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A Summary of

How to Do What You Love

Paul Graham
Paul Graham
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How we’re taught to think about work

  • As children, work and fun are opposites. Grownups did work, and school prepared us for work. That’s why school wasn’t fun. 
  • In reality grownup work is not necessarily worse than schoolwork. We could actually end up doing something we love, but our concepts of work and life limit that.

How much should you like what you do?

  • Doing what you love doesn’t mean what you would most like to do in the moment. Almost everyone would rather take an exotic vacation than work. Doing what you love is measured over time and unproductive pleasures eventually lose their luster. 
  • The work must be beneficial in itself. The time away from work cannot be seen as the prize that the work buys you.

Reasons to choose what to work on

  • Try to do things that would make your friends and people you respect, say “Wow”, and don’t worry about the opinion of people beyond that group.
  • Prestige and money cause some to work on what they want to like. In reality, prestige often comes as the result of great work, but too often people chase the prestige itself, instead of doing great work.
  • If someone loves what they do they would do it even if they weren’t paid for it.

It’s hard to find work you love

  • Finding what you love is a difficult, nonlinear and long process.
  • Do a good job at whatever you’re doing and always progress towards what you think you want to do, this keeps your goal from being a mere fantasy. You have to make a living
  • You need to make money to survive –but you can always progress towards a passion, either by making enough money with a “day job” to pursue your passion on the side or by increasing the role your passion plays in your work as you gain resources.
  • When you’re young you often think you’ll have clearer choices in the future. This isn’t the case, you’re always working with incomplete information, so try things many things. The Big Picture
  • People say they want financial freedom but don’t know what to do with it. Constraints give your life structure. The happiest people are those that like what they do.
  • Expect a struggle. Finding what you love is hard work, but it can be done.
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