Updated: May 20, 2020
... you will never work a day in life"!
How many times have we all heard this quote? I have lost count! I'm going to share my story and tell you why this is not the case for me.
Since I was 16, I knew I wanted to become an architect. When I was 26, I had the opportunity to finally go to architecture school. 7 years later, I graduated with honors from SCI-Arc, one of the most avant-garde architecture colleges in the US. After I presented my thesis to a jury of some of the biggest names in architecture, I was approached by a 3 different architects to interview at their firms. Just 10 days after presenting my thesis, after years of grueling days and nights of architecture education, I started as a junior architectural designer. I had the privilege of starting at Hodgetts + Fung under the mentorship of award-winning architects Craig Hodgetts and HsinMing Fung. That was on April 28, 2014. Almost exactly 6 years ago.
Along the way of practicing the profession that I thought I would love, I was able to confirm that I indeed love to design things, buildings and communities. It sparks such a fire in me when I think about the things I want to do with my architecture career. When I am stressed, I design something and it provides relief. When I feel down, I sometimes envision some projects in it's realized form and this lifts me up. This very process of designing brings me so much joy.
However, I also was able to identify which parts of my career in architecture I didn't like so much. There are certain aspects that are an unavoidable part of architecture, regardless of whether I like it or not. Things like going into an existing building that is in disrepair that smells so bad or looks like it's a set of a horror show. Working with the local regulatory authorities or negotiating with tricky 3rd parties are not always fun. Without doing these, there is no doing architecture. That is the nature of the job. I am not a huge fan of these aspects but they do not weigh so heavily to make me consider giving it all up.
Precisely two years ago, I started my own firm Neumascape Studio, I wanted to integrate many aspects of the conventional architecture practice that I loved and get rid of some of the parts I didn't like. I also wanted my practice to be a reflection of who I am as a person. I don't easily fit within a box. I am curious about many things, I have many interests. There is more than one thing that I am very passionate about. So, I decided my practice will undertake projects that would intersect my diverse passions: design, technology, and well-being.
One of the projects I undertook in the studio spun off into its own startup: Neuma Being. What I love about Neuma Being is that I get to practice a different sort of community building: not the building of buildings kind, but the sort that involves uplifting communities. Nelson and I have mindfulness expertise that we have been wanting to put to good use for several years. And when we thought up Neuma Being, it was an aha moment. A light bulb went off. And we started working toward it.
Here we are, doing not only one, but two things that we love, running two different kinds of companies, doing two different kinds of businesses that we love. Both have purpose and impact that motive us. We find meaning in both these companies. So are we absolutely happing doing what we do?
Well, it's layered mostly-yes. We love what we do. I wouldn't do anything else other than what I am doing right now. But, this is not to say that it is easy, or that there are things that I don't necessarily like doing, like bookkeeping or going to conferences. Like any other startup at early stages, we do a lot of stuff on our own. Our goal is to be able to hire staff that can assist with these things. We are working with business plans and strategies, crunching numbers, looking at data, preparing for bringing in additional resources to expand. This is what is required for the project. There are some parts that I love about this process and some not so much.
And it is work. There are times it definitely feels like a lot - a lot of hard, hard work. But I still love the parts that I love. One thing that is worth noting about this process, is the reframing of the perspective. The things that are tedious are merely things that I need to do in order to do what I love. The things that I don't love will not deter me from doing what I love. I try to avoid doing things that I don't savor, as much as possible. But avoiding everything that I don't like is not that easy or realistic. The burden of things being perfect, will only ensure unhappiness and frustration.
The only scenario I can think that of where a person will absolutely love every single aspect of what they do - so much so that it will not feel like it is work- is if they are working on a 9-5 job, doing a job they love to do, with a supervisor that allows them to do only what they love to do because they are so good at it and so passionate. Even that I question.
I'm a reformed perfectionist. After nearly a decade of therapy, I was finally able to put aside my need for perfectionism and decide not torturing myself is a much better way of life. In this process, I also acknowledged the fact that for me to like something or love someone (starting with myself), perfection is not a requisite. This liberated me to make mistakes and find simpler joys that made the journey far more interesting and enjoyable. Don't let perfection get in the way of good enough, it is said.
So when someone tells me that "if you love what you do, you will never work a day in life" I'm going to call out their b*** s***! I love what I do, but some moments certainly do feel like work. But you can chose to reframe it and make it easier on yourself. If you absolutely hate it, then you are probably not doing what is aligned with your bigger purpose.
So go do what you love to do. Just don't expect it make you whole or complete or the sole and absolute source of joy in your life. That joy, that delight, that happiness can be reenforced by meaningful activity and strong relationships, but you can only find it within your heart and mind.
You got this!