According to Al Curtis, above, work isn't just a way to earn money — it's a way to achieve happiness.
“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for the love of it.” - Henry David Thoreau
We’ve all heard the old saying that if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life.
It makes sense, sure, and it rolls off the tongue almost like a cliché. Life coaches preach the idea all the time, and motivational speakers tout the benefits of having a passion-driven career.
Yet a lot of people struggle with this idea. I know I used to. Like most of us, I was conditioned to view work as necessary, something to push through so we can enjoy the good stuff after hours, not something to truly enjoy in and of itself.
I believe this is because we're not conditioned to think we can be happy in the work we do. Instead we think, “I have to do this so I can have these things." “I have a mortgage payment so I have to make money.” “I have a family to raise…or car payments…or medical bills…or…”
We all have this story in our heads that tells us we have to “work” in order to get to the good stuff. And as a result of this story, we do the thing that we think will help us get that money.
Ask yourself honestly — why are you in the pool business at all? Probably a large part, if not the main part, of your answer is because you expect to make money at it. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t have some expectation of financial reward.
Now I know that money is very important. In our society, it’s how things happen. However, I’ve come to realize that money is just a magnifier. If you’re a happy person without money, having more money just magnifies that happiness. And if you’re miserable without money, having more is just going to magnify your misery.
We only have to look at the tragic stories of huge lottery winners to see this in action. Seemingly unlimited wealth — something that many of us dream about — seems only to cause more problems, heartaches and drama for so many of those “lucky” winners.
If money is only a magnifier, then why not choose happiness no matter where you are financially? Why not choose to do what you love? And if you can’t do that, try loving what you do and find your passion in that.
Now granted, not everyone is passionate about everything they do in life. But you can be! It comes down to making a choice. I can choose to be happy in this particular situation, and I can choose not to be. I can choose to be excited and move forward, or choose to remain stuck right where I am.
Make no mistake about it, happiness is a choice. In fact, a recent survey discovered that one of the most common regrets people have when they get to the end of their lives is not allowing themselves to be happier. Seems we realize that this is our choice only when it’s far too late to do anything about it.
So how does all this relate to your work?
For me, happiness and passion go hand in hand. If you’re passionate about something, you’re engaged in it, your immersed and enjoying it. When you are enjoying it, you’re happy! Many people find their passion in fishing, painting, writing, woodworking or other hobbies. And some find their passion in the thing they do to make money.
That’s what I’ve done with pools. I’ve consciously made the decision that I’m going to love what I do, and I’m only going to take on the work that I love. If it doesn’t excite me, if I think it’s going to be a drag, I turn down the job.
I learned from experience that if you keep taking miserable jobs that you don’t want to do, it’s a huge challenge to figure out how to find your passion there. I suppose you can convince yourself that you’ll learn to like it, or at least like the results (i.e. the money), because it puts food on the table. But for me, that was a recipe for misery.
Instead, you have to find those things that you do love about this business, that type of work that really does turn you on. And when you do that, lo and behold, your energy steps up because you like what you’re doing. The right customers step up, because they feel your passion and your enthusiasm. The entire process builds and repeats itself, drawing more of the “right” kind of projects your way.
For me, that’s how my work has become my art. I’ve learned to love the process and all the pieces of the project; there’s no part of the work that I don’t love. Even standing up to my knees in mud on a cold rainy day in March has a certain appeal when I can envision how I’ll turn this giant pit of mud into a gorgeous backyard escape for my happy customers.
In doing this, the process and the work becomes part of me. When I work on something, that outcome is my legacy, it’s a part of my personal legend, and I love it.
I happen to be on the construction side, but this idea applies equality to the service side, to renovation work, to supplying the materials others need. Find the thing that you love about your current work, focus on that and you’ll get plenty of work. Yes, at first you might have to take some jobs that aren’t perfect. We all have to do this, especially when you are building your business. Nonetheless, keep focused on that stuff you love, and move closer to that with each job.
If you do this, if you can figure out what it is that you love to do and stay focused on the work you love, you’ll get more of that work than you know what to do with.
That’s been the secret behind our growth at Legendary Escapes — we just decided to do what we love. That allows us to stay happy every day, and be passionate about the work. I can’t wait to get to the job site to dig into the next step of the project. I’m always excited for what’s next because it’s so cool and so fun to design something new, something we’ve never tried before.
That’s me, every single day, doing work I love and turning it into my art. That’s me, because I take on the work that I love. Work becomes play when we are truly passionate and engaged in what we do.
Al Curtis is the designer and builder for Legendary Escapes Pools. He has pioneered the hybrid vinyl liner/gunite swimming pool, and is known for his unique and innovative custom designs. Also known online as @askthepoolguy, he blogs, does video, training, and events for the pool loving public and fellow industry professionals. He can be found online at www.AskthePoolGuy.com