. Learning to cook can improve your life in so many ways it’s rather odd to me whenever I meet someone who doesn’t cook most of their meals. Everyone can do these things, but sometimes we focus too much on what we think our specialty should be, because after all, sometimes we reap the most money from it. Yet money isn’t everything; what you can do is a far better indicator of who you are. Being able to function independently on many levels is not only useful, but also comforting and rewarding. So I say do what you can, and expand what you can do as far as you wish.