This is not a post about finding your passion, it’s a post about following it when you already know what it is.
I think everyone knows what passion is, but for those who don’t, here’s a definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Follow your passion, find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life. It sounds a bit like a fairy tale, with a happily ever after ending. As we all know, fairy tales differ from real life.
From parents, teachers, and friends to gurus and motivation coaches, everyone preaches the same – follow your passion has become standard advice for young people. The key to finding a great career is to identify your greatest interest – your passion – and then pursue a career involving that interest. And when you hear successful people talk, they always say they don’t work because they’re passionate about the work they do.
Actually, it’s bullshit, because doing what you love is still considered work. There won’t be angels singing as you walk into work each day, nor the badge of honor awaiting you for doing it consistently. No. It will be long hours, the pressure of deadlines, loneliness, and maybe even a bad salary. However, it will be significantly easier to do it than the work you hate. Then, it’s not such bad advice after all, right?
“Tell me, Simple man, should we follow our passion?”
Yes, and no.
While it may seem perfectly harmless and even good, the advice follow your passion might steer you in the wrong direction.
Let’s say you’re passionate about cats and you like to pet them and talk to them. Let’s even say they somehow understand you. Should you follow your passion and become a cat whisperer?
I mean, it’s great to be so passionate about something you want to do for the rest of your life. But if there are no jobs in the cat whisperer sector, and no business model that could make it profitable, you’d be better off searching for a job in another sector where you can use your other passion or skills and earn some money for it. And then, when you cover all your living expenses from the paycheck you get on that job, in your spare time, you can be with cats and talk to them and pet them as much as you want.
We all have more than one passion. You may be passionate about marketing, sales, family, healthy lifestyle, cats, dancing, cooking, playing piano, writing, and reading, etc. The follow your passion advice doesn’t account for the fact that we all have a lot of passions and some of them make better careers than others.
Our passions are never fixed in life. When I was a kid, I was passionate to be a Pokémon master, but today I couldn’t care less. Then I was passionate about wild cats and wanted to become a scientist and explorer, then… Today I still like to read and watch documentaries about wild cats, but I make money in a different field.
And you know what? The best part is that as you grow and change, so do your passions. Imagine how many good friends I wouldn’t have met if I had still imagined myself as a Pokémon master. And how many job opportunities I would have missed had I still followed my childhood passions.
Be open to new experiences and opportunities, and you will realize you suddenly get new passions.
With everything being said, there is still some beauty and value to the follow your passion advice. Sometimes, you really need to listen to that little voice inside you screaming:
What is safe and predictable is not always the best, and we grow the most when we’re outside of our comfort zone. When I was working a job I wasn’t particularly passionate about, I was sometimes sad because I knew I could do more. Then the follow your passion advice started to be a little bug in my mind, which eventually led me to quit my job and start my little adventure. But soon I realized one important truth.
If you just follow your passion you won’t get far in life either. You need to cultivate it. Drudge through the drudgery, as Joshua Fields Millburn from The Minimalists would say.
Follow implies that you find a job that matches your passion and then do it for the rest of your life.
Cultivation means you have to work on honing your skills every day, in order to build a long-lasting passion for something you like. It’s a longer, but more rewarding process.
I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, but I’m not a natural writer. One of my passions is writing, so when I left my job I started doing it. But I will confess something. I don’t know anything about writing. Not a damn thing. I am learning and improving day by day, and although the practice didn’t make me perfect, and most likely never will, it allows me to grow and get better every single day.
There are days when I hate it, when I want to punch my computer, when ideas won’t come no matter what I do. And there are days when I sit and write, and after an hour or two or three, there is a beautiful piece of content in front of me.
When I get stuck (and that’s often), I remember two pictures from the book Show Your Work from Austin Kleon, which motivates me not to quit – to drudge through the drudgery. To cultivate my passion.
When a man like me wants to a become better writer, he needs to write and discard a lot, until eventually writing becomes second nature, which is better in countless ways – second nature always feels more earned, more honest, more real, more you. I must be willing to drudge through the drudgery every day to find the joy on the other side.
A) If your vocation matches your passion, bravo. But you still need to hone your skills and cultivate them every single day. There will be times when you will sweat your ass doing it, swear, shed some tears, and want to quit. It will be a lot of hard work and suffering. I don’t know any successful rockstar without calluses on his fingertips.
B) If your passion doesn’t match your work, don’t forget to make room for it. Even if it’s strange and won’t make you money (like being a cat whisperer), you can follow it in your spare time and who knows, maybe one day you can make a whole business out of it If you do, please let me know. I like cats a lot and maybe you can offer me your services.
C) If you’re not completely satisfied with life and work as it is, stop and think for a moment about what your passion really is, and whether it’s possible to make it into your next career. Find something without money clouding your decisions. Then maybe the old quote, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”,
What is your passion, and can you make a living from it? Let me know in the comments below.
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