How to Make a Living doing what you Love

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How to make a living from your passion

Do what you love?

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I’ve developed a sick fascination with the British TV show Masterchef.   In the show 156 aspiring amateur chefs compete for the title of “Masterchef”.  They cook for two judges, an angry bald man and an equally irate Aussie who critique their food and slowly kill their dreams, one by one.

The Impossible Dream

My fascination is not with the food (although the contestant who cooked a tinned peach and tomato bread pudding was pretty special).  It lies with the contestants.  In reality TV, the head-shot is a vital tool for every director.   This is where we hear the ambition, the motivation, the dream.  Here are a few from the series so far:

I do know what I want to do in life now, my passion is food.  My dream is to run a restaurant in the Scottish Highlands” Andrew (Property Developer)

I want my life to be completely about food.  I want to do it full time.” Kirstie (Real Estate Broker)

I’m very passionate about food – its been a hobby up until know and Masterchef will allow me to move it forward” Peter (Police Officer)

I love cooking and to do that for a living would be a dream.  Masterchef means everything to me” Kerry (Full-time Mum)

Almost every contestant is hoping to make a living from cooking.  I love their passion for food and their huge dreams.  They put their heart and soul into this competition.  Yet at every turn, these lifelong ambitions are crushed.  Only one can be crowned Masterchef.

That Makes Me Mad

The show makes me angry.  When I hear contestant after contestant laying out their dream for a career in cooking I seethe.  “What’s stopping you?” I scream at the screen.  “Just go and do it”.

9 ways to explore your Passion

There are many ways to start making a living doing what you love.  I don’t think that entering a competition with a 1 in 156 chance of winning and no guarantees of success at the end is the best way.

So how could these contestants go about making a living from their passion?  The answer is one step at a time:

  1. Do what you love – a lot. Cook, cook, cook for anyone and everyone.  Practice the skill you want to make a living from as much as possible
  2. Develop your skills. Go to cookery school.  Learn the basic techniques and advanced skills.  Hone your style, and practice some more.
  3. Join groups that share your passion. Find others who love food and build networks with them.
  4. Interview people who already make a living from your passion. Start talking to restaurant owners and chefs.  Learn about the profession from those already in it.  Understand what you are committing to.
  5. Get experience. Look for an opportunity to cook in a professional kitchen.  Volunteer to clean dishes for free.  Be a sous chef and chop onions all day.  Get into the lion’s den to see what life is really like.
  6. Establish your expertise. Blog about food – share your passion with the world and get a following
  7. Take small steps to make money. Write a cookbook and sell it online – find a way to make a small living in a risk free way from food
  8. Write a business plan – look at the financial realities of being a cook or owning a restaurant and see how that fits with your other values in life.  Get experts and your network to review the plan.
  9. Start increasing your commitment. Set up a street stand to sell food, or take a part-time job in a kitchen

None of these actions are too difficult in themselves, yet combined they will help to live the passion.  Following these steps would allow the contestants to test out if this really is the dream they were looking for, and build the skills and experience to succeed.

If you are ready in making a doing what you love, think about how these steps might work for you.  You can start taking action to explore the possibilities and start making the dream a reality.

What is your passion in life?  What would it mean to make a living from it?  What advice can you share on making this happen?  Please share your thoughts with the LoL Community.  Thank you.

Picture credit : Tracy Hunter (Flickr Creative Commons)

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  1. Phil
    March 1, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    What are your ambitions? Would you love to make a living doing what you love? If you already do, what were your secrets. Please share your thoughts! Thank you,


  2. March 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    My passion is fashion and I took all the steps and I am now ready to roll. My committment to use my talents and make a contribution to society and humanity at large is what kept me going to overcome the many challenges and obstacles.

  3. March 1, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    My wife loves Masterchef, but I can’t stand it! If they were so passionate about cooking and wanting to do it full time then why haven’t they done anything up until the opportunity to make a fool of yourself on national tv?
    .-= Tom | Build That List´s last blog ..The 4 Reasons People Unsubscribe Mailing Lists =-.

