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Thoughts from David Cornelius


I listened to a podcast today entitled, The myth of turning your hobby into a job. It discussed how so often people discover too late that doing something you like doesn't keep its luster once you have to keep doing it day-in and day-out in order to support yourself. The thing they once enjoyed with a passion has become a drudgery, an obligation.

I wasn't surprised to hear this famous quote added as part of the myth: "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." It got me thinking about my own interests and the choices I made that led me to where I am today--and still loving what I do.

As I was going through my senior year in high school and looking ahead toward college, people that had watched me through the years thought I was going to concentrate on music since I had done so much with it and been involved with several musical groups on campus. But I also enjoyed math and architecture and was looking at engineering. I had many interests and wasn't sure which one to choose.

Then something dawned on me--as much as I enjoyed music, I couldn't see myself doing nothing but music every day. Music was, and still is, something I enjoy casually, something I want to do some of the time but not really work hard at it for long periods of time. I feared that if I studied it and practiced it too much, the enjoyment would disappear--I decided it wasn't something I wanted to base a career on.

Somehow, computer programming is different for me. I can spend hours working on a project and do it again the next day--day after day. It has enough variety and challenges and creativity and positive feedback that it never gets old. So is that why I'm still passionate about it 30+ years later?

It wasn't always like that. My first programming job out of college was pure drudgery. I was copying and modifying health questionnaire programs in QuickBASIC for new customers of my employer. The code was messy, there was no time for improving or rewriting it with nicer interfaces, and not really any challenges--except for untangling spaghetti code. I only lasted six months. My next job lasted almost seven years and it was only for logistical reasons that I couldn't stay. There, I created something new with full freedom to explore and design and had many learning opportunities. That second job kept the spark alive.

I think that's part of the key. If what you do, feeds your soul, keeps you dreaming about what you can do next--and pays the bills--you've found your place.

No matter what you do, there will be times that you have to force yourself to power through. Even though I love programming, there are days I struggle to stay sitting behind the keyboard. After enduring cold and rain in February, a sunny day in early March is hard to resist. Stopping what you're doing to hunt down an elusive bug for a customer can be discouraging. And doing the taxes, paperwork, backups, and other parts of running a business most certainly falls in the category of "work."

So I'd like to propose a revised version of the quote:

Do what you love to work at and your work will be fulfilling. --David Cornelius

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