How To Find And Cultivate A Career You Love

Dee McLaughlin, CMO at Country Music Television, tells Fast Company how she molded her passion for music into a career.



It’s not a new thought, but doing what you love seems to be an elusive concept for most. 

People who seem to have that spark, who are passionate about what they do and how they live their lives, are fantastic to be around, and they seem to make what they do look so easy. We spend more of our waking hours at work than anything else, so loving how we spend that time, and what we do, should be a high priority for every one of us.

Dee McLaughlin (pictured right), the CMO at Country Music Television, is a person passionate about life and music. Through the following five uncommon sense ideas, you’ll learn about how McLaughlin has combined her love of music with her career. 

1. Finding your way takes time.

When you were a kid, work and fun were opposites, so, as an adult, it actually takes a lot of time to combine the two. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t succeeded yet. In fact, if you admit to yourself that you’re dissatisfied, you’re a step ahead of most people. 


Dee grew up in Ireland and was surrounded by live music from a really young age, and one her first memories was looking at the musical symbols and instruments on the bedroom wallpaper as a baby. Maybe the fact that the Irish are the only country to have a musical instrument as their national symbol has something to do with her passion for music. 

2. Look to other people for ideas.

The more possibilities you encounter, the more likely your chances of finding your true passion. People are more than willing to give advice–and when you find it, it’s important to take it.

“Whether you are Jack Welch or the Dalai Lama, it is dangerous not to do what you love,”  McLaughlin said, quoting from the book Built to Last. “If you don’t have a level of passion that drives your thinking about what you’re doing day in and day out, there will be others out there who are passionate who will overtake and outrun you. People who care will take the initiative away from those who are half-hearted. So loving what you do is a competitive imperative, not simply a nice thing to have.” 

3. It’s not about the money.


Doing what you love will make you feel fulfilled–and that’s something that can’t be reflected simply by a paycheck. 

Music is so important to society at large because it’s a universal language. McLaughlin loves that it inspires common feelings and bridges gaps between cultures that spoken languages cannot. The fact that many religions use music to help express spirituality speaks volumes. Music creates ambience, livens up parties, fosters a romantic atmosphere. It’s a simple pleasure that can inspire people and influence emotions. All it takes is your ears and some imagination. Our moods can change with the selection of the right track and a press of the play button. 

4. Have patience.

Everything won’t come all at once–but as your career evolves, there are ways to weave in what you’re passionate about. “I’ve always been really driven to succeed in my career so it was a no brainer to stir my love for music into it,” McLaughlin says. “I’ve always tried to keep music in my working life, whether as a journalist or as a marketer.” 

5. A job won’t make your life great.


While having a job you love can make life infinitely better, only family and friends can make life great. And once you get a job you love, it takes strategic thinking and surrounding yourself with good people to keep it that way. 

While McLaughlin does what she loves, she admits it’s complicated. “We’re all multifaceted, multilayered people, and most of us don’t love just one thing, so the idea that there is just one passion for your life, and when you know what it is, you’ll be happy, is rarely true,” she says.

For McLaughlin, her secret is that she concentrates on what’s of the greatest importance to her. She surrounds herself with passionate people, and her rule is she never employs anyone who isn’t passionate about the work they’d be doing, because passionate people stay on top of trends, keep morale  and motivation high, and take pride in the outcome of their work.

Motivated by my multiple passions, McLaughlin has a burning desire to see things through to the end. Driven, even in times when she’s tired and frustrated, she believes you can find passion in most situations. Passion manifests itself in the enthusiasm she brings to the tasks at hand because she loves what she does. “I get into a flow where I’m energized, positive and aligned with the project,” she says. 

Every day is a gift and we don’t get to do it over again, so we should strive to do what we love, understanding where our natural talents and our passion collide.


[Image: Flickr user rachel_titiriga]

About the author

Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Sony, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, Kashi, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision