For The Love Of It

Antique Radio

My wife and I had a quick conversation on vacation that made some serious light bulbs go off in my head. We were watching a scene in a movie that takes place in a college radio station. I commented that it reminded me of the college radio station where I spent countless hours on my way to a degree in mass communications.

I loved that radio station. It was a total playground for me. More than once I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea, threw on some clothes and ran over to the station to make it real. I basically lived in the studio, worked extremely hard at it, and eventually became the General Manager.

My wife’s question yanked me back off memory lane and back into the present, “How many listeners did you have?

My answer came immediately and almost involuntarily: “I have no idea…because it didn’t matter.

I didn’t mean that the radio station or the listeners weren’t important. I meant that the numbers didn’t matter — I was doing it purely for the love of it. All I wanted to do was play, experiment, and get better at my craft. If I had listeners, that was icing on the cake.

I realize some people get pretty jazzed up by numbers. Sales figures, customer counts, blog subscribers, and even Facebook likes really seem to drive some people.

Not me. When I focus on numbers, I find that I get extremely anxious, unhappy, and pretty darn unsatisfied. No matter how many sales, members, subscribers, or listeners I gain it always feels like I could and should have more. Even when I reach a number goal, it’s a very short-lived celebration that is quickly replaced by a “now what?” feeling.

Back to the light bulbs that went off in my head. That quick conversation helped me remember that I’m happiest when I’m doing something purely for the love of it. I find the most fulfillment when I treat my work like a “studio” where I get to play, experiment, and get better at my craft day after day. Every job I’ve ever loved — from being a DJ to starting and running sparkspace — had this characteristic in common.

And yet, I have a bad habit of letting numbers creep in and chip away at that fulfillment. I let numbers steal my joy. I love to create purely for the sake of creating. It’s why I love to write my blog and produce my podcast each week. It’s why I love to continue evolving sparkspace and making it better and better even after 15 years of being in business.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t ignore numbers completely (as much as I wish I could). I have a business to run and we have to make sure the business is profitable and sustainable. Numbers do help us monitor that and make decisions.

I’m also not following the misguided philosophy that says “Do what you love and the money will follow.” That only works if other people love what you do, too, and are willing to pay you for it.

But what I am saying is that I’m happiest when I’m creating. I need to acknowledge that and feed that part of me on a regular basis — every day if I can. And I can’t let numbers get in the way of that any more.

What do you do just for the love of it? What gets in your way? What are you going to do about it?

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