Do You Make Money Doing What You Love?

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See this picture immediately above?

Twenty years ago I went to school with these guys at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  This photo was taken two days ago in Cincinnati – this was the first time I’d seen two of these gentlemen in a decade.  It was good to see all once more; good indeed!

Just to give you a little flavor of who these guys are, let me say a few things.  I won’t tell you who is who, but I will say just enough to set the scene:

One of the guys in this picture used to weigh-in at over 400 pounds!  I bet you couldn’t guess which one it is by looking at the photo – in my book, the incredible accomplishment of losing 200 pounds likely makes him the most accomplished of the bunch.  Incidentally, I didn’t get a chance to tell him I felt this way, but I’m sure he’ll be reading this…

Another guy is bold, and he didn’t used to be.  I don’t know exactly why that’s significant, but I know that it is!  Incidentally, he was a groomsman at my wedding, and unlike the next guy I’ll be talking about, we actually kept in touch over the years!

Now – see the dude in the middle of the photo being held up by two others flanking him?  Few things are true about him:  One – he is talented as all hell; Two – he was the best man at my wedding; Three – I haven’t seen or talked to him in a decade (that schmuck!); Four – for as long as I’ve known him, he has always been extremely proud of his hair (wouldn’t you be if that was your hair – just look at it!).  And one more thing, this guy always smiles and he’s always happy; I tend to think that having a head of hair like that has a lot to do with it…

Three of the guys in this photo, including myself, are parents.  One person is my REI protégé and is known on BiggerPockets under the pseudonym Max – I wrote about him in an earlier article entitled Buying Multifamily Property: What’s All the Hype About?

One of the guys in this photo is so damn nice that I’m afraid to say anything to offend him – he’s just NICE!

And finally, the obvious and inevitable truth must be mentioned – yours truly is still the best looking, sexiest cat in the pack. Period!

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The Dinner Conversation

Was lively!  Yes indeed – some of us were more focused on the food, while others on the booze, but in the end everyone was happy.

I have to say, however, that the memorable moments of the evening, for me, revolved around a conversation which involved the three of us at the table who have children.  Here’s how it went:

He said: I love my kids and I am teaching them that they should do what they love, and that the money will follow.  This is what I believe, and it is what I teach my children.

To which I said:  Bull carp!  Money doesn’t follow just because you are doing what you love.  In fact, money doesn’t even follow if you not only love what you do, but also happen to be really good at what you do…Several of us at the table are case and point…

He became very passionate, and a spirited discussion ensued.  From everything I know about this man, I can tell you one thing for sure – he loves his kids to death and will do anything at all to facilitate their happiness.  I think that his approach is naive – the economic realities on the ground simply don’t jive with his the idealistic perspective.

Related: 4 Difficult Questions Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Ask Themselves

I am sure he will read this article, and I risk offending him by airing any of this.  I do it because an awful lot of people still believe the way he does, and I hope to illuminate another perspective.  I verbalized this perspective at dinner, but I am not at all sure that he heard me.  I mean, I know he heard me, I just don’t think he listened…here it is:

Another Perspective Is:

Do what you love – just don’t do it for money!

Ladies and gentlemen – this is how Patrisha and I live our lives, and this is what we teach out kids. We love music, as you may have guessed.  It is more common than not to see me underwriting a deal or working on an article like this one, with recordings of Heifetz and Vengerov playing in the background – I love music; it is what makes me cry.

But, being a musician doesn’t freaking pay; at least not enough to enable a life of any dignity.   And we don’t have family money to supplement our efforts, nor did we inherit from our parents an established business, dividend stocks, or a trust; everything we do for our present and future, and that of our children, we start from scratch.

Mind you, I am the polar opposite of many of many of my colleagues here on BP in that I don’t need to drive expensive cars as a means of validating success, nor do we live in a big house.  Patrisha and I lead a frugal life, spending money only on things that matter and only when I must – the rest is invested into our businesses.  Indeed, money means very little to me outside of being a medium of trade.

Related: BP Podcast 079: Low Income Landlording and Investing to Make a Difference with Michele and Bruce Fischer

Having said this, had I stayed in music we’d never be able to retire – period.  Furthermore, we’d forever bounce on shit with not even a remote possibility of financial security at any time in our future.  Music, for the vast majority of musicians, just doesn’t pay enough, and having established the relative un-importance of money for its’ own sake, the simple necessity of having enough has always been of primary concern!

Money is a wondrous thing.  While having money in no way guarantees success, lacking money to pay the bills virtually guarantees misery!  Music just doesn’t cut mustard…

But, this doesn’t mean that we don’t play music.  Nor does it mean that we are not forever going to see ourselves as musicians at heart.  We simply choose to see music as something separate from money or career; we simply play music because we want to and not because we have to in order to make ends meet.  And if anyone ever pays us for playing, it’s just a bonus…

My friend’s kids are very talented, but leading our children to believe that being good is all that is necessary to achieve success, professional or financial, is a mistake in my opinion.  It also takes luck, and lots of it; one has to be at the right place at the right time, and one has to be “liked” by the right people.

One has to be afforded an opportunity to state the case; indeed very few are given that opportunity – no matter how good they are.  One has to have the incredible luck of maintaining health necessary for top performance in the field…are your kids that lucky?  Are you willing to bet on it?  Their financial lives are at stake!

