The Colossal Hoax of Following Your Passion

“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” —Steve Jobs

Oh, Steve.

*Follow your passion* is a super sexy-sounding mantra. I’ll give it that.

It’s also completely devoid of direction.

You’re led to believe one day you’ll be strolling down a deserted sidewalk, when out of nowhere, BAM!

Hit with a lightning bolt from above—THIS IS WHAT I’M MEANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE!

Except, you’re not living out a scene in some b-rated Lifetime movie. This is the real world, baby. With a mountain of bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Being told to “follow your passion” by every millionaire CEO? Not helpful. It’s borderline rage-inducing.

So we’re breaking down the five colossal hoaxes that is *following your passion.* And to really drive it home, we’ll also be exploring the three main reasons you’ll find more success chasing after your talent.

Hoax #1 – All you need is *enough* passion

follow your passion

“The things I ended up being really good at were the things I found myself putting effort into. A lot of people talk about passion, but that’s really not what you need to focus on. You really need to evaluate and say, ‘Okay, where am I putting in my time?’” – Mark Cuban

If you’re nodding in agreement with Mark Cuban, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, that message ^^^ is not the status quo. {HINT: it’s more like the gag-inducing meme above}

The message blasted over the loudspeaker? “All you need is a mega dose of passion, and everything will be fine.” Sadly, untrue.

Think about it this way:

Since as far back as you can remember, you’ve been *the friend* who styles everyone’s hair before the big night out. You’ve followed every stylist under the sun on Insta. And know what’s trending before it’s mainstream. So, you think—A-HA! Styling hair. That’s is my passion.

But then you get hired at a salon. You aren’t keen on the people you work with, the pay’s meh—and the hours? Not exactly the lifestyle you’d been shooting for.

All of a sudden you’ve lost the *passion* for hairstyling.

It doesn’t require a genius IQ to realize feeling fulfilled at your job takes more than passion, it’s:

how to feel fulfilled at your job
Credit: 80,000 Hours Career Guide

  1. Work you’re good at
  2. A career/job that helps others
  3. Supportive conditions: engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow; supportive teammates; fair pay; and work that fits your personal life.

And I’d be letting it slide if we didn’t talk about the even darker side of blindly following your passion. You know—the one that’s spurred on by quotes like: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” 🤮

I don’t know about you but when I was younger I wanted to be a rockstar, a dog and Jem from the Holograms. And I had boatloads of passion. But that didn’t get me onstage or magically turn me into a pound puppy.

Sarcasm aside, you need to consider these three things before throwing caution to the wind:

  1. Can my passion turn into a career or business?
  2. Am I able to perform it at a professional level? {Just because you like something doesn’t make you any good at it}
  3. Do I want the pressure to perform at a professional level?

Spoiler alert: most of the time the answer is no. If you love playing baseball, guitar, or singing karaoke… that’s awesomesauce.

But down here in the land of *bills-gotta-be-paid-every-month,* it’s not likely going to transition to a wildly successful career. Passion or no passion.

Related → The 10 Commandments of Creating a Business You Love

Hoax #2 – You’ll get struck with a raging passion

Despite the hours you spend reading the latest self-help book, or click-bait blog {Turning Your Passion Project to a Seven Figure Business }… you still find yourself hunting for that internal flame.

Here’s the truth: you do have a unique combination of talents. It might take a while before you realize what they are, or how you can use them — but they’re in there.

However, if you’re waiting for a voice-over style insight about your passion—there’s a good chance you’ll be met with silence.

That’s right. No inner voice booming with *your why*. No lightning bolt that strikes or flash leaving you buzzing with an epiphany to illuminate your path forward.

That’s why it’s frustrating when legit industry leaders ask you to *go within* and listen to some all-knowing inner voice that may never appear. THE RESULT: you feel like a failure.

And you’re not alone. Many people struggle to uncover a career-relevant passion. Yet most of us have no idea what we’re passionate about, or what kind of job we could love so much it never feels like work.

Let’s say you find joy tattooing your clients, but grind your teeth when it comes to organizing the shop {appointment scheduling software, filing taxes, managing social media}. Does that mean you’re a failure for not finding a career you love completely?

No. No. No. Nope.

You are not your work. And your work is not you.

It’s possible to find work you’re passionate about… or at least parts of it. The truth is, all careers & businesses are dichotomies of passion & hate. That’s what makes life interesting.

