What’s So Great About Doing What You Love?

Phil Circle at Home on New Years Eve, 2020 (Photo by his wife, Megan)

Really: What’s all the excitement about? People often talk about it. Some actually strive for it. A few are even doing it. So, what’s so great about doing what you love? I mean, isn’t everybody getting a little tired of all this purpose-driven life, follow your bliss, authentic self dribble? I, for one, can attest to the serious amount of actual hard and sometimes tedious work involved. Then there’s the frighteningly fluctuating income stream and the unending uncertainty of getting any paid work at all. And of course, we suffer the nagging question of whether anybody else loves what we do (is anybody reading this?!), and even the occasional feeling that it’s all a big fat excuse for not being ridiculously wealthy from some other job choice you ignored or refused because you knew you’d hate it. Impostor syndrome anyone? But, here we are. So lets’ get serious… Setting out on a labor of love, a purpose-driven career most likely includes several of the following factors.

There’s the self employment thing. That’s likely your route into loving your work if you’re an artsy type. I’m self-employed and have been for decades. You’d think I would have settled into it by now, but I have a few issues with my boss. He’s hard to work for. He’s very demanding and nothing is ever enough. He’s very disinclined towards time off or any semblance of a vacation unless there’s some kind of work thrown into part of it. I sometimes question his leadership skills, creative ideas, and motivation or whether he is motivated by the right things. He’s almost insane with visions of changing the future of this or that. And fair pay? Forget about it. If I made a million dollars tomorrow, he’d probably spend most of it on the next big idea and leave me continuing this middle class life style I’ve only just achieved after years of bordering on poverty. Strangely and possibly contradictorily are that I also find him to be generally pretty scrupulous and he seems hell-bent on pleasing people. He appears to truly value every dollar that comes in, with a careful eye toward how it should be applied to creating more (dollars, as well as pieces of art and such). You get the idea. Now back to talking about myself in the first person.

It’s hard to say whether I’m compensated for my face-to-face time on the service end of things, because I love what I do. Although my fee schedule is within the market for comparable work by equally qualified coaches, I’m often told I should charge more. As far as other income streams, there’s still a lot of money going out to create and push “product” while the income is generally maintaining a teasing trickle. I don’t know when that will become a pleasing and steady stream, but there are certain indicators that it will. Of course I’d continue creating either way. So, I continue to address the business of what I’m doing so as to maintain a coolly critical eye toward improving the ways I get paid without compromising my art.

What about setting my own hours? That’s easy. I do. How long is a day? Answer that, remove 7–8 hours for sleep and fill the rest with mostly work-related stuff. It is generally on my own terms, which is nice. I wake up and jump into a routine that includes; stretching out my aging limbs through some yoga-related exercises (I haven’t heard my wife break into uproarious laughter yet); my morning chanting (I’m a Nichiren Buddhist); a romp through some brief readings; a scan of my scheduled work; and a quick look at messages. Except for the yoga-like stuff and chanting, I do this all while I drink my coffee. Then I’m off to the races. My hours from there forward revolve around whatever students, rehearsals, and shows may be scheduled (COVID stalled these), and filling every other waking hour with work like writing this blog-article, booking and promoting shows, working through my own musical skill sets, follow-up on whatever hundredth email sits on top of my inbox, and the myriad other things required to maintain and expand my career.

I have a very part-time assistant for my record label and publicity. But I’m otherwise a one-man operation that creates, produces, books and promotes, schedules, does public appearances and interviews, teaches and coaches, and maintains the flow of information to the public from this one overactive imagination. Somehow, I manage to keep it all moving. Partly, I do this out of a life frequency that makes me seldom feel overwhelmed. That is, I don’t allow it to feel chaotic, because that produces nothing worthwhile (unless you enjoy emotional breakdowns). Part of it has to do with simply completing what’s in front of me and moving to the next thing. I’ve learned a lot of trust in myself and the use of tools from my spiritual life. My days are full, but complete. Hopefully before 10pm, my wife and I will sit down to dinner. Days off are something I have to plan on, and I do. Mental health matters. So does my marriage. So do my friends, family, and community.

But I’m doing what I love, right? Indeed I am. And it’s not just the art of it. It’s how life and art become inseparable. Doing my accounting is helping me track my money which is paying for my art which is fulfilling others lives and therefore mine, and they pay me and I do my accounting to fund my art… ad infinitum. And although I do pay for all my needs, the monetary aspect is not all there is to it. What would be the point? The simple act of doing it is not all there is either. There’s still more. There’s also the unseen or as-yet-rarely-thought-of aspect of on-going growth as a human being and, therefore, an artist. Herein lies some of the most amazing rewards of this enterprise. This is what’s so great about doing what you love; Growth.

So, I’ve found that possibly the most fascinating aspect of doing what I love is this: the constant growth I experience as a human being. I am in a regular state of what Buddhists call Human Revolution, or the transformation of one’s life through ongoing change, good or bad. In order for my work to continue to expand, in order for me to continue to improve on my ability to do so many things effectively (assuming I do), in order that I can fulfill my personal attachment to teaching others, I must undergo almost daily self-reflection. I miss the boat some days, for sure. But for the most part, I spend a planned amount of time every day in front of myself (so to speak), reflecting on what’s working, what’s not, the why and wherefore, and what’s a good next step in this moment. It’s truly delightful to me. I love that I really want to continue to learn and grow at age 54 (as I write this). I hope it never goes away. I love finding I was doing something wrong because I get to discover a better approach. I love realizing a new take on an old song. I’m thrilled when a student inadvertently shows me something I hadn’t thought of after 25 years of teaching. I hope I never feel the need to stop this. But, I am human. I will tire out. What then? I’ll remind myself to play through the story and allow myself to see one end or another. I’ll be reminded why I’m doing this. I’ll shrug my shoulders matter-of-factly and continue. Thanks for being a part. Thanks for being a sounding board. I hope you haven’t become bored. I hope you never will.

Peace and loving the arts,




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Phil Circle

Phil Circle

Phil Circle is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter-guitarist, award-winning music coach and author, and the founder of Guilt By Association Records.