Given the option, I’d rather not put all of my kids “eggs” into the luck basket…


You’ve heard me say it before, and believe me when I tell you that this is truly how I feel – I don’t love real estate.

Real estate, for me, is a means to an end; nothing more, and nothing less; it answers the question of how my wife and I are going to retire.  It also diversifies our current revenues.  And finally, it does indeed enable my wife and I to do that which we love, play the fiddle, without having to worry about being paid for it.

Now – if my daughter, who is five and is grabbing stars right out of the sky on her little violin, does indeed end up wanting a career in music, she is certainly not going to hear any discouragement from her father.  I will support her 100%.

However, I will insist that her music career be just that – a career, which has nothing to do with money.  I will insist that what she does for the love of doing it, and what she does for money are two entirely separate enterprises.

This was my message to my friend.  What are your thoughts guys?

Be sure to leave your comments below!

About Author

Ben Leybovich

Ben has been investing in multifamily residential real estate for over a decade. An expert in creative financing, he has been a guest on numerous real estate-related podcasts, including the BiggerPockets Podcast. He was also featured on the cover of REI Wealth Monthly and is a public speaker at events across the country. Most recently, he invested $20 million along with a partner into 215 units spread over two apartment communities in Phoenix. Ben is the creator of Cash Flow Freedom University and the author of House Hacking. Learn more about him at


  1. Michelle Moore on

    I agree. I teach high school and kept seeing students who were told by their parents to do what they love, and don’t worry about the money. Fast forward 4 years later, they graduate with a philosophy degree from college and move into parents basement and try to save money to get a masters degree in something more profitable. My favorite college chemistry professor says that he loves history far more than chemistry, but he saw few jobs in the “history industry”. He got a degree in chemistry so he could afford his hobby of history and purchase 10,000 books which reflect his passion.

    The only good thing about the recession is that parents have started giving my students more realistic advice, and are now encouraging them to consider the job prospects before choosing a college major. (Nothing like a parent getting laid off to change the mindset!)

    I purchased my first rental property because I saw that there was no way I would be able to save money for retirement or my kids college eduation on my $18,000 per year teacher’s salary.

  2. I don’t disagree with you, Ben, but I have an additional perspective. My first love was art (painting) and I found out early that it would not pay the bills. But sometimes “what you love” and making money are not mutually exclusive. I actually do also happen to love real estate and left a full time job in 2012 to go full time with it. So I am blessed to be doing what I love and making money. Still, I think your advice is sound. Some people have the good fortune of loving something that can be lucrative but it is probably not the majority.

    • Ben Leybovich

      Lisa – I don’t disagree. Please don’t misunderstand, this article is not about what we love. This is about making pragmatic choices in lieu of idealistic. I love music so much that if it were possible to achieve financial stability I would never leave – period. Nor would any other musician ever leave – music is addictive.

      Love has nothing to do with it. 1 out of 1,000 makes a living in music – that’s not good enough odds for me; love or no love…

  3. Ben, I am sorry but that was depressing. I think people being discouraged to do what they love leads to a life of frustration. The reason is most people spend most of their time with their time working ad that leaves little time for their own hobbies and life especially when they have children.

    I think your attitude about music says a lot, because you say music wont pay the bills and their is no money in it. If you think and believe that it will become a truth to you. Maybe the chances of making a ton of money as a musical performer are slim, but I imagine there are many people out there making an incredible living off of music who don’t perform or were never talented enough to perform. Teaching, creating products, managing, promoting; I am just pulling these out of thin air, because I don’t know the industry. If you really love something and have the attitude that ou will succeed at it, it can make you a lot of money. If you have the attitude that you really love something, but it will never make you money then guess what will happen?

    When you love what you do you want to work and spend time doing work. It motivates you and gives you a chance to really make it big, not get stuck in the rat race.

      • Aroldo Villarreal on

        Hi Ben, understand what you are saying but slightly disagree with you. I am a trumpet player with a bachelors in music education. Throughout my college career, I paid for my expenses from cash that came from mariachi gigs. I would make $400-$500 a weekend playing gigs while going to school full-time. I also saved like crazy until I met my goal of savings. I am a full-time teacher going on my fourth year of teaching music. I always knew I wanted to invest in something, but didn’t know what until I decided on real estate at the beginning of this year. The part I agree with you on is that I wouldn’t be able to retire any sooner than 40 years if I just did my teaching. My goal is to retire at least 20 years early and be able to leave a legacy behind for my family. I would never be able to do that with my gigs or teaching only. This year, with my first investment property, I gave myself a 9% raise to my salary. This is unheard of for a public school teacher to get a raise like that. At the end of this year, I am hoping to raise that to 20%. Once again, this would never be possible with doing my teaching alone. Where I disagree with you, is about not being able to do what you love and still make a living. I could make a decent living making about $24,000 a year playing gigs on the weekend, but I would never see my family on the weekends and I would be tied to having to work for money to come in. I really loved playing, but I didn’t see it as a stable job as much as teaching. I also want to retire from teaching as soon as possible doing real estate.

        In summary, I love my music teaching job, but I would love to be financially independent more than teaching!

