Conflict Between Making a Living and Doing Interesting Work

I was reading an article on Scientific American a couple of days ago. It is about the problem of how information overload affects the work of Scientists. Information overload is an interesting topic,  so I read the story with fascination. The comments on that article, were even more illuminating. While reading that article and comments, I came across a statement on how difficult it is to do interesting work if you also have to make money for a living. So I tweeted it. It seems to have resonated with others too and got some retweets and likes.

Conflict between making a living and doing interesting work is one of the challenges most of us (not just scientists) face in life.

Today, I found a reference to this HBR article from a  friend on passion(desire) to do something you love.

… when you’re heading into the unknown, desire is all-important. You simply want to be doing something that you love, or something that is logically going to lead to something you love, in order to do your best work. That desire will make you more creative and more resourceful, and will help you get further faster.

And, it will help you persist. When you’re trying something that’s never been attempted before — beginning an unusual project at work, or trying to get a new business off the ground — you’re going to face a lot of obstacles. You don’t want to be giving up the first time you encounter one.

But, let’s be real. None of this guarantees wealth, or even financial success.

It is true that doing interesting work does not guarantee financial success. I think of it as a Venn diagram. The larger green ellipse is your opportunities for making money. The red ellipse represents your interests/passion. Depending on your specific interest areas, the overlap may be very different and in some cases, may not exist at all.

Here are three scenarios I can think of.

There are lots of opportunities to make money from the areas you are interested in.

There may be some overlap between your interests and opportunities to leverage them for making money.

You may not be so lucky, and your interests and your opportunities to make money may have no overlap at all.


  • This model is a little too simple. There may be other components to the Venn diagram related to some of your natural skills.
  • Note that I have not defined interests/passion at all. We need a deeper discussion about this topic.
  • Note that I have not elaborated on opportunities, either. That depends on a lot of other factors including your education, skills, location, attitude, comfort zones and a variety of others. Again, another topic that demands a deeper discussion.