Bad Career Advice You’re Given: #1 Follow Your Passion

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The self-help industry (books, podcasts, and you tube) has made a fortune off of telling us that we should follow our passions and ONLY do what we love and are passionate about.

Contrary to this famous piece of advice; over the years, thought leaders such as Ben Chestnut, CEO of email marketing service MailChimp have challenged this, stating in one interview; “It should be, ‘Love what you do.  Take the job, learn to live in the moment and love it, master it, and doors will open for you if you’re good at what you do. Turn it into a passion if you can.”

When bombarded with questions and thoughts around purposeful/meaningful work, we often find ourselves start to digress towards worrying thoughts;

  • So what if I don’t know what am passionate about, is finding work I love a dead end for me?
  • What if I lack skill and expertise in what I love?
  • What if what you love can never make me rich?

There are a couple of things that the above concept ignores:

  • That passions are constant. This is UNTRUE. Passion is built out of exposure, interest and practise. I could be passionate about film making this year, and later evolve into wild life conservation. Why put a limit to yourself?
  • Just because you’re passionate about something- does not mean you can earn an income from it.
  • Its toxic optimism and vague- we all know that finding meaningful work is not as easy as just waking up one day and doing what we’re passionate about. Beyond your passion, what more does it take to have a meaningful career? Follow your passion tells you nothing about the planning that is required to be successful and the layers of mastery required to ACTUALLY be successful.
  • Your passion is not the solution to all your problems – Could it be you’re unhappy because you don’t communicate your frustrations to your supervisor, and maybe, just maybe, you would actually be happy if you took the initiative to tweak some of the situations in your life? Welp!

In her TED talk- Stop searching for your passion Terri Trespicio talks compellingly about how searching for your passion or waiting for it to show up can make you miss out on pursuing exciting ventures, quoting “Don’t sit around waiting for passion to show up. Spend your time and attention solving your favourite problems” adding that “The most fulfilling careers are the ones that have the power to surprise you”. If you’re struggling to figure out what your passion is, or what is it that you want to love doing; listening to this ted talk is a good place to start. Sometimes, you have to learn and experience something in order to love it.

A quote from this article summarizes this perfectly: “Passion doesn’t fall out of the sky or emerge from thin air. It’s the result of experimentation, exploration, and curiosity. You don’t follow it, you find it. And you find it by discovering what you find engaging”.

So what will you try out today?