        Sorry for the long response, I just wanted to get that off my chest.

        • Ben Leybovich

          Aroldo – you assume I don’t make money in music…that’s erroneous assumption. Right out of college, I set up a music school; non-profit 501c3. I was director for about 5 years, and today I am out while my wife runs the school and does well – there are 4-6 teachers and about 150 students…

          She makes a living in music, but it was teed up by entrepreneurship – they sure as hell didn’t teach me how to do that at CCM. This isn’t black and white, but most musicians I know are not entrepreneurs – period. Wouldn’t you agree?

        • Ben, most people don’t make much money in their career or are taught entrepreneurship. They may make much less money in music, but even in my business school we were taught tonget a corporate job, invest in the stock market and retire in 40 years. If we worked 80 hours a week maybe we would be lucky and make a really good living after 20 years. They had one entrepreneurial class that was not required to be taken, but I took it as an elective. Our entire society is based on the teachings that we need to work for someone else. Most people never take the time to think about their future an the best way to invest or spend their working time. You obviously thought about this more than the average person and have been able to make it work in music and real estate. Maybe not a as performer, but that was my original point. You loves music and found a way to make it work and then a better way to invest. I also think deep down you have quite an affinity for real estate. 🙂

  4. Mark, I agree w/ Ben. I think the notion that this is depressing is created by the media. It is possible to have separate concerns (activities that give ability to make money and career that fulfills your passions) and love each one, independently. Careers that are glamorized as those where people following their dreams achieve phenomenal success (be it in technology or the arts, for example) have simply evolved to that status because of the narratives used to describe them in various media. Fortunately, we have means to test if this is true (without having “confirmation bias”, see by simply looking at the numbers. See for example this link from the bureau of labor statistics it gives you the salaries of actors and where they work. Analyze it in detail and you’ll see how it simply confirms the hunch that Ben’s approach is more reasonable and predictive of outcome. In the book “From Good to Great”, Collins says “confront the brutal reality, but never lose faith”. There is nothing depressing, in my opinion, in just reflecting and understanding the facts. Actually, it is liberating and uplifting, and gives one the power of knowledge, and the ability to really mold one’s destiny.
    That, my friend, is opposite of depressing.

    • What I think is depressing is the notion that people should not pursue a career that they love because they won’t make any money in it. I am not saying people should not pursue a career they love and extra income, but that I think it is wrong not to do something you love because the average income is not enough. We spend a lot of time working and doing some you don’t like just to make money is not a good situation in my opinion. I think anyone can make a living a decent living doing what they love. There are many ways to do what you love in creative ways that will make money.

      Those are facts for the average person or the average salary. I never want to be average because the average person doe snot even think about these things they simply drift through life. Most people drift through life without planning or dedicating time to their future.

      • Maybe we are saying the same thing…That’s why I said: “it is possible to have separate concerns…”. In my experience, in order to be at the top 1%, or even at the top 10% of any field, regardless of it requiring physical or intellectual prowess, you need either: special natural abilities in the field or a special ability of determination and focus (which also has to be in itself on the top 1% or 10% range). Of course you also need luck, etc. but let’s leave that out. The problem is that over 90% of the people will be below in both of those 2 requirements: they neither possess the natural ability, nor they concentrate and focus long enough to overcome that lack of exceptional ability (such concentration requires being extraordinarily gifted on the determination and focus side). It is not just having the desire, and deciding to go for it, is to be exceptional in one of the two. Then, you can be above average. For most of the people, though, it is better to be realistic and pursue a dual track (activities that fulfill your passion, an complement that with a career that you like/love and gives you the means to be financially secure). Real Estate for example, is a field which doesn’t require any special natural intellectual talent, only focus and determination. Hence it makes for a reasonable complement to other aspects where one can pursue one’s passions…

      • Ben Leybovich

        Mark – perhaps you don’t understand. Music is not a career – it’s a way of life. Music precludes achievement of perfection; nothing is ever good enough. We live music – we dedicate life to the art…

        Now – that’s fine to do, but only if you can afford it. IF dad gives you money for you money for the down-payment on a house, or if he gives you principal interest in a public company, or whatever. Then it’s OK to focus on unavailable, idealistic, and financially futile pursuit. If not, understand, there is no time for anything else – the art takes all of our time, commitment, psyche – there is no time to make money…

        Not good enough for me – I’v got bills

        • Ben, I have even doing research on the music industry. From what I have briefly learned there are way too many classical musicians compared to jobs available. The schools and current musicians want more musicians so they can teach people and make money which makes the problem worse.

          I see this may be a bigger problem than I previously realized. I do find it hard to believe the only way to make it as a musician is to spend all yor time on it. Maybe if you want to be a classical musician in a large orchestra. However 99% of the world is not going to know the difference between between the best musicians and the second or even third tier musicians. I also imagine there is much more to getting one of those gigs than pure talent alone.

          I read this I retesting blog about classical artists using new ways to promote and reach people

          It seems very interesting, but I am not sure it solves the money problem. I also found something else you said inretesting; no one wants to listen to Beethoven anymore. I think most people want to hear new music and new productions. Beethoven is hundreds of years old and had not changed. Is there any other art that is continually performing “old” music without producing new material? Again I am not in the industry and have no idea about if this is true, but that is my perspective and the perspective of most people not in the know. That is who the industry has to cater too.

