Passion or Paycheck?

Recently, I have been thinking about what makes me happy. It has been on my mind on and off ever since I stopped working for a  San Francisco bay area startup a long time ago (like 14+ years), This time it was triggered by the birth of our son and a change of position at work. 

This is my top three "things that make me outrageously happy":

  1. My wife and son
  2. Friends and family
  3. Music 

In addition I came up with a long list of things that usually contribute to my happiness. To name a few:

  • Travelling, preferrably by hippie van or motorcycle
  • Continuously learning something new
  • Making stuff 
  • Food - cooking and sharing

And when multiple of those come together, there's a combo-bonus:

  • Raising our son with my wife makes me incredibly happy
  • Seeing my parents with their first grandchild fills me with gratitude
  • My wife and I both play in an orchestra. When friends and family came to see us perform, I was high as a kite for days!
  • My best friend and I rode our motorcycles around the Baltic Sea with tents strapped on the back of our bikes. Amazing experience (and fell in love with Scandinavia)!
  • Hosting a barbecue party on a summer night with friends, strumming guitars, a fireplace and hammocks brings me in a really happy flow
  • My wife and I took several trips in a tiny campervan, which is something I always long for as soon as we're back. 

Notice something? Work is not in there. Don't get me wrong: I really enjoy the work I do (I lead a team of test engineers at an online retailer), but apparently it does not make me as happy as all those other things. Although I get really passionate when I can spend time experimenting and innovating the way we develop and deliver software as it allows me to continuously try new things and find ways to implement those in our processes and then explain and share them with other engineers. 

Unfortunately, most people do not like work as much as the things they do when they are off-duty. Some people downright hate their job. 

I realize my life as it currently stands is great, but I cannot ignore the fact that time and again I wonder if I should change direction and figure out if this job is the best fit for me. And if not, what is. I see some soul-searching in my future.

[Update: Guess what? Since this post I got a different position at work, allowing me to spend more time with people in my team to innovate. And I found something I apparently really like: facilitate others to enable them to do great work. So, I added another dose of passion into my job. Awesome!]