Why Most People Fail to Make a Living Doing What They Love

More people are waking up to the reality that they don’t follow the typical work template: college > corporate job: ladder climbing > retirement.

But waking up to the possibility isn’t enough, and unfortunately, a lot of people fail at making it happen. They know what they don’t want — a 9 to 5 soul-sucking job — but they don’t know how to escape. Some people come up with a plan, a business idea and attempt to follow an obscure path. And they often fail as well.

So why is that?

I’ve found that the answer usually has to do with one of these three things:

  1. Lack of value. This one comes first because if you get everything else right, but don’t absolutely nail this, nothing else really matters. It doesn’t matter if you think cocoa butter shaving cream is fan-fucking-tastic if no one else cares. So ultimately, you have to put value above everything first and foremost. Of course, follow your heart, but make sure what’s in your heart can correlate to someone else’s wallet.
  2. Not wanting to run a business. A lot of people want to work for themselves, but when they find out they have to run a business, they are surprised. When you work for someone else, a lot goes on behind the scenes that you’re probably unaware: administrative, accounting, and other management work needs to be done. You can of course outsource or hire someone to do a lot of this stuff, but usually when you’re a first starting out, without a big budget, you have to handle this alone for a while.
  3. Not wanting to be a marketer. Many people want to make a living doing something they’re passionate about, or create an income from their art. But not a lot of people like actively selling themselves or promoting their work. A lot of people see this as sleazy, dirty, or even unethical. But in reality, products and services don’t sell themselves. It takes learning ethical marketing practices to truly be successful at making a living doing what you love. In reality, integrity-based marketing is merely the effective communication of value to the right person. When you see things from this context, it’s easier to become accustomed to marketing yourself and your business.

These are the three main pitfalls people tend to get caught up in, and cause them to never successfully make a living doing what they love.

If you’ve ever tried to, or wanted to create an income doing something you’re passionate about, maybe you’ve been afraid of facing these things too. I know I was when I first started out on this path.

It’s time for a new paradigm.

Paid to Exist is a step-by-step 8 week intensive program that will guide you from having no idea whatsoever on how to start, to becoming confident and equipped with all the tools you need to make getting paid to do what you love a success. I’m excited about re-opening the doors to Paid to Exist. We had a lot of success with the last 75 members and we’re making it even better this time.

Enrollment is now open, but it is limited to 75 people. And the enrollment will close on Sunday, February 21st.

If you want to make sure you get in, and actually make this happen for yourself, once and for all…

Go here to see what it’s all about.

If you have any questions about whether or not the program is right for you, I’d like to you to email me and let me know. I know a lot of people so far think this is a great program, but they’re not sure if it’s right for them in their specific situation. So, if you have any questions or specific concerns, I’d like to answer them for you.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Srinivas Rao February 16, 2010 at 9:40 am


I think as you pointed out in this post, creating something of value is really the key to success. It might be the one thing that we should be asking ourselves before we produce any content. I would imagine by doing that we’ll be setting ourselves up for success with the other 2 (running a business, and marketing). At the end of the day you can be a whiz at marketing, but if your product sucks and your provide no value then there’s no point.


Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hey Jonathan,

This is one of my favorite topics, and I question I ask myself a lot. In general, I believe running a business involves a pretty big skill set which is different than the one for just being an employee. And this is what a lot of us need to learn. Not to mention the whole entrepreneurial mindset. ;)




Ryan February 16, 2010 at 10:35 am


I’ve overcome a strong blockage on the marketing end. I felt uncomfortable trumpeting my story for fear of rejection for quite a while.

I got over it with repeated acts of faith. No matter what some people are going to like you and what you stand for, others dislike it, some hate it! This is the same for everyone. It’s just that those who put themselves out there are subject to more scrutiny and approval.

Thanks for sharing your insight.


ChristiaanH - Mind the Beginner February 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Three pitfalls indeed, a big problem I think is people lying to themselves. They hear about this great ligestyle that is the online business world. Setting up a blog, making money, we’ve all heard those stories.

But when it gets down to the real deal and hard work, well that’s not part of the whole idealistic picture now is it.

Passion is great, but be prepared to work at it. That’s why I won’t be joining this 8 week intensive. I have other priorities at the moment (mainly my university education that sucks up a lot of my time). I see it as a “fail safe” way to be able to generate an income in a few years although I’m passionate about building something that I believe in and has value to others. For now it’s “just the blog” but more will come in the future if enough people express an interest.

