Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Career Advice4 February, 2019 / Articles
We’ve all heard the mantras at one point or another. “Follow your passion” or “Find your bliss.” We’re told that we should be doing something that we love, or if not we risk being unfulfilled. Self-help aisles are full of books promising to help us find our true calling in life and times of opinions sit online, waiting for us to read them and feel justified in our quiet dissatisfaction with the current status quo.
The notion of having to follow your passion in order to feel fulfilled is provocative in the sense that it goads us to do so, with the cost of non-compliance being that we are relegated to languish in professional discontent. But in truth, it would be wise not to heed the taunts and instead ask the question: is it even possible to make a living from the thing that I am most passionate about? For most, the answer is a resounding no.
But there has to be a way out, right? If you have a burning desire to start a business of your own, or change roles or professions, then shouldn’t it be something that you are passionate about? As long as you keep talking about passion you’re going to keep fudging the issue. Passion is defined as “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling” or “an instance or experience of strong love.” But either of those is fairly excessive if used to refer to your next career move.
To put this into perspective, think for a moment about what you are truly passionate about. What would you love to do right now if time and money were no object? Many people list travel as a passion and would happily spend their last dollar on a plane ticket. But in an industry already heavily oversaturated with contributors, writers, bloggers and photographers how do you make an impact? A Google search for ‘Travel Blog’ will return 5.8B results. See where this is going?
The same is true for food and cooking, another popular passion for many. A Google search for ‘Food Blog’ returns 7.8B results. You’re going to need a very specific niche and a very unique point of view to stand any chance of making a dent in that space. It’s not impossible to start a business in an already crowded space, and if you truly believe that you have a unique point of view then certainly, go for it. But before you chuck in your day job it would be prudent to start this new pursuit as a side hustle first. The rule of thumb is that if it’s not making revenue then it’s a hobby, not a side hustle or a side business, so figure that part out before you get started.
Instead, change the way you are thinking about it and focus on your strengths. Most of the time we are painfully aware that we could and should be doing more, trying harder, pushing ourselves to achieve … something. Instead of looking towards the things you are passionate about, think instead about the things you are good at. What skills do you have? What kind of work do you enjoy doing? What type of job do you think you’d be good at? What motivates you? Think about the people you admire professionally, whether you know them personally or not. Then ask yourself what it is about them that you admire and is that something that you could emulate?
If you focus on your strengths and what you know you can do well, rather than what you are passionate about, you’ll end up with a much more realistic and achievable goal or plan for success. And better still, that thing you are truly passionate about remains a luxury that you get to relish in your own sweet time, without having to worry about it paying your next utility bill.