Passion

2 Important Myths About Passion

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If you Google “find your passion” you will get 39,000,000 hits. Go to the self-help section of any bookstore and you will see 50 or more volumes on finding your passion, following your passion, and living your passion. Every other Twitter bio or LinkedIn bio has a reference to “passionate about.” Passion, as they say, is the new black.

So, I was hardly surprised when a young friend came to me for career advice, and started the conversation by saying, “My job stinks, I’m bored to tears. I just can’t figure out what my passion is.” She spoke as if somewhere, out there, is a single career-related purpose that, if she could but find it, would lead to eternal fulfillment. This was her fifth “it stinks” job in three years, and it was clear she had fallen for the passion myth.

Myths About Passion

1. If You’re Not Making Enough Money, You’re Not On The Right Path

Reality Bite: Passion does not equate with income.

If you are lucky, you have a passionate interest that feeds your soul and gives lightness to your day. But if you look outside yourself for affirmation or compensation for your passion, you may be in for disappointment. Don’t believe me? Watch the auditions for American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, and you’ll see thousands of people hoping their talents will make them a star.

For all but a handful, that dream will be crushed. Many of those crushed enthusiasts will be too embarrassed to ever sing or dance again and that, to me, is tragic. If you are passionate about singing, then sing. If you are passionate about dancing, then dance. But do it because you love to sing and dance. Not because you crave the applause.

Nearly every self-help book or website mentions turning your hobby into a career. Stories abound of people who did exactly that and made millions. Less often told, but exponentially more numerous, are the stories of people who tried to turn their hobbies into an income stream and things didn’t work out the way they expected.

The woodworker who stopped getting any joy out of his art because all of his commissions were boring pieces for clients with no imagination. The cooking enthusiast who never got to do any cooking because they spent 95% of their time dealing with the mundane business details involved in running a restaurant.

More practical advice would be to “Find a Job that Pays Reasonably Well So You Can Afford to Follow Your Passions Outside of Work” – but that wouldn’t be a very sexy book title.

2. “Following Your Passion” Means Doing More Than Mindless Work

Reality Bite: All work has meaning – even the boring stuff.

Stop approaching passion as if it were something you can “find,” like the perfect lifestyle accessory, or something you “do,” like saving the world. Start thinking of passion as a way of being a quality you can and must cultivate.

When it comes to our work, we choose to be passionate. Or not. We choose to be actively engaged. Or not. We choose to be conscientious. Or not. We choose to treat customers and colleagues with courtesy and consideration. Or not. We choose to give more than is expected. Or not. We choose to see ourselves as part of the big picture. Or not.

People who can manage to be engaged, conscientious, courteous, considerate, giving and enthusiastic even while slinging hash browns or counting widgets have passion. And that passion gets noticed. And that notice results in new opportunities to do something more challenging and interesting. You are only a mindless worker ant if that is how you choose to see yourself.

Does That Mean I Shouldn’t Leave My Horrible Job?!

Of course not. But take the time to honestly figure out what makes the job horrible. If the problem is your attitude, your expectations, your need for applause, your passion myths, then chances are good the next job you find isn’t going to be any less horrible than this one, and you are not going to be one inch closer to finding your passion.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Karen Siwak

Karen Siwak is an award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions.

14 comments

  1. Passion… Like that unexplainable feeling u have for someone or something… Passion can ferment into poison.. Beware..

  2. Describe what “passion,” in my opinion, I say passion is somethings what you good for and what you love to do. If the job you were in right now is not your passion. I suggestion you go get a job what you really want to do, that will benefit your future as well.

  3. “Passion” is a word that has slowly started to lose it’s meaning. Passion has to be discussed in context, and it needs proof. I coach students on interviewing and networking, and I cringe every time I hear the word “passion” because they usually can’t substantiate it. There is nothing wrong with using “interest” or “strong interest” or “growing love” when describing one’s connection to a field of work.

    Passion only matters when there is proof. Aside from that, it’s only fodder for small talk. If you can show me proof of your passion, it can take you a lot further.

  4. I find this article troublesome. Passion is not a a flashy, irreputable word; it is quality that without which the world would not work. The most successful people in each of their fields did not shy away from passion, they embraced it. Let's take some of the flashy passionate, the inventor of Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, the Subway franchise, etc. The only way to be more than mediocre in life and work is to forge ahead with quality work that you can stand behind. NEVER relegate your interests, desires, and passions to a secondary focus; they should always be the foremost focus of your life. There is absolutely no reason why one should work a dead end job and feel compelled to relish it and be “the best hamburger slinger he could ever be”. Work the job, master that job and realize that all jobs are relevant for a period of time, but then move on from a mere job to your true passion!

    • I agree. If you put your passion second to work then you will forever be stuck in a cycle of never following those passions. I learned this the hard way myself but I am tired of being stuck and I’m in hot pursuit of fixing it.

  5. Well said. Most people don't really talk about passion in terms of it leading you to being an average person making average money, despite you “finding” and “doing” whatever you are passionate about. Most people pump it up as “once you find your passion, you'll blow up in your career and make lots of money and become famous!” Not true for most people. And we need to hear that — for once. This article brings that reality to the forefront. And having an extraordinary career (to you) while making mediocre money is not the worst thing that could happen, either!

    • Your dad was wrong, and that is the opposite of what the article says. It says the money WON’T come for most of us.

  6. Well said. Most people don't really talk about passion in terms of it leading you to being an average person making average money, despite you “finding” and “doing” whatever you are passionate about. Most people pump it up as “once you find your passion, you'll blow up in your career and make lots of money and become famous!” Not true for most people. And we need to hear that — for once. This article brings that reality to the forefront. And having an extraordinary career (to you) while making mediocre money is not the worst thing that could happen, either!

  7. Great article! A very honest approach to passion and the first point hit the nail on the head. Just as everyone defines success differently, everyone interprets “follow your passion and you will be successful” differently. I hope this does not discourage anyone from following their passion. But hey, everyone has different priorities in life.

    Following one's passion is about having integrity; following what you truly love and being who you really are. Sometimes fame and wealth are a product of it but often times it is not. If your life goal is to become incredibly famous and rich, then perhaps your passion is to become incredibly famous and rich. It is not the same as being passionate about acting, singing, playing sports, writing, programming, etc. The media just happens to overexpose handful of passionate individuals who happen to also be rich and famous. That's all.

  8. Very well thought out passion article! Engaging your passion in your career field really takes you far from the commitment and effort put in. Here is a blog post my company wrote on passion from Steve Jobs and Gary Vaynerchuck's point of view: http://bit.ly/cjwhxe

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