There's a new song out there that our local radio station is beginning to play just a little too much. It's called "Vacation" and is by Dirty Heads. (You can't make this stuff up. Then again, I remember The Bubble Puppy put out "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" in the Sixties and we weren't sure which was the band and which was the song. But I digress.)
The reason this song caught my attention (besides the fact that it is just plain catchy) was the hook. "I'm on vacation every single day 'cause I love my occupation."
Now, I don't know about you, but I find this a rather strange anthem for a pop song. (Then again, there's that whole "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" thing). But it is a pretty good statement. Putting it another way (a way that most assuredly will not get nominated for a Grammy), if you have really found a job you like – if you are able to be passionate about that job – then your work will be better, your life will be better, and, hokey as it may sound, it can almost be like you are on vacation every day.
This concept — the idea of enjoying your job so much that it doesn't feel like work every time you come into work — is something I've always felt is true. So, when the song came out, it quickly resonated with me. And then another event occurred that reminded me how lucky we are when we can be really passionate about our job/our work/our profession. And it reminded me where I learned that this attitude was something I wanted in my career and in my life.
You see, my dad passed away last weekend. It had been coming for a little while, so I've had some time to reflect on his life. At 83, that life was full and interesting. I won't bore you with the details (we can meet at the bar downstairs after a while — you buy the drinks; I'll tell the stories), but one of the things I realized actually ties into that boppy little song by Dirty Heads.
Dad was a deputy for the Maricopa County Sherriff's Office and a police specialist for an Arizona state justice agency. Even as a kid, I saw the passion he brought to those jobs. A lot of his work was in identification — fingerprinting, crime scene photography, etc. — and I always figured the passion he brought to this part of his career had rubbed off on me whenever I was called in to conduct a fraud investigation.
But his life-long passion (starting in his early teens) was photography. Even as he worked for the county and the state, he used every opportunity to pursue his career in professional photography. My sister and I grew up thinking everyone's vacation involved driving through the Arizona desert down axle-busting dirt roads to find just the right spot for a photograph, then waiting untold hours for the sun and the clouds to get…just…right.
He finally got the chance to become a full-time professional photographer and it worked out pretty well since he was able to make a good living at it for over thirty years.
So, as I grew up, I was learning patience. (It gets really hot out in the desert waiting for the never-cooperative sun and clouds.) However, I was also accidently learning a much more valuable lesson.
In fact, there were two things I learned.
One, find a job for which you have passion, even if it isn't your primary passion. Sure, dad wanted to be a photographer. But that dream was going to take some work. And he had a family to take care of. So, he went into police work. And it became almost as big a passion for him as photography.
And the other big thing I learned was that, when balancing family, work, and passions, none of them need to take a back seat. It is possible to find a balance. He continually followed his passion of photography. And he achieved that dream. But his passion for his other work never suffered. And, perhaps more importantly, his passion for his family never suffered. He was there for us. And we had a normal, happy life. (Well, if you've met me or any of the family, you know normal may be stretching it a bit. But you know what I mean.)
There are two things you have to ask yourself. First, are you working hard on something for which you have real passion? (Note: This doesn't have to be internal audit.) There should be things about which you are passionate. And you should be pursuing those passions in one form or the other, even if they are not your "job."
And the second question: are you passionate about what you are doing? And this one is about internal audit. It's a rare bird whose number one passion is internal audit. But you should still be passionate about the work of internal audit and the profession.
I've worked in internal audit for about 35 years. To do that, a person must be either a sadist or actually like what they do. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, for me, it is the latter. My true dream/passion is to become a country-rock star. It hasn't happened yet (fingers crossed — one never knows), but that doesn't stop me from still playing music whenever I can.
But that also doesn't diminish the passion I have for my current profession — internal audit. Yes, that means I probably need help, but I really like it. And while it might not have the panache of being a rock and roll star, it is still an amazing career.
That's what Dad taught me without saying a single word. Do what you love. Love what you do. Those two may not be the same things, but that doesn't mean you can't still have both.