“If you’re good at something never do it for free”

“If you’re good at something never do it for free”

The quote is from the Joker in The Dark Knight. It brings up an interested conversation that seems to split the crowd:

I profoundly disagree with it. I’m tempted to dive into the Sea of Hyperbole and say, “If you are good at something, never do it for money.” That’s not really how I feel, but I’m so turned off by the Joker’s statement, it’s how I feel right now.

If I’m good at something but don’t particularly like doing it, then I’ll only do it for money (or maybe as a favor to a friend in need). I’m fairly good at cleaning kitchens, but I loath doing it, so the only way you’re getting me to clean yours is to hand over the moolah.

But if it’s something I love doing, whether I’m good at it or not, money tends to taint it. At least with me (and with most people I’ve met), money comes with all sorts of constraints and anxieties. Before you know it, it’s not a passion; it’s a job.

There are all sorts of good objections to this, the best one being that it’s often better to get paid for something you love than something you hate. But you have to be careful, because money can turn the beloved into drudgery, deadlines, and homework. I have friends who went to acting school, spend most of their times acting in commercials (because they don’t want to wait tables while they do free Shakespeare) and complain about how all the passion is gone for them.

Some lucky folks are able to get paid for doing what they love, and the paycheck never cripples their love of the work. I am not in any way saying they should quit their jobs and do it for free. All I can say is, “Good for them!”

Marcus Geduld (his post continues for those wanting more)

I like it, but then, I seem to have read it a different way than most people.

I think the emphasis on money in the answers so far is misplaced. Remember, when the Joker actually got the money he asked for alongside that line, he then burned it – so I don’t think money was what the Joker was getting at.

The meaning I got out of Joker’s line was more like:

“Don’t let others take advantage of your passion for a thing – you’ll sell yourself short.”

If you’re good at something that people want done, and willing to do it for free…then you’re going to do it for free.

– Mani Cavalieri


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