          Music is entertainment. A new movie, a football game, a reality show are all unknowns before you watch them. The artists that do the best put out new music all the time.

          Then as a last resort you could always start a blog about it! If there are that many struggling musicians you should have a big and extremely targeted audience.

        • Ben Leybovich

          Mark – exactly! All of these people are following their “dreams” and Passion – being encouraged by college professors who get paid W2 income only if students come!

          They perpetuate a falsehood which will lead to economic destruction of most of their students while taking solace in the stupidity that if you love what you do money will come. Teachers figure – if it’s OK for the parents to teach this to their kids, then it’s OK for us teachers to teach this to our kids….

          What we end up with is a society which doesn’t place much value on the economic worth of the art,and students who are not taught to recognize this as a problem.

          This is a huge problem, Mark, that exists in many sectors of the economy; not just music. Your line of thinking is dangerous because it forces one to “choose” between passion and money, and if passion is not what one chooses then your line of thinking would qualify them as having given up, or given in, or failed at being committed…

          This is not true, it is dangerous, and plain wrong. Who we are and what we are should not be one and the same. You are fortunate in having been able to grow up around, and step into a career that inherently offers more lucrative possibilities than most. While success can not and should not be defined in terms of money, one needs money. Having achieved success in something that doesn’t pay, while wonderful from a personal perspective, certainly does not help from an economic perspective.

      • “This is a huge problem, Mark, that exists in many sectors of the economy; not just music. Your line of thinking is dangerous because it forces one to “choose” between passion and money, and if passion is not what one chooses then your line of thinking would qualify them as having given up, or given in, or failed at being committed…”

        I would not say my line of thinking forces someone to choose passion or money. after all many of use have more than one thing that we are passionate about. I am constantly finding more things that I am passionate about as I get older and more experienced.

        I do not thing someone can simply be passionate about something and it will make them money. I think you must be passionate, have a plan, have goals, research those plans and goals and follow them. If these students who want to be musicians created plans, goals and researched the industry then like you said they may not choose music as a vocation or at least the typical orchestra performer. Maybe they move to a different area of music or focus on a different aspect. Or like the article suggested look for new ways to bring their music to the masses instead of the traditional way.

        I would also say that chasing a dream is not a waste of time even if it doesn’t work out as planned. You chased a dream and you are doing just fine, right? Our brain does not fully mature until we are 35 and it is very noticeable in our youth. lol When chasing that passionate dream you sometimes find another dream or more worthwhile venture that does pay.

        I don’t think chasing a dream that may not make money is a bad thing or dangerous. I grew up around real estate and I never liked it much, except flipping. Then I found REO and my career took off because I loved it and I was passionate about it.

        My point is not that all passions will turn into money, but if you are passionate about what you do and it is not just a job, you will have a better chance at success. If you are only in a job for money and you don’t like it, it will be hard to ever be extremely successful at it because you want to put the time in it takes to plan.

        Don’t pick a vocation just for the money, but you don’t have to follow all your passions either. There should be something that you love or at least get excited about that will make money.

        • Ben Leybovich

          And with that, you are starting to sound reasonable – like me, Mark 🙂 Yes – nothing wrong with dreams, and I appreciate that you tool the time to research briefly some of the economic realities of the music business. What it is, is business – they don’t teach you that when you come to the conservatory with mother’s milk on your lips still. No – they want your tuition money. They tell you it’s art, and people are stupid for not wanting to pay for it. They tell you to chase your dream – regardless of the economic realities. They tell you that passion is good and a will to succeed is more powerful than anything…

          All of that is true. But, if you don’t want to donate to the local orchestra – I can’t force you. If you don’t take your kids to listen to Mozart at the symphony – I can’t force you. And by you, of course, I mean people. It’s very sad that sports and a new pair of Nike shoes is placed upon more value than art, which has brought humanity closer to the divine for centuries. It is dying – a lot of my friends are bouncing on economic shit fighting the good fight against market forces, but they will loose. And we will all loose when they loose, Mark. We will loose more than money can buy…it’s sad. But, I’ve moved on – I don’t want to fight a loosing fight… I just play…when I want to 🙂

        • Haha, I think I understand the issue. There are those that promote being passionate and doing what you love while at the same time looking at all options, trusting your gut, researching and planning. Then there are those that promote chasing your dream at all costs without stopping to think about what you are doing, planning or looking at all options. Usually the later are promoting a program or themselves like you said Ben. It is almost a type of brainwashing; give up and yor a loser. I think these are two very different things, but it can be hard to differentiate between the two philosophies when you are young or in the middle of major life decisions and feeling pressure.

          I guess my point is people should do what they feel passionate about, not what someone tells them to be passionate about. That’s easier said then done.

  5. Reality #1: We love, love, love doing something. We don’t consider it work, as we literally think of it as play. Reality #2: It pays the bills for a relatively frugal lifestyle, and we’re able to save about $500 a year. Reality #3: If living like the Waltons while doing what we love so much is ok with us, so be it. But from that point on, no whining is allowed.

