Do Something You Enjoy

America lost a very funny, and very loud, voice this week. Tom Magliozzi, who co-hosted the popular radio show “Car Talk” with his brother Ray for over 35 years, passed away Monday, and the world is a less funny place as a result.

Readers in Asia will probably not be familiar with “Car Talk,” but it has been one of the most popular radio shows in America, with over 4 million listeners every week, which is not too bad when you remember that radio shows are not exactly big things these days. (Even after they stopped recording new shows in 2012, the repeats that are broadcast every week are still among the top-rated shows on America’s National Public Radio.)

Tom accidentally stumbled into broadcasting in the late 1970s when he was 40 years old. He started his career as a chemical engineer, but after a near-miss traffic accident in his late-20s, he realized he hated his job and was wasting his life. He tried a few different things over the next decade, even earning a PhD, but nothing quite felt right. He finally opened an auto repair shop and one day was invited to speak on a radio a program. he had a great time, came back the next week with his brother Ray, and the two embarked on a journey that included not only a very popular radio show, but also newspaper columns, books and CDs, and even an animated TV show.

The lesson here is simple: if you do not enjoy what you are doing professionally, look for something else. Depending on your responsibilities and your current skills, you might not be able to jump into something else right away, but that’s OK. Just start looking, prepare yourself for a variety of opportunities, and give yourself a chance to see what might be possible.

If you are doing a job you do not want to be doing, you probably are not going to be doing it that well. As a leader, you cannot afford to hate coming to work every day, because that eats into everything you try to do when it comes to leading and motivating your employees.

As Tom once described his own attitude to his listeners, “Don’t be afraid of work. Make work afraid of you. I did such a fabulous job of making work afraid of me that it has avoided me my whole life so far.”

If you are not doing something you enjoy, start looking around. If you are in a leadership role but you would rather be a technical expert, perhaps that is what you should be. If you are in an industry that does not excite you, is there one that does? If working for a large organization feels like it is crushing your soul, is it time to go out and start your own business? Yes, making a big change can be risky and pretty scary, and you may feel like you have too many responsibilities to others (like your family) to take a chance like that, but if it makes you happier, could it also help you meet those responsibilities better? Will you be a better husband/wife/mother/father if you are spending your professional life doing something you want to do instead of something you hate?

“After a period spent happily as a Harvard Square bum, a house painter, an inventor, a successful Ph.D. student, and an auto mechanic, Car Talk became his focus, and Tom spent the rest of his working life doing what he was born to do. ‘Making friends, philosophizing, thinking out loud, solving people’s problems, and laughing his butt off,’ says Ray.”

If you dread going to work every day, do yourself and everyone around you a favor, and find something you enjoy.