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Follow your passion but don’t quit

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Follow your passion but don’t quit

Scott Miker

From time to time I stumble upon an article online that talks about passion.  The narrative seems to be the same as other articles on the topic. 

It starts by assuming the reading is unhappy in their current pursuits.  The author argues that what is missing is passion and that the only way to find their passion is to quit their day job immediately to find this passion.

That is terrible advice.  I hate when I hear that advice.  When someone assumes the road to success is simply stopping all progress to sit back to find some magical passion project I cringe.

Following our passion is misleading.  It isn’t some worry-free, perfect, problem-free, path where suddenly everything is great.  In fact, I’ve found that following our passion likely means an increase in problems and worry. 

We sacrifice so much to follow our passion that we will probably get to a point where we wonder why.  If we love baking and open a bakery we will have to find a way to do many more business tasks than baking.  We have to do the accounting, marketing, toilet cleaning etc. 

Following your passion won’t lead to a position where you can instantly hire someone to do everything you don’t like.  The exception is the person who is already talented enough to be at the top of their desired field.

So if someone who has the ability to be one of the greatest golfers in history is working at the local grocery store it makes sense that someone would say they should quit to be a professional golfer.

But what about the person who is terrible at golf?  They may still be passionate about golf.  In fact, they may be more passionate than the other individual. 

The important factor isn’t how much passion they have.  It is their ability to realize a successful career by pursuing what they are passionate about.

Some people will argue that first we find our passion and follow it.  This means that the more passion you have towards it the more you will practice and the better you will get.

But this isn’t always the case.  I’ve met plenty of people that were incredibly passionate about music and becoming an audio engineer that simply didn’t understand the work necessary to succeed in that field. 

Their passion meant little, when their skillset was underdeveloped and they didn’t know how to sacrifice and work hard towards their goal.  As soon as things got difficult they thought they should quit to find some other passion project instead of working to improve over time and get better and better.

I think the narrative around finding our passion should be adjusted.  We should absolutely be clear about our passions and what we like to do. 

But we need to get better about doing all of the hard work necessary to be able to follow our passion professionally. 

Then we can slowly measure our steps towards that goal by looking at progress not perfection.  We don’t judge our current job based on whether or not it exactly fits with our passion.  We ask if this helps make progress towards our overall goals?

If it helps make progress then we should keep doing it.  We should put all extra work towards our passion.  This allows us to slowly and methodically move towards our goals and allows us to better understand our passion and what it will take to follow our passion.  We aren’t burning bridges and giving up everything except the part of the passion project that we like. 

We learn how to work hard and work through things to get to a level of success and we can acquire the skills and knowledge to be successful in our chosen area. 

If you don’t know what your passion is, keep making progress and get curious.  Getting curious will help you explore other areas and learn what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy doing.

If you know what your passion is and you have enough experience, talent etc. to make a go of it and are just afraid, then work to overcome your fear and minimize the risks you will have to take.

If you know what your passion is but you aren’t at a level where you can quickly turn it into your professional career (most people that I know), then start to work towards your passion but don’t just quit everything hoping that it will all be given to you once you quit enough.  Instead, work hard to gain what you need to be able to take the jump towards your passion all the while making progress as much as possible.