    Ben’s dead on, period. There’s nothing like cold reality to turn a job we adore, into a hobby we adore.

  6. Ben,

    I like the stuff you write here, but this was the best thing you have ever written. I agree with Lisa that making money off what you love doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive but it is pretty rare. Those who have succeeded at that are often quick to claim that everyone can do it if they only believe. Millions of little boys grow up dreaming of being a professional baseball player, but there are less than 1000 players in a professional league. The math is depressing.

    My 11 year old son is facing that right now. I keep telling him that he should just think about the next level and take it one year at a time. Keep doing it because you love it, because you are having fun, and keep working hard, learning, and giving your best effort. The rest will take care of itself. But here is something I feel very strongly about. I would consider myself a terrible parent if I told him that if he wants it bad enough and works hard enough and loves it enough and has a positive attitude that he can achieve anything he wants and yes, he can be a professional baseball player. The odds of that are very close to zero and he is currently playing at the highest skill 11 year old league available. What happens when he inevitably reaches the limits of his ability. How will he see me and himself after being told for so long that he can achieve whatever he wants. I won’t crush his dream but I sure won’t lie to him about it.

    There seem to be two camps of people on this topic. I have been around a number of people in the positive thinking, passion camp and to be honest with you I just can’t be around that group very long before I have to leave the room. The more I listen to them talk, the more ill I begin to feel. That’s just an honest assessment of my reaction. I can’t stomach the unrealistic expectations that I regularly hear coming from this group. Most of the ones I have been around never amount to anything. They are constantly chasing the next big thing and their passion and belief is always through the roof. They seem happy on the outside and maybe they are, but almost nothing they go after or say will happen, ever does. But I do know a few of these hyper positives who do achieve very good results. Of course they think their passion was the key, but what about the others who had the passion and never got any results. Why didn’t it work for them? Three things I see that separate the two groups: wisdom, determination, and luck. The same three things that separate people who don’t have passion. Wisdom is being aware enough of yourself and the environment you find yourself in to know which paths to avoid and which to explore. Determination is just a refusal to stop doing work. If you explore the right paths and have enough determination you will eventually create some of your own luck. There is a cliche that I am particularly fond of: Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. They didn’t miss it because of a lack of passion.

    Here on BP we hear the stories and podcasts of many who followed their passion and succeeded. This is a small and select group of very successful positive thinking individuals. One could not be blamed for getting the idea that success automatically follows from passion and positive thinking. It sure has for them. But what about the ones for whom it didn’t work. You know there are thousands of them. We don’t have podcasts with them. If you talked to many of them prior to them getting started, how many would have been super excited and passionate about real estate? A lot of them. But passion didn’t get them success. It just got them to leap perhaps without looking. Passion is like salt, it’s just a seasoning. It makes it taste better but it’s not real food. You can’t live on salt or passion.

    Getting back to baseball, my son has a framed quote on his wall from the great Yankees short stop (retiring this year) Derek Jeter. We refer to it often and this is the lesson I want my kids to learn in life. “There may be people with more talent than you, but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you” – Derek Jeter. If my kids can get that idea then they can understand that while not everything is possible, more is possible if they put their mind to it and work at it. But what is not in that quote is any sense that results follow from love or passion. Results follow from work. Love or passion certainly make the work easier and in that sense any passion you can find in your work is a plus, but it does not guarantee any kind of results whatsoever. The work always creates the results and even then, those results often cannot live up to your greatest expectations, hopes or wishes, regardless of your passion.

    • Darin, You make some great points, but I do not think it is depressing that so few athletes become pros.

      1. being an athlete teaches incredible determination, hard work and focus. It is hard to teach these characteristics in a normal job or school.

      2. Many athletes who reach a high level (college) end up very successful in life, because they learned to work hard and made a lot of friends and contacts.

      3. There are many jobs in sports besides being a pro athlete; coaches, trainers, broadcasters, upper level management, business owners that cater to fans and athletes.

      Just because someone does not become a pro, does not mean they failed. You aren’t lying if you tell your son he could be a Pro, you don’t have to guarantee it either. By pursuing a pro career he may run into something even more fulfilling along the way like becoming a coach.

      “You can only fail if you give up”
      I think your friends who are positive may be on the wrong track. Being passionate and positive about one million different things doesn’t produce very good results. You need focus, along with passion and positive thinking plus a plan.

      On your last point, people get burned out and depressed doing work they don’t like. People push hard and keep going when doing they work they do like or love.

      • Mark,

        I think that is right that the path may not go where you originally wanted it to go and so you may end up taking detours like being a coach or something else that might be related if that works out. And I agree completely that sports is great for leadership building and as such I will encourage my son to go as far as he can and wants to go.

        My point wasn’t really about needing to become a pro, my point was about the general philosophy that you can be anything you want if you follow your passion. That if you follow your passion the money and the results will come. That was the point Ben was discussing and that is the point I often hear repeated. It just isn’t true. That doesn’t mean I discount the value of passion or of doing things you are passionate about. It just doesn’t mean results will follow.

    • Ben Leybovich

      Darin – thank you indeed for a thoughtful comment!

      Allow me to provide some perspective which goes beyond the article. Real Estate success stories as exemplified on the podcast are not at all the same thing as success in arts or sports. Why? Because Real Estate is easy; it’s numbers and logic – it does not require talent (God-given something which can only be developed but can not be created from nothing).