Maybe I’ll join you in the next run of this program, who knows…

Good luck to all you lucky guys and girls why are going to participate, I’m sure it will be a blast. (And a succesfull one at that)


Jen February 17, 2010 at 12:01 am

Thanks for this post Jonathan. As you know, I am at this stage of moving into self employment and I agree completely … these are three big pitfalls. It’s a lot more work than you might think and you have to be giving people something they need. I found it hard to market myself when I first became a coach but coming across blogging and social media has made it feel a lot more natural to me.


Christine Livingston February 17, 2010 at 12:58 am

Good post, Jonathan, and I like the sound of your 8-week program. I completely agree with the pitfalls you mention about starting up on your own. Like Srinivas, I agree that putting a value on what we’re offering is paramount.

I would, however, challenge that working for yourself is not the only way to do what you love. It may well be the best route for many. But for others, the work they love comes with a corporate tag attached to it. One of my personal challenges is supporting people to do what they love, whether that’s self-employed or not, so that work is a soulful experience wherever.


Daniel February 17, 2010 at 9:34 am

I shot myself in the foot 6 years ago when I told a friend (now ex-friend cos’ of the same words that you’re about to see) that “marketing is useless”.

Today, I’m running everything on the web — yes, I’m placing sweat equity that paid off — in the food business started since 10th Jan 2010.

Just last week, my parents’ got mugged out of nearly half of $10k—it’s not cool to go through life only to get robbed out of a huge portion of it at knife point.

I’m just gonna help them build back that which was lost.

Thank goodness, running a business isn’t tough at all. I’m already having my hands on a 6th and 7th.

Have the mindset switched to the same as your 3 points stated:
– be of value
– be a business (literally sell good stuff)
– marketing

And it’s gonna work. Has for me. :)


Hugh February 17, 2010 at 10:35 am

I like these three, especially the marketing one. I’m in the beginning stages of reinventing my career/life and I can already see from blogs like yours and others how incredibly marketing and conveying your message of value is. I’m going to check out paid to exist…


Travis February 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

A fourth factor that dissuades whole herds of potential self-doer’s is not budgeting enough time. And I’m not just talking about getting down to work, but actually building the skills so that your work has the potential to be meaningful.

In other words, it can’t just be something you love, but rather something that consumes you, a deep obsession cultivated not over a period of months, but a period of years.

Really, how exceptional do you expect to be if you haven’t spent years developing your ability to deliver value?


Paul February 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm

To elaborate on point 2… Running A Business…

People who run small businesses (entrepreneurs) are typically bad managers. They did not like having a boss when they where employees, so they became entrepreneurs. They still are employees just without a real manger telling them what to do, so their business goes nowhere, because no one is steering the ship.

How many online business have a business plan? From what I observe around the net, I suspect very few.

I am firm believer in “plan your work and work your plan”.

I liken chance of success most entrepreneurs have without a business plan to how much they may know about a given field and how lucky they are.

It is like driving between Toronto and New York City without a map.

If you don’t have a clue where NYC city is you probably will never get there. If you have been a few times with others, you may get there.

If you buy a map and plot a course, you WILL GET THERE, because you “planed your work and worked your plan”.


J.D. Meier February 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Good job outlining the trilogy of tribulation.

I agree – value is crucial and the key is to remember that value is in the eye of the beholder.


Craig Thomas February 18, 2010 at 2:48 am

Nice post. Living what I love is a deep desire and I’m so happy I’m actually doing it. The next step would be my own business and I can’t wait. :)


Chris February 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Cool post, some great points. You’re right, people undervalue the importance of being a marketeer. Its so key to let people know what you’re doing.

Will check the link, looks interesting


Jonny | thelifething.com February 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

Mate, I am always impressed with your work so all the best with your course.


Muscle Building Programs March 1, 2010 at 6:17 am

I’m currently making a living without a 9-5 job.. it’s kinda boring not having colleagues to gossip with, but it has better pay though. LOL


Raj March 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

yeah I agree with you,

running a business is surely somewhat more complex than just being an employee. but u see, there are no free lunches in life, so if somebody has a dream and goal, of course, it would be a bit difficult initially, but later things would get sorted out.


Kara April 2, 2010 at 10:31 am

Thanks for the post.

I’m just coming to terms with valuing what my natural talents are – not my education and training – but what I really love to do, and what comes naturally.

I think valuing ourselves is a real struggle. Once we know what we can do, and what we love, working on it doesn’t feel so much like “hard work”, especially if we can build it gradually.



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