Related Stop Worrying About Growth And Start Living Your Life

Hoax #3 – Passion is a static state

follow your passion, not your paycheck
^^^ How realistic is this 🤯🤬😤

According to a recent Stanford research paper the major flaw with *following your passion* is the theory you either have a passion or you don’t. And that your passions don’t change as you move through life.

Basically, you’re living with a “fixed mindset.”

The problem with this premise is the belief you’ll either fall ass-backward into your passion or you won’t… that the discovery is kismet.

“People are often told to find their passion as though passions and interests are pre-formed and must simply be discovered.” In the end, “urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.”

In other words, chasing a singular passion tends to make you less satisfied at work. Less likely to try and overcome obstacles because—no huge shocker here—work is often challenging, exhausting, and makes you want to throw in the towel.

Not convinced? Let’s look outside of your chosen career for a moment to get some perspective.

Think back to ten years ago. What was your taste in music, movies— even food? Depending on your current age, hot dogs with ketchup may have been your go-to dinner {no judgment 😉}. But now you most-likely have the palate of *someone-worried-about-their-health.* Things change. Your excitement for new things expands & multiples as you realize there are innumerable options out in the world.

Now, if you look back at your career what do you see?

A decade ago you were excited to rent a chair in someone else’s shop. At the beginning of your journey as a lash specialist, it seemed like the bee’s knees. #finallymadeit

But today? Well, now you’ve opened your shop and have two full-time employees. The thought of working for someone else gives you the willies. Even though dealing with the headaches of shop ownership isn’t *pop-champagne-worthy,* the trade-off is worth it.

Your *passions* are always changing. Why? Because as a creative human, you never stop evolving. You’re growing, shifting & making more informed decisions.

Hoax #4 – Following your passion will drive you to succeed

When that alarm starts blaring after another fitful night of sleep {I mean, 2020… come on}, are you all:

“Damn, I feel so PASSIONATE today!”

Is that what catapults you out of bed, ready to slay the 64th day in July? Unlikely. The reason you throw back the covers and face the day? Money, responsibility, pride, determination… I could go on for ages before landing on passion.

But the message behind the megaphone? If you want to experience life with the same vigor as a *5-year-old-on-Christmas-morning*—then the one and only answer is passion.

For argument’s sake, let’s say you’ve somehow managed to uncover a profitable passion, and you excel at it. You’re a person who loves to take photos, photographs as well as Danny Clinch and decides to make a go of it. Makes sense, right? You should have a good chance at it since you’re an incredible photographer. Your passion can be profitable, and you’re talented.

Now, here’s where things get interesting.

You’ll need to build a website, get the proper equipment, figure out how to run a business, and manage appointment scheduling. You’ll have to give up your weekends and enter an already over-saturated market. Become a master of social media and understand the art of branding to stand out. Not to mention—deal with everyone from parents to brides to babies.

Hmmm— I wonder if you considered allllll of this when you set off to pursue your *passion for photography.* After all, most of these activities, ^^^ aren’t related to photography – the skill you excel at.

You see, if you haven’t looked at the reality of pursuing your passion as a business, it’s going to hit you like a ton of bricks. And when you pair that blindspot with a fixed mindset, you’re liable to drop the dream as quickly as you picked it up… because I mean … it just wasn’t meant to be.

Related A Positive Mindset in Business: 21 Tips for a Balanced Life

Hoax #5 – Passion will bring you truckloads of cash

bob dylan quote about passion
^^^ Said the millionaire. WHO’S STILL TOURING. With ticket prices well ⬆️ $100.

A lot of you are *creatives* in the most successful sense of the word. Working hard to keep food on the table and shelter over your head. Because unless you have a trust fund waiting for you—a job that exists in reality—is the only way that’s going to happen.

If you choose to put your interests (AKA your *passions*) before market demands, you’re more likely to end up with a pile of bills stamped *past due* on your kitchen table than picking out your new 2022 Range Rover.

Passion projects can take years to pay off financially—if ever. You’ve heard about them all: the script that’s gonna sell, the record contract rolling in any day, or that book proposal about to get picked up.

“Passion is not something you follow. Passion is something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.” – Cal Newport

In truth, passion and profit aren’t usually aligned. The things you love to do – hobbies, rallying for causes you care about – rarely support your lifestyle. Last time I checked, they cost money. But that’s not why you feel driven to do them.

Passions are things we do to feel good inside. We do them for fun. We do them for a challenge. We don’t do them for money.

