Find Out What You Like Doing Best and Get Someone To Pay You for Doing It

Katharine Whitehorn? Confucius? Elbert Hubbard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A generation of social media stars began by sharing their passions, e.g., playing video games, applying makeup, preparing meals, or animating short tales. Lucrative careers became possible with support from advertisers, patrons, and merchandise deals.

Vocational advice from decades ago is especially pertinent today: Find something you love doing and convince people to pay you to do it. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: English journalist Katharine Whitehorn was a columnist for “The Observer” newspaper of London for more than 35 years. In 1975 she penned a piece about employment containing the following remark. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The best careers advice given to the young (at least to boys; girls’ schools can spot a snag to it) is ‘Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it’.

The statement above was the earliest match located by QI. This job strategy is inherently risky, and a backup job may be necessary. Yet, success in discovering your joyful niche is invaluable.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1907 aphorist Elbert Hubbard published a book containing a germane and cautionary statement about satisfaction in life: 2

Get your happiness out of your work or you’ll never know what happiness is.

In 1975 Katharine Whitehorn wrote a column which included the quotation under examination as mentioned previously.

In 1982 another thematic expression was credited to an unidentified “old-timer” by Princeton Professor of Philosophy Arthur Szathmary: 3

An old-timer I knew used to tell his students: ‘Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’

The statement immediately above has often been credited to the ancient Chinese sage Confucius, but QI has found no substantive support for that ascription. Also, job choice flexibility was sharply limited in the era of Confucius.

In 1984 “The Cynic’s Lexicon” compiled by Jonathon Green included an entry for the quotation. Unfortunately, “Katharine” was misspelled: 4

KATHERINE WHITEHORN
British journalist

The best careers advice to give to the young is ‘Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.’
Observer, 1975

In 2001 “Random House Webster’s Quotationary” included an entry using the word “career” instead of “careers”: 5

The best career advice to give the young is “Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.”
KATHARINE WHITEHORN (1928-).
In Observer (British newspaper), 1975

In conclusion, Katharine Whitehorn deserves credit for her statement in 1975. Elbert Hubbard crafted a thematically related saying in the early twentieth century.

Image Notes: Avatars for professions from OpenClips on Pixabay. Images have been rearranged, clipped, and resized.

Notes:

  1. 1975 January 19, The Observer, The ten-hour week is here to stay by Katharine Whitehorn, Quote Page 25, Column 7, London, England. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1907, A Dozen & Two Pastelles in Prose: Being Impressions of The Wanamaker Stores Written in as Many Moods by Elbert Hubbard, Quote Page 26 and 27, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  3. 1982 October 6, Princeton Alumni Weekly, Article Title: Toshiko Takaezu, Article Author: Ann Woolfolk, Start Page 31, Quote Page 32, Column 1, Published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Google Books Preview)
  4. 1984, The Cynic’s Lexicon by Jonathon Green, Section: Katherine Whitehorn, Quote Page 205, St. Martin’s Press, New York. (Verified on paper)
  5. 2001, Random House Webster’s Quotationary, Editor Leonard Roy Frank, Topic: Success, Quote Page 837, Random House, New York. (Paperback edition; Verified with hardcopy)