      In RE we develop skills, while in performance arts and sports we develop talent. For this reason, the success stories that are showcased on the podcast are therefore very achievable compared to the other.

      I had (have) fare amount of talent in music, and was always one of the best in the room. My decision to look in different direction was predicated in large on the MS diagnosis – it was made for me, thankfully. Otherwise, I might still be trying to pursue a career in a field that doesn’t pay, only to one day discover that I can’t freaking move!

      God works in mysterious ways. I am here to spread the message that appears in my rear view mirror – that’s all. Some will agree and Mark won’t – for now. Perhaps he will change his perspective in line with a few more miles traveled, or perhaps he won’t. I certainly don’t want to argue or change the opposing view; just want to share a perspective. Take it or leave it 🙂

  7. Ben, Great advice! I think the disconnect with most folks is just plain understanding of simple economics.. or in many a lack of understanding simple economics. You earn , you spend and the rest is yours to keep. Gone are the days where you go to school, get a good career that pays a decent wage and retire well.
    The biggest difference between us and our elders is that our costs are astronomically higher(health insurance, housing, food, college etc.. and the dollars value has dwindled to virtually pennies. So if your in the middle class bracket with 2.5 kids and you run the numbers you can see they don’t add up.. to any real financial freedom and that is why you need to find supplemental ” float money” as in Real Estate. In a nutshell , the American dream is still attainable , only it’s course has changed.

  8. OK, as another violinist, I obviously have to weigh in on this one! And…. Ben’s right.

    I have been a professional musician for almost thirty years now. For a long time I based a lot of my self image and self worth on “this is what I do for a living, and the fact that I MAKE a living, however meager, proves the value of what I do”. I am glad to say I have finally gotten over that psychological hurdle.

    This pervasive equation of money with true value is a mistake. I mean, apparently Chia pets bring in 8 million a year. Sure, they provide a laugh on Christmas morning and maybe a bit of fun on your kitchen windowsill (if you actually ever set the thing up) and yes, that’s worth something. 8 million a year? I guess so, the market has spoken.

    Personally, I don’t trust the ‘market’s’ decisions on what has value one little bit. Take my musical career, for example. Some people would look at me and think I’ve had a fabulous career, others think I’m a loser who never wanted to work. The ‘market’ has decided that what I do has enough value to allow me to stay alive, but not much more. But I know I am not deluded when I say that what I do is important. The music I play moves people, soothes people, allows them to feel a sense of community and continuity with the past. I have had many people write to me and tell me how my music has helped them through a difficult time in their life; I have even had people tell me that my music kept them from suicide. What I do is important.

    And yet it just doesn’t pay much. So if you want to tell me that if I only believed in myself harder or loved what I do even more then somehow it will pay much better… please don’t 😉 I’ve tried that and believe me, talk about frustration…

    Now, if you could just talk to the ‘market’ and help convince it of my ‘value’, please do!

    Real estate, though, is something that is fundamentally about the MARKET not about the value (at least in the sense that I am using the word value here). All you have to do to make money in real estate is understand the market, and what it wants.

    Real estate is allowing me to do what I love… music. But without the sense of dread that was hovering over me about my future (and without the day to day frustrations of having to take every crap gig that came along.) When I see friends who are laboring at what they love but not getting ahead financially, I try to get them to be open to letting the financial support come to them from a different area (yes, real estate, lol) but most are too entrenched to change their way of thinking.

    But you know what? I actually kind of love real estate, too.

    • Ben Leybovich

      I thought you might comment on this one, Jean 🙂

      The market has decided that what we do is worth shit. This, unfortunately, is a testament to the deterioration of our society. It is actually very sad. Tax-exempt status which worked for the Rockefeller and Carnegie is not applicable. People do not support the arts like they used to. And Europe is burning as well. It’s sad that the Met is the only arts organization that makes money at the door because there is demand. Al others loose money. We buy fast cars and listen to rap and other BS, but we won’t spend $50 on Beethoven.

      In the mean time, though, you and I have to do what we have to do 🙂

      • It is understood that economics (market value) is a good, perhaps unbiased, indicator of the “value” of things. I dislike the fact that it is universally accepted to be this way, and try not to use the same metric for things that I am passionate about. So what if certain things are valued higher in the market (for example, rap, sports, etc)? I still think other aspects (intellect, spirituality, creativity, etc) have a higher value, even when they, in general, command a lesser market value (careers associated with those other aspects).

        When I was growing up in a small town in the Caribbean, I used to play basketball in the same team for 10-year-olds with my good friend Jose Rijo. We were so-so, playing basketball, but he had a hidden talent that wasn’t discovered until a few years later: he could really throw a baseball. His talent was very rare (1 in several million). He eventually went on to win the 1990 Baseball World Series and was selected as MVP, pitching for the Cincinnati Reds. His career earnings were around $40M. Others in our group were also exceptionally talented in other areas (music, academics). Perhaps their talent not as rare as Rijo’s, but they were exceptional. None got close to the same earnings as Rijo. But, knowing some of the other folks and the talents they had, I still value them way higher than I value Jose and his talent.