  4. Leroy Schwarz
    March 2, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    The contestants on Masterchef might make the author mad, but this article made me mad. Not everybody has the resources to follow the suggested steps, and not everybody has had either the opportunities or encouragement to discover what they’d really love to do.

    It’s great that some people are focussed and able to do exactly what they want in the large or small steps available to them, but to assume those who can’t or don’t are willfully self-sabotaging is an exercise in unacknowledged privilege.

  5. Phil
    March 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Lisette – congratulations. I’m impressed that you stuck at your passion and are ready to make a go of it. Please keep everyone posted on your progress.


  6. Phil
    March 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Leroy – Thanks for your comment – it is much appreciated. Each life is unique and certainly each individual has had different levels of access to opportunity and encouragement. My objective in writing this is to provide more encouragement to anyone who may want to try and make a living from a passion. I fervently believe that everyone should have the right to make choices about how they live their life and make a living. I certainly don’t suggest that making these choices is easy or that there is an equal start for everyone in making it happen. The steps here are designed specifically to encourage exploration of possibilities. I believe, for example, that for someone who has a passion for food, spending more time cooking is a tangible first step to making that happen. My intention is not to call out self-sabotage or wallow in the privilege of choice – it is to provide ideas for how to create opportunities for oneself. Again thanks for your comment.


  7. Phil
    March 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Tom – that is a good question and I’m sure that Leroy would have a point of view on it. I don’t think that going on Masterchef is a signal of not being committed to having a career in the food industry. It is just one starting point. I’ve tried to lay out some steps to move this forward and build on the foundation – some easier than others. I know from my own experience that it takes time and hard work to change career and make a living doing what you love – and starting with small steps helped me tremendously.

  8. March 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    There was a time in my life when I was living my dream. Everything changed the instant I broke my neck in a car accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. I was forced to change my dreams but I learned that is okay as long as one has dreams and hope. I learned from personal experience that disappointment can be absolutely shattering if life happens to throw one a curveball. It is important to have the ability to change one’s focus when necessary but even more critical is to have the emotional intelligence to make peace with it.

    .-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..It’s Feeding Time =-.

  9. Phil
    March 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Tracy – I love that you were able to change and grow, and still keep hope alive in adversity. Making peace with the world is a great gift to have. I know that you are still following your dream and making a huge difference in the world – keep it up.


  10. March 2, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil, you offer wonderful guidance here for those who want to sustain a living from a passion. I love how you’ve made the dream a lot less overwhelming by gently outlining some very workable steps to make it real knowing that screaming “just do it” doesn’t cut it. I think what trips us up when we’re on this path is when things get hard, when the path gets narrow, when it takes longer than we have patience for and when the passion sometimes doesn’t feel like a passion anymore. We forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day, that there will be curve balls regardless of how well we plan, there will be excuses that will poison our determination and there will be times when we don’t see the progress we make. Thanks for the wonderful encouragement you’ve given us!

  11. March 3, 2010 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil,

    My passion (one of them at least) happens to be cooking. However, given where I am in life I didn’t want to give all that up to start at the bottom and cook (although if you are younger, like 20 or so, go for it). So instead, I started a cooking blog which I did for 18 months. A lot of fun and I really enjoyed cooking, writing and talking about it (you can see it at but I no longer post to it). Lots of ways to pursue a passion with it making it the central way one derives income.

    I live in the US and am not familiar with this show although so many successful UK shows make it over here and we redo them (The Office and Gordan Ramsay Kitchen Nightmare, for example). We have one here called “Top Chef” and perhaps we stole that one also. I’ll have to watch out for MasterChef on my next trip to the UK).

