Three different things I've come across lately that all lead to me ruminating further on the subject of work... and the goal of efforts put into said work.
Starting off on the topic was Inc. Magazine's annual Inc. 500/5,000 List of the fastest growing private companies in America.
The top 500 are in the magazine itself and then top 5,000 featured online. In reading some of the profiles of the companies and their founders, I really got a sense for how hard the whole thing has been for many of the people (yes, also with exceptions)... and also how many of them just were doing something they really liked and kept at it.
Very tied into this idea of just starting something you have a degree of passion for, "The Way I Work: Michael Arrington of TechCrunch" was featured in the October issue of Inc. The piece describes Arrington as a guy who likes to write, likes to break stories and has actually (perhaps by design, perhaps not) built a pretty large business out of it. This is a conjecture-based statement to be certain, but I got the sense that if TechCrunch hadn't hit it big, Arrington would still be plugging away writing missives about breaking news in tech... because that's something he really likes to do.
The quick, easy and obvious point to draw from all this... try to figure out what you like to do and then do it. If it's something that turns into a viable business, that's great. Heck, maybe it's not even something that would ever turn into an ownership-stake business, but even if you just build a viable career working somewhere you like for others, that's not so bad.
Related to this subject of work and where it can go... went and saw The Social Network the other night.
Good movie, perhaps not as fantastic as I expected (based on reviews I've seen and that it was directed by David Fincher), but I definitely enjoyed it as a piece of entertainment (and it's acknowledged to be a fictionalized story for the purpose of greater entertaining).
Here's how the movie relates to the Inc. content and notion of working at something you care about... Zuckerberg did. He was a genius with a passion for the idea that would become Facebook and now a $25B business. Whether he thought it would get that big or not is almost besides the point that he was really really into what he was working on.
Zuckerberg has gotten rich from the idea and others who were there as early employees have also gotten wealthy, but I'm going to guess (or, perhaps just hope) that early on, they were putting in the long hours because they both liked what they were doing and saw the potential of it growing bigger. The fact that it did grow bigger than probably anyone would have imagined... a happy consequence of the idea and work to be sure, but definitely not one that was guaranteed. The actions towards that by people doing work they were into... that's something that's controllable (a different way of saying guaranteed).
So, tying it all together... do work you care about. If you've got the idea and willingness to fail, try to make a company out of it. If you don't have the idea or aren't in a position to take on the risk of starting a company, still do work you care about.
Seems simple, but that goal can be just as vexing a proposition as starting a company if you're not there yet. Well, I guess this is where the old phrase comes in... if it were easy, everyone'd be doing it.