“Follow your passion” has got to be the most repeated career advice, ever. If you tell anyone that you hate your 9-5, they usually follow up with some sort of recommendation to go find a job that you are passionate about. You know, do something that you love! The logic being, if your work is centered around your passion, you will look forward to waking up to go to work every single day. Sounds promising right?
As someone that is “multi-passionate”, I assumed that the right thing for me to do was to keep my secure 9-5 job while pursuing my passion on the side, meaning turning it into a side business. Because isn’t that what all entrepreneurs do? Pursue what they are actually passionate about as a side hustle, that they then leave their day job for? Many entrepreneurs may in fact follow this strategy, but from some (like me) it didn't initially work out so well.
The Importance of Self-awareness
If you are anything like me, you may have these two qualities: 1) the “all or nothing” mentality and/or 2) indecisiveness.
First, I have always seemed to get super obsessed with one thing at a time. I definitely have a very “all or nothing” type of mentality, which is often a double edged sword. I dedicate all of my time, energy, and passion to this one thing, and I often become quite successful as a result. But then sometimes I reach a point of burnout and boredom. It’s not that I am a quitter or that I lack long-term commitment, it is just that I am so open minded to exploring other interests and starting a new journey to success.
Second, I hate making decisions. Honestly. When I go out to eat at a restaurant, I always suggest splitting different plates with whoever I am with. When I go out to get frozen yogurt, I will try like 7 different flavors before deciding on 4 (plus a wide variety of topics). When I go shopping, I’ll purchase the same shirt in both colors, then later decide which one I want to keep and which one to return.
So as a multi-passionate, indecisive person, what did I do? I turned my long-time passion for fitness into a blog that turned into a profitable business! I gained over 1,000 email subscribers in my very first week of blogging and started monetizing by week two. Sounds awesome, right?
Only problem was that once I began blogging about fitness and health every single day, putting all of my free time into my personal training business, while still actually going to the gym five days a week, all of my passion had vanished. I literally felt as though I had lost my entire identity.
Clearly, it may have been best to keep my passion just as my own hobby. But what I was able to discover was my underlying strengths and uncovered interests that were much deeper than just starting a fitness business.
What I really loved was entrepreneurship. Building something from the ground up. Providing value to people that would change their lives and helping them reach their goals.
Now those three aspects, are something to really follow when it comes to creating a career and life that you love.
Passion is not a “thing” you need to find or search for.
A big problem with the “follow your passion” advice, is that it implies that passion is something that is tangible and must be discovered.
Passion is not something you are supposed to go searching for. Passion is an emotion and it is a quality that you hold predicated upon your character. You carry passion with you internally, and it can be applied to every single thing that you do in life. (Yes, you can even bring passion to that shitty 9-5 job you are still working!)
Passions can change overtime.
If you think back to what you were passionate about 5, 10, 20 years ago, chances are your passion has drastically changed, or even disappeared completely. Your interests shifted and you found something new to become obsessed with, or your current passion may have not even existed yet!
Take social media or emerging technology such as augmented reality. Those two things did not exist two decades ago, but somehow people today have found a passion for them, and have created companies and careers based upon them.
But just like the world that we live in, we as individuals are ever-changing. We are constantly evolving, growing, adapting, and being shaped my new experiences and the people that we meet. Just because you are passionate about something right now this moment, doesn’t mean that you will always be passionate about it.
You aren’t always best at what you are passionate about.
Think back to the show American Idol. There were millions and millions of aspiring singers whose hearts and souls were invested in a singing career. Many of them were extremely passionate about music and pursuing their dreams, and they did in fact take the initiative to audition (kudos to them for at least taking action).
Only thing is that millions of them were absolutely terrible singers and completely lacked talent. Even though they were passionate about singing, that did not at all mean that they were going to be successful or famous.
Sometimes the cold-hard truth is that we are really bad at what we love the most. We cannot all be talented at every single thing that interests us. Sure, we all have the capacity to improve at our weaknesses, but sheer talent is not something that can be learned or trained.
(Sorry, not sorry.)
So what should you do?
In Ben Horowitz’s 2015 commencement speech at Columbia University, Horowitz encouraged the audience to follow their contribution, instead of following their passion.
He pointed out that the notion of following your passion can be a very “me-centered” view of the world, because it shifts the focus to how you could benefit from the world. For me, this was very true with my passion for fitness. I am passionate about fitness because it allows me to be a selfish, put my health and my own goals on the forefront, and going to the gym has always been my “me” time. Every aspect of my passion for fitness is in fact very “me-centered”, hence why it was not a good side business for me to start in all honesty.
Contribution on the other hand, is concerned with how you can help other people and what unique value you can offer the world that no one else can. Contribution is about taking your strengths and what you are naturally good at, and leveraging them to improve the world and the people around you.
So when you are deciding which career path to take, or what type of business you want to start, consider how you can best utilize your own strengths to benefit other people.
It all comes back to value. What would allow you to bring the most value to other people’s lives? What value could you offer the market or industry you may be interested in?
I guarantee you that if you start with providing value based upon your strengths, you will feel passionate from the work that you do.
If you are ready to start living the life you have always wanted, download my free 15 page workbook here. This workbook includes 5 chapters on cultivating self-awareness and taking action so that you can reach all of your goals.
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Let me know in the comments...
How has passion impacted your career choice?
Chelsea Spinos is a Marketing Strategist for Yahoo and "side hustler"/young side entrepreneur. Chelsea is committed to helping side hustlers grow their business and thrive in life. You can follow her entrepreneur journey through her social media!