Here’s a secret: I’m not following my passion.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I don’t buy the “follow your passion” mantra. Here’s why (and what you should do instead).
There’s Too Much Pressure
In the “follow your passion” mantra, “passion” is singular – we’re talking about one passion.
All you have to do is find that one passion and then everything else will take care of itself.
Here’s the problem: I have more than one passion. I have a million passions. And so do you.
You don’t need the pressure of “finding your passion” because your “passion” will change as you grow and do new things.
You Already Know What You Like To Do
You probably don’t need any help “finding your passion”.
I know what I like doing. Chances are that you do too. You don’t need to “find your passion”. Just do more of the things you like doing. If you’re not sure what you like to do, find more things to say yes to, and see how much you enjoy them.
What About The Money?
Most “follow your passion” advice dismisses the need for a job. But it forgets about a really important benefit of having a job: getting money.
Now, money isn’t the most important thing in the world – in fact it’s not as important as most people would like you to think – but it does help you do one thing very well.
It lets you keep going.
Spoiler alert: You need money to live.
You might not need a lot of it, but you do need it.
Money is an indicator of value. Most “find your passion” advice ignores this. You should totally do what you love, but you also need whatever you’re doing to be sustainable in order for it to be effective in the long term. If it’s not, you’ll flame out quickly.
It’s way too common to see someone quit their job to travel the world and “do what they love”, only to realize they have no plan for sustainability, and to come crashing down a few months later – back to that same old job – once their money runs out.
“Follow Your Passion” Is You-Centric
This is really interesting. Nobody cares about you. The problem with “follow your passion” is that it convinces you that you just need to find out what you like and that you’ll make money once you’ve done that.
That’s not how things work.
No one will pay you to just do things you like.
If you like ice cream, no one will pay you to eat ice cream unless you actually create something valuable or fix a problem.
Unless you provide some sort of value back to people, you can’t ask for something from them.
Things don’t work like that.
People pay you to be useful, to solve a problem, or to help them with a pain point.
Instead of trying to find your passion, find a problem that you can solve.
No one talks about that.
Interestingly enough, from a sales perspective, the people selling you the “live your passion” advice know this. They know that you care about you, so they tell you how to do the things that make you happy. It’s a smart business decision – it’s much easier to sell someone something they’re looking for than to sell someone something they need. However, in the end, you have to wonder what exactly is being built.
Say you like ice cream - “it’s your passion”. If you just go and eat ice cream, you’re going to end up screwed and, most likely, fat.
No one is going to pay you to go to your local ice cream parlor and eat ice cream for days.
However, you could make money using ice cream in the following ways:
- Become a trusted ice cream connoisseur who breaks down the subtleties of the ice cream flavors at parlors around the world.
- Lose twenty pounds only eating ice cream, and become the spokesman for a major ice cream chain (Jared from Subway-style).
- Volunteer for a scientific study of the effect of daily ice cream consumption.
If you just eat ice cream and do nothing else, you’re screwed. You have to provide something useful to other people:
- As a connoisseur, you’re helping people understand ice cream complexity (if that’s even a thing).
- As a spokesperson, you’re providing your story as a testimonial for a major chain.
- In the study, you’re offering yourself as a human guinea pig, so scientists can collect data on you.
While it’s debatable how much money you could make in each of those scenarios, you’re still much more likely to make money in those scenarios than if you just followed your passion to the ice cream parlor and ate ice cream. The same is true for whatever you choose to do.
Instead of focusing on what you want to do, focus on what other people need and on how you can help them.
The Process Is Where The Fun Is
The biggest problem with “finding your passion” is that you focus on the initial feelings that come with working on your “passion”, and miss out on the process. You feel like you’re supposed to be amped all the time when, in reality, that “passion” is probably going to fade and turn into “work”. In most “passion” frameworks that constitutes hell! You were just trying to get away from work, so when things get tough you walk away, jaded and disappointed that your “passion” ended up feeling just like work.
If you think like this, you’re approaching your career in the same way that a teenage girl approaches her high school boyfriends.
You get all excited about the initial feelings of “passion” but the extra step of “effort” sounds too hard.
You’re missing the point: It’s supposed to be hard.
There are times when work is hard. There are times when runs are tough. The are times when the workouts suck.
But those times are when you find yourself. Dig deeper. And see what you’re made of.
When you dig deeper, you find that the process is where the fun is – ups and downs included. So instead of getting pumped about the passion, get pumped about the process.
- Get passionate about solving a problem
- Get passionate about building a company.
- Get passionate about building a school.
It’s a slight difference, but it makes all the difference.
My New Framework
As I mentioned before, I’m not following the “live your passion” framework.
What if instead of trying to “follow your passion” – you decide to just do stuff that’s: 1) Fun 2) Made money 3) Helped people
— Joel Runyon (@joelrunyon) January 13, 2014
Instead, for everything I do from now on, I’ll be using a three-tiered approach – my new framework for approaching projects and business. It’s not complicated – you don’t need an e-book or program to figure it out – but it’s been tremendously helpful for me over the past months.
From now on, I’m not interested in “following my passion”. I’m simply focused on doing things that:
- Make money
- Are fun
- Help people
Here’s what I mean:
Can I Make Money Doing This?
If the business makes money, it’s worth continuing. If it doesn’t, I better have a dang good reason for continuing with it. There are exceptions but this is the main metric for business projects.
It’s not that money is the end goal – money is just fuel – but that it allows you to get to where you want to go.
If it doesn’t make money, it’s most likely not a business.
Is It Fun?
This is pretty simple.
Do I enjoy doing it?
It’s worth noting here that something not being “fun” isn’t a complete deal breaker. Sometimes work isn’t fun and sometimes it’s hard but the end results should always be fun.
Not everything is 100% fun but if I can get excited about the process and what I’m building, I’m in.
Does It Help People?
Does it do any good?
I think you can make a lot of money and do a lot of good at the same time, and that, quite often, doing good can actually help you make more money. In fact, I have a whole model on entrepreneurial giving which I’m going to outline later this year.
Note: I list making money in front of doing good because making money means your project is sustainable. If you’re making money, you’re providing value. If you’re consistently solving people’s problems for them as a business, you’re going to be helping or being useful to people. Typically, the most obvious way to measure how useful you’re being is to look at the money you’re generating.
A Few Things To Note
I’m hardly the first to point out this change in thought or to say that the “follow your passion” thing is B.S. Cal Newport’s entire blog is essentially focused on this. It’s worth reading. You can also watch his World Domination Summit talk which basically tears apart the typical “do what you love” advice.
Also: If you want to be your own boss, the fastest way to do this isn’t to build a niche site, start a blog, or even become a life coach. The fastest way to quit your job and transition to career independence is by building a series of skills that are valuable to people and selling them directly through consulting. But I’ll talk about that in a future post.
Photo Credit: Rev Stan