        So, I don’t really equate market $$ and earnings with the value of talent and passion, and I think pursuing what you love should not be about earnings. And you should maintain, as Ben advocates in this article, things in separate buckets. This doesn’t mean giving up on your love/dreams, etc. It just means that the value for those should not measured in $ or expected career earnings. Hard to do, in particular here in US, where people grow up indoctrinated in equating value with $ and earnings. And equating success with earnings.

        But, once you take that alternative point of view, you can see how it is not depressing to pursue earnings in other aspects, vs in the aspects you are passionate about. You simply separate the two and you don’t even ask the question: if I don’t make $ or a good living doing things that I am passionate about/love, am I failing? Money has nothing to do with it. It is valuable independent of the earnings. On a separate mental track you think about $, earnings, etc. Sometimes both go together, sometimes they don’t.

        That doesn’t take away any value from either one.

        • Ben Leybovich

          Wow – people still talk about Jose Rijo in

          I don’t disagree with anything you say Luis. Fundamentally, though, people have to eat, and that’s a matter of value as it relates to money…sucks, but true. I may be the weak one in that I don’t want to be out there bitching and moaning about how what I do is important and good for civilization. When it’s about my family’s well-being, I am much more pragmatic than that. I am, however, musician at heart and always will be 🙂

          Thanks so much for thoughtful comments throughout Luis!

  9. I have to agree with Mark Ferguson on this one. I truly feel that you should seek your passion and the moment you think to yourself it’s unrealistic to make a living doing a,b, or c, then you’ve just put up your own barrier.

    It would have been unrealistic for man to think that one day a flick of a switch would light up a room or that a giant piece of metal could be bent and then flown in the sky. Had these people aimed for realistic jobs, where would we be today?

    ” Don’t set out to build a giant wall, start lby laying down that brick as perfectly as you can and eventually a wall will take shape. ” Will Smith

    I say dream, and dream big….

    • Ben Leybovich

      Ha – I have nothing against dreams. But, there is such a thing as reality as function of the marketplace. It’s very present in real estate, by the way 🙂

      You have to be around for a while to experience it, though…

      Thank you so much Jamie!

  10. Ben and Mark are both right. This is akin to the argument regarding the chicken and the egg.

    All passion and no grounding in the cold hard truth is incredibly unlikely to result in success. Imagine loving a house, renovating it with a vision borne of passion, and then being unable to sell it for any of a multitude of reasons…

    Conversely, if we only focus on the reality of a situation we find that most people do probably fail in almost any worthwhile endeavor. That without some self-belief, some passion, some belief in our own exceptional-ism we would find just as wide a variety of reasons not to make that attempt in the first place.

    I personally lean more towards Ben’s position as I have learned to embrace suffering and sacrifice (after all, life is suffering… if you hold a Buddhist perspective) and that has enabled the success that I have had to date. But I don’t hold that it is depressing or miserable to suffer.

    • Ben Leybovich

      What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger – that’s the adage everyone talks about, Victor. I would add to that, that what doesn’t kill you makes you wiser – hopefully 🙂

      Two things are requisite: One – that some stuff tries to kill you; and Two – that you survive to gain perspective…

  11. Peter Mckernan on

    Well, I agree that doing what you love can most of the time not make you the money to make ends meet. Even being good at what you love isn’t the greatest money in the world. That is why there are so many that go to college for one certain career and end up changing their career field after awhile because they can’t get into it, don’t make enough money, or they end up hating it. As long it seems to be a stable career that can make your kids money, than I believe it should be pursued.

    That being said, there is a wide difference between a love for a career and a love for a hobby. I agree, there might be tens of millions of kids out in the world right now that are really good at a sport, but there is such a small percentage that actually make it professionally that it’s not worth putting forth the effort unless there is a true gift. Yes, I agree that people need to do fun things on their spare time and a hobby can be one of them; however, many things that are careers to only a selected few, are hobbies to the not as talented.

  12. That’s an interesting perspective. Most people look at it as if there are only 2 options. Do what you love and make no money or do what you hate and make lots of money. They fail to see there are options in the middle. To be fair, neither of the two options I mentioned necessarily come with their accompanying financial result. Luck is always at play. I would also venture to say, perspective maybe dictating your view. 10 years ago, I would say do whatever as long as you can make a lot of money. Today, I’m 35, I would say do what you love as long as it makes you enough money. If you can’t make enough money doing what you love, then find something you can at least like or can tolerate (the middle) for the long term and make enough money.

    • Ben Leybovich

      Mohammed – I agree on two counts. Luck has everything to do with success. Being able to recognize the opportunity and knowing what to do is work, but being presented with an opportunity is pure luck…

      Secondly, perspective is key. You can trace this reality through the comments in this article. Younger people tend to disagree with me, while folks that have been around and have seen some stuff agree unequivocally. This is blatant…

      Thanks indeed for reding and for your comment!

      • Ben, luck is not everything. You ask the successful people and try will agree luck comes from perspective or hard work. Once you change your perspective, all the sudden you start seeing those opportunities. The opportunities are always there, it is a matter of having open eyes and mind to see them. It is not luck that presents them, but people’s willingness to see them. Was it lucky you started a music school? Or was that you seeing their was not much money in musical performance so you went looking for an opportunity?