  12. March 3, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    But Phil, don’t you know if I did all those things you suggest to explore my passion it would mean I’d actually have to work at it? No, no, Phil, I want magic! Okay I’ll be serious now. I love this post. I’m sure you’ve encountered this with clients too, where they yearn for the big, magic, “opportunity” like Masterchef that will make them a star. It’s similar to wanting to win the lottery. Or alternately, they renounce taking even the smallest steps towards their dreams and passions because it might not work out and they are afraid of the disappointment that will follow. I hear a little of that in Leroy’s comments. And I do understand. That story of scarcity looms large. The one where we believe we can keep ourselves safe by not trying, or where we believe that we’ve gotten the short end of the stick in life compared to everyone else. That’s a shadowy story that is bigger than all of us, and yet, we all have the potential to tell another story too. Thanks for letting me get that out, Phil!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Big Rabbit Edition =-.

  13. Phil
    March 3, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Belinda – I know you are following you passion every day through the great writing you share with the world. I love your analogy of the path getting hard and narrow and it taking longer than we have patience for. It happens to everyone and the toughest thing is to just keep going at that point. Keep on doing what you’re doing.


  14. Phil
    March 3, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Marc – I love that you blogged about food without making it the central way that you made a living. Sometimes our passion isn’t our vocation – its an outlet for our creativity, a way to enjoy life, stay in the moment and explore ourselves. I’m sure you’re a black-belt chef when you put your mind to it! Thanks for the comment.


  15. Phil
    March 3, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Patty – you are so perceptive and I love this comment. Sometimes I ask my client what they would do if I could wave my coaching magic wand and make anything happen. Sadly I have to admit that it doesn’t exist. I’ve seen people make astounding transformations in their lives. The two things they always do are 1) take action, one step at a time 2) get their head in a space to accept whatever results come along and keep on going. Often the destination can vary from the original plan, as the world gives feedback, yet with this approach change comes along. I can tell that you are an extremely talented and perceptive coach and truly thank you for your perspective. Thank you.


  16. March 4, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Phil! I thought it was just me. I have a love/hate relationship with Masterchef: the foodie in me watches eagerly, the ass-kicking career coach says “if it’s your dream, why are you relying on a TV show to give it to you???”. Then I cook something angrily.

    The shining light might be that these people are just all personal-branding-savvy, have food careers in the making, and are just making up a sob story for the judges. Is that too optimistic?

    Great post.
    .-= Marianne Cantwell´s last blog ..The three ‘secret’ habits holding you back from getting a career you love =-.

  17. Phil
    March 4, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Marianne – it is a compulsive show. I hope you’re right and the contestants are doing this as part of bigger plan for world domination. Sadly some of their cooking lets them down if that is the case. Thanks for the post!

  18. March 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil. I love lists. I skim over them and think, I can do that. It’s a place to start. It works for (the author) so why not at least read it and see if any of it is applicable to me?

    My passions are painting and writing. I see story in most of life and love the feel of a pen or brush in my hand to talk about that story. I have a philosophy for life that’s stated simply: I want to live everyday of it. Die young at a very old age. And show to my kids by example that there’s an adventure at any age! I also love to share what I’m learning with anyone who wants to learn it.

    That is my starting point. I actually love your list and will print it out and post it up. Like Lisette, I’m doing a lot of it now, so I must be on the right track. Tracy Todd has an incredible outlook. One that works. Patty makes such a good point — so many subscribe to the economics of scarcity idea, including in themselves. My sister is the piano player, so therefore I must choose another talent. Silly really, but there it is. (I quit taking lessons after 3 yrs because she was so good at it.) I know better today…

    Great post!
    .-= Barb Hartsook´s last blog ..Learning Changes Us… or Does It? =-.

  19. Phil
    March 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Barb – thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comment. Please enjoy the list – there is so much out in the world when we just take simple actions to get started. One resource I recommend is “How to be an Artist” by Michael Atavar – a wise and practical guide to building an artistic practice (whether for profit or pleasure). Keep pursuing your passions and living them large!


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