The other day I saw another person say that following your passion is a bad idea. Ugh. This misinformation can put you in a crater. I know.
Only Seeing Half the Puzzle
Before I jump into my personal pit, I want to point out two things. First, relying just on passion is bad. Duh. But there is always more than one piece to success. Still, I’ve already said that passion is one of three parts to success. There is no need to rehash it here.
Secondly, I think many of the people that see it differently are built differently than you and I. For instance, Mike Rowe is really driven to try new things and explore. Mark Cuban is really driven to learn and grow. When they talk about what they are passionate about, they don’t talk about these things. Regardless if they realize it or not, these are their passions.
Although Mark Cuban has not denied passion playing a part in success, Mike Rowe has. And yet, he’s doing what he enjoys doing. I can’t quite fathom the soapbox that supports such irony. Still, we’ve already talked about Mike Rowe, and we’ll talk about Mark Cuban next time.
For now, what I want to talk about is my personal experience with passion, and the lack of it.
I was told from a young age to get a good job and do it well. That was the way to have a good life. And it worked for me. At first.
I did exactly that. I found a good job. I worked hard. I applied myself. At times I was really energized by the work, and I kept moving forward. Twice I doubled my salary in just three years. I was not complaining.
The money was flowing and I was doing well. I was feeling on top of my game. I enjoyed my work, and did it well.
But things started to head in a different direction. Work became more of a quagmire. I tried to accomplish great things, but I was hearing competing goals. On the one hand a mission statement said that we were to be the best at what we did. Yet we were constantly told simply to do enough to get by.
Sadly this approach of just doing enough to get by only cost us later on down the road. It was frustratingly robbing Peter to pay Paul, or, more accurately, borrowing against our future selves. It didn’t take long for the motivation to be gone. All the passion I had for my work vanished.
Sadly, instead of fixing it, I did what I was supposed to do and tried to find ways to make it work. All it did was push me further into a dead end. I had no passion, no energy, no motivation. As much as I wanted to do a good job, the job was a constant draw on my energy level. I was struggling and I felt stuck.
Looking at the Bottom
There is nothing like waking up one day realizing you are trapped. You look around and realize all your work, your struggle, your desire to do what you should do and make things better left you in a position where you are now behind. Your skills don’t match your job title because you were doing what it took to make it work instead of doing what the job really was.
That’s where I was, realizing that I wasn’t in a position to look outside for similar positions, and I wasn’t moving forward where I was. I was up to my hips in mud and I was expending way too much energy just trying to function in that position. Any energy needed to get me out of that mud would be much harder to come by, as would be the time to make it happen.
Passion Is Fuel
The thing that drives me crazy when people say “don’t follow your passion” is that passion is fuel. If you aren’t passionate about what you do, you don’t have fuel. How do you keep up the energy and momentum if you don’t have fuel?
Passion is a necessary part of work. You have to have it. Something has to drive you. Something has to push you on. No matter how much work ethic you have, after five years of being bored to tears, you will no longer be a hard worker. You must find passion and excitement in what you do.
When people tell you not to follow your passion, they don’t mean it. They mean to do something of substance. They mean to be wise and smart about what you do instead of just blindly doing what makes you feel good. But to say you need to head in a direction you have no passion in – that’s just plain wrong.
Getting Back On Track
As for me, it wasn’t easy, but I finally got back on track. I found out what I was passionate about and pursued it. I worked hard at it. And it moved me forward.
In fact, I started doing more of what I was passionate about after hours. That helped fuel my motivation during the day when my motivation was getting zapped. Passion is what gave me the fuel to move forward. It’s what gave me the fuel to fight through the slog and get back on solid ground. Without that passion, I would still be fighting to find my way out of the mud.
Follow your passion. Make sure it’s what fuels you to do the hard work to make your dreams happen. Find out what really motivates you so you can press on even when it’s not easy.
Passion is not an option. It’s mandatory. It’s the way to keep going when things get tough. Sometimes it’s the only thing left. And it’s what gives you the fuel to do the hard work to make it all happen.