Now that we’ve covered the five hoaxes, let’s set foot back into reality with three ways you can follow your talent instead.

Reality Bites #1 – Follow your talent

“We are told that talent creates opportunity, yet it is desire that creates talent.” Bruce Lee

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before — “Oh you’re so lucky! You must love being able to do tattoos all the time. You loved art in high school, this must be a dream!*replace art with doing my makeup, playing with hair, painting nails, going to the gym… get the picture?

OK, maybe not those exact words, but you catch my drift.

Trouble is, the *art* is work — grueling, back-breaking, migraine-inducing work.

Let’s look at some examples to flesh this out:

  • A makeup artist who gets up at 4 am on Saturday & Sunday to work for hours on sleep-deprived, anxious bridal parties.
  • The tattoo artist who works 8 hours a day, hunched over, tattooing clients who are squirming in pain.
  • The hairstylist whose hand cramps, feet hurt, and spends too much time picking hair slivers out of her hand during a 10-hour shift.
  • A photographer who sees a never-ending lineup of screaming toddlers because *Santa Mini Sessions* pay the bills
  • The barber who’s so busy he barely has enough time between clients to eat lunch

None of these ^^^ people love doing the work. Yet, each of them has this itch to keep going. A need to grow.

Improving at a skill is rewarding. There’s joy in being good at something—and the quickest way to find fulfillment is to follow your talent {not your passion}. If you do something well and combine that with your clients’ needs—you’ll never run out of business. #winner

Here’s how the *real world* works. The more skilled you become, the more your services will be in demand. It’s not a measurement of your *passion.* Clients will clamor for appointments based on your talent. Staff will line up for a spot in your shop because you offer a welcoming environment. Your power comes from your dedication to improving your skills.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is one key to setting yourself up for success. Ask yourself:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What are the majority of people complimenting me on?
  3. What personality traits do I have?
  4. Can I use this as a competitive advantage?
  5. What are my natural abilities?

The sooner you start playing to your strengths, the more time you’ll have to build your competitive advantage and set yourself apart.

Reality Bites #2 – Make passion follow you

dave grohl running away
^^^ I think we could all use another Foo Fighters video right now.

Since the birth of social media you’ve been bombarded with *Chase your passion, not your pension* or *If you want to be successful in this world you need to chase your passion, not your paycheck.* And countless other *poke-my-eye-out-now* quotes.

All bullsh*t.

What kind of life do you want to live? Think hard about that one. Where do you want to lay your head at night? How do you want to spend your weekends? Do you want to go on vacation every year?

These questions matter.

Focus on developing a passion, not following one. Find a way to meet the needs of others while meeting your own. That’s what will give your work meaning. Passion may never be the foundation of your career… but it might be its outcome.

When you design your life, you can make your passion follow you.

Want full control over your hours & holidays? Be your own boss. Get a grasp on your strengths {and weaknesses}, prioritize your life, and get to work. Your passion for the work you end up doing will grow as you progress.

You can craft your career to spend more time engaged in the tasks you enjoy. Doing so makes you curious and forces you to grow your strengths. Work with a team that inspires you. Build a business that supports the life you envision—whether that means sticking to a mapped out plan, or pivoting when your needs change.

Related How to Build a Business that Stands Out (and Thrives)

Reality Bites #3 – Make peace with the real world

This is only gonna hurt a little.

There are going to be days when you’ll hate your career. Work can be unrelenting, boring AF, and clients—more than a little frustrating. But ask yourself this—when did you sign a contract saying your business would be *sunshine and roses* 24/7?

And if you’re somehow able to unlock this magical *passion* within you & combine it with a profitable career… you’re not off the hook yet either. Even if you love what you do, it still feels like work. Pushing toward the one thing you’re passionate about means you have everything to lose. So make peace with the ups and downs.

HOT TIP: You don’t have to love what you do. Liking your work is perfectly fine. Don’t get lost in a false narrative—embrace the reality.

Are you ready to stop living your life based on a bumper sticker?

miley cyrus nodding yes

Want to love what you do? Pick something interesting. Pick something that’ll make you money—something that keeps you curious and creates the lifestyle you crave.

Then crank it up to eleven.

Work your butt off. Don’t stop improving your skills. Use the feeling you get from the small victories as motivation to keep moving forward.

This is how you get to do what you love.

It’s not about following your *passion.* It’s about looking for opportunities to build a life that makes you happy. The passion for your work will follow.