One of the great struggles in life is finding the balance between passion and getting paid. I would bet, that the majority of the world rather be doing something else than what they are getting paid for.

The problem lies in the fact that it can be difficult to make money doing what we love. I love to play golf, but no one is going to pay to see that. We can’t all be Steph Curry, Jordan Spieth or Ed Sheeran. These three love what they do. They are passionate about their work and they get paid. Quite a bit in fact.

Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This is easier said than done, but you can do it. Unfortunately, Confucius didn’t comment on getting paid. From my experience, this is the first anchor that holds us back from doing what we love.

The million dollar question is how can you do what you love and get paid for it. First the bad news. I can’t answer that question for you. You have to answer it for yourself. What I can offer, is a way to see where you are today and where you want to go. It might surprise you how this simple exercise can help you achieve your dreams.

Here is the passion vs. pay matrix. It’s a simple concept. On one axis you have Passion. It runs from low to high. On the other axis, you have Pay. This goes from zero to “a lot”.

Pay vs Passion Matrix

At the intersection of these four points you have a box. Each box represents the outcome of doing work in these areas. For example, the first box is the Hamster Wheel. This is the work you are doing that doesn’t pay well, nor are you passionate about it. In this box you will go round and round and never get anywhere. Everyone spends time in this box, but you must escape as fast as possible.

When I was a teenager, I spent all my time in this box. I worked at TGI Friday’s, a pool warehouse and as a roofer. On a passion scale, these jobs were all a zero for me. But, each one taught me something important. It gave me a glimpse of what life would be like, if I didn’t get off the wheel. It motivated me to get an education and find a better job.

This is exactly what I did too. I graduated from college and was making more money than I could ever imagine. This marked the day I moved into the Golden Handcuffs box. 18 years later, I am still a resident.

Like me, most adults live in this box. We find jobs that pay well and work that we enjoy. It may not be high on the passion scale, but life is good here. You are comfortable and this box fuels the lifestyle you created. At times, we all think about doing something else. But, the path to getting paid for your passion is either unclear, too long or both. So we stay put.

The more you live in this box, the more you will seek out a Happy Place. This is the third box and where things start to get exciting. This is where you are doing work that you love. You may not get paid at all, but that’s OK because you are passionate about it.

What I discovered is that you can combine time in more than one box. 8 years ago, I started the Bee Cave Arts Foundation. I was passionate about art and the impact it could have on the community. So I set off to do something about it. I never made a penny from this work, but I am richer because of it.

As you can see things are getting better, but not yet ideal. The ultimate, or the Holy Grail, is the fourth box. Here you are like Steph, Jordan and Ed. You are getting paid well and doing what you love. Most people never get to experience this. It seems like an unreachable mountain top. But like any great challenge, if you invest enough time, energy and focus, you can get there.

While I’m not there yet, I’ve started to take steps in that direction. I can envision what life looks like in this box and I am making decisions today to get me there faster.

Pay vs Passion Matrix for Me

Capturing the Holy Grail starts with raising expectations you have for yourself. Besides your family & friends, no one cares which box you end up in. It is up to you. Your expectations determine your future reality. Set them high and you will do more than you thought possible. Set them low and you will stay on the Hamster Wheel forever.

Use the blank matrix below to plot your current situation. How is your time divided? Do you see any issues?

Pay vs Passion Matrix blankNow think of one thing you can do to move to the right. Small changes start to add up. They build your confidence and one day you’ll see that the Holy Grail is in sight. It won’t be fast. But if you keep at it, over the long term, you will get there.

This post is part of a series of letters to my kids. My goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Here is the current list I am working from.