Passion, a hobby or a career

I have a number of hobbies, some of them I am good at. For some of them, people have commentated on the fruits of the hobby saying that I should do it professionally. This always gives me some thoughts on what it means to do something professionally. The obvious parts are that doing something professionally means that you are expected to be paid for what you are doing in some form (whether it is for the end product or for the labor in doing something). The difficult part for these things (after, of course, the fact that I am not really that good at them) is the difference between doing something because you enjoy it and doing something to make a living. You enjoy doing both types, but only the latter involves some sacrifices/skin in the game.

I enjoy writing software and working with computers. I enjoy it a lot. I also do it professionally. It is my career and I plan on continuing to do it for a long time. I also enjoy taking photos and cooking, among many other things. Through this enjoyment, I have become decent at them. When I have cooked for other people or when others have seen some pictures, they have commented on the quality of what I have produced. It is flattering, but then they say something like:

You should open a restaurant.

I know that it is probable that they are just saying it to be nice and complementary but it still gets me thinking. What is the major difference between my work with computers and my other interests?

The biggest difference I believe is the passion I feel for the different things. For software, I am incredibly passionate and interested in it. Professional work comes with an obligation to continue working on something regardless of your mental or emotional state at the time. It means coming in and working on an off day or when you are hungover, and still being able to finish the day without hating everything you have done. There are nights I get home and don’t want to cook. But there are not days where I come into work and really don’t want to work with computers. (I do have many days where I would prefer to remain in bed and watch TV) The desire to continue to tirelessly improve yourself in your passion is what separates a hobby from a career. I want to be good at cooking but I don’t believe I can push myself very far to get good at it. Whereas I want to be good at software and I continue to push myself Monday through Friday, year after year, to do so.

It is always nice to know (or at least believe) that I have found some hobby that I can continue to enjoy doing after many, many hours and much pressure involved. Every deadline and new requirement, every big mistake or new hardship, all the undesirable parts like meetings and reviews, all of them have not stopped me from enjoying what it is that I do. It is hard to believe that would be the case for many things that I find interesting to do. I know I could not wake up every morning and cook for 8 straight hours for months on end or that I could both get good enough and manage assignments in photography to make a living off of. But with software, I can and do continue to enjoy and make a living off of what I do every day. That is thanks to to a passion I have for what I do, a fire that doesn’t go out with a little rain. Hopefully it continues to burn for a long time, otherwise I do not know what it is I would be able to do for a living.