        Same with me, I used to depend on opportunity to come to me and would be disappointed hat more had not come my way. Then I realized I had to go find the opportunity. Once I changed my perspective my “luck”‘changed drastically. All the sudden opportunity was everywhere. I just had to get it, it won’t fall in your lap.

        • Ben Leybovich

          Mark- I don’t disagree that luck is not everything. However, without luck there is nothing. Just the fact that you woke up this morning is lucky my friend.

          As to perspective, I also agree that what is an opportunity is in the eyes of the beholder. However, perhaps the things you do that you consider opportunity are really not an opportunity. Perhaps you are making mistakes, and are unable to differentiate among a stepping stone and a stumbling block due to a licking perspective. Perhaps, you are so focused on a straight-line perception of your goals (married to your plan), that you are unable read the reality of the marketplace – can not allow yourself to admit the reality of the marketplace as this would force you to potentially abandon your plan and possibly, in your mind, constitute defeat…

          I am very cognizant of all of the above. Do you think that perhaps some of the above applies to you? If you answer – yes, this should cause you to reconsider an awful lot of ideals that you hold as truths, so be careful 🙂

          I respect you drive, Mark!

        • What you consider luck is a product of our actions and choices. I choose to work out, not do drugs, not drag race on the streets and that increases my chances if waking up every morning.

          There is a scientific method I be successful. It is not just about setting goals or being positive. It is about many different facets and techniques to recognize opportunities, to increase happiness, to increase money, to increase time with my family and to have fun.
          Part of my goal setting is analyzing my goals; progress, future possibilities, new opportunities and ways to improve my life. Part of it is taking time off to look at the big picture and relax. Part if it is reading and constantly learning. Part of it is coaching and learning from others while also teaching others.

          If I saw an opportunity that was better than my current path or goals, I could easily change my goals and go after that new opportunity. I wanted I buy 6 rentals this year, but I am slightly behind and may not hit that number. Why? Because I have 9 fix an flips goon and that is taking my available capital. I am perfectly happy not reaching my rental goal if I blow my fix and flip goal out of the water.

          It’s no all about drive, it’s about attitude and being able to see the opportunities and take advantage if them. I rarely work at all during the weekend or past 5 during the week and usually get to work around 830. When I do work I am very focused.

  13. I agree with Ben! In my case, my passion was more practical – scientific research. I was in a PhD program for genetics when I took a look at my major professors’ lives and realized that they hardly got to see their kids and were living grant-to-grant. They were at the pinnacles of their careers and were making about $70K per year (this was 15 years ago) but every time a grant ran out they had to go beg for more money for their research. This was not the lifestyle I wanted, so I earned an MS and left school. Now I can live on my real estate investments and have freedom to take my kids on vacation (just got back from Colorado Rockies) and time to volunteer for my community. Am I passionate about real estate? No way! I miss the thought process of scientific research and I often wonder if I made the right choice. After all, I might have found the cure for MS by now. However, it just wasn’t practical to follow my passion and still live the life I wanted to.
    I really want to instill the value of hard work in my kids (nobody is too good to shovel manure if they need money bad enough) but also demonstrate the importance of planning for their futures and designing the lifestyle they want.
    By the way, I support the arts – was the only one of my friends to hire a string quartet for my wedding. At least they could eat for a day!

    • Ben Leybovich

      Amy – what an interesting comment indeed! You know, we were both involved in careers which in another time and place would have been prestigious and revered. The fabric of morality in our society is no more; we reward actors and athletes, not folks like you and I whose passion it is to help heal and improve the human body and spirit…they make us beg for a salary!

      Realizing this earned me MS as well, as I am sure you know. This was a hard pill to swallow indeed. I have PHDs in my family looking for that cure while bouncing on shit. I buy real estate, though I, like you, do not love it. I appreciate what it can do – the power of understanding it intimately, but I do not love it…

      Thank you again for a wonderful comment, Amy!

      • Did you know Mozart had to teach music lessons to rich families to make ends meet? My sister had a PHD in physics and teaches at the local university. She also has been in real estate as a property manager and owns seven miltifamily college rentals. She has always made a living teaching or working on special programs. Then she increased the income with real estate. She could easily be make over $100k a year in a couple different ways with physics, but it involves traveling too much and she has a son. There were actually many opportunities for her in physics.

  14. Brandon Turner

    I forgot to mention this earlier. The one thing that stands out to me in this post is not in the post, but in the photo…

    You are the shortest person among your friends. When we meet in person, I’m going to tower over you like I do Josh, aren’t I? 🙂

    • Haha – not even close to the shortest. They were standing on chairs…lol

      But this doesn’t mean that you won’t tower over me – you will. You are the only person I know who is allowed to tower over me… If everything works like it should, we’ll meet sooner rather than later. I am taking control of that, cause I’ve been waiting on you for a long time, and nothin 🙁

  15. I think what you are talking around but not acknowledging is that people do “what they love” but tend to do it in the standard ways and never learn how to monetize their passions. Youve apparently been running a music school for a while. You figured out a way to monetize your music. Its not necessarily the following of our passions thats wrong. Its the following of the standard mindsets on how to make money doing things that is wrong.

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