Do What You Are Passionate About: Good Advice, or Bunk?

This week I was talking to someone about jobs and careers and making money.  She said that she thinks you should really only pursue a career (or way to make money)  that you are passionate about.

Passionate about fish? Pursue a career that puts you in your passion.

Passionate about art? Pursue a career in art.

Passionate about helping kids? Pursue a career that has to do with kids.

Passionate about grass? Pursue a career in grass.

But wait… what if you are really talented at, and have a knack for, something else?

What if you are a master negotiator?

I have a friend who is a brilliant strategist, and a master negotiator.  He was born to negotiate.

But he is very, very passionate about Jiu Jitsu.  Seriously passionate. Obsessed.

So, should he continue his very successful career as a business executive, in strategy and negotiation and sales and marketing (which he is brilliant at), or should he pursue a career in Jiu Jitsu? (let’s assume he loves Jiu Jitsu way more than his day job, and his day job might be kind of boring (I don’t know, just presenting a scenario).

Here’s my take: pursuing your passion is great.  But, it might not make the most sense financially.  Many people have a successful career in something they are good at, even though they might not be passionate about, but they can pursue their passions outside of work.

What do you think?  Do you advise people to follow their passions when making career decisions, or is it more complex than that?

12 thoughts on “Do What You Are Passionate About: Good Advice, or Bunk?”

  1. I believe in “follow you passion”, but as you state…for some that passion may not earn them a living. Then again, it seems possible to make money doing just about anything these days (what depression??) so if you’re passionate about…fishing, or knitting, or whatever…you can either find a job or start a business doing it. Passion gets you over the inevitable tough phases and allows you to continue to evolve the job or business past the point where you would have stopped had you been less passionate.

  2. I think finding a career you’re passionate about is definitely worth exploring, and there are a lot of people out there who have jobs they love.

    However, I also like the concept of the “good enough job” (I first learned about this in Barbara Sher’s book, “Refuse to Choose.”). The idea is that not all passions translate easily into a career that meets all of your needs (i.e. pay, location, hours, etc.), and that it’s ok to have a job you “like” and don’t necessarily “love.”

    A hidden risk toward following your passion is burn-out. Jason, this is ironically what you and I were just talking about…sometimes you get sick of an interest you used to enjoy when you HAVE to do it each day!

  3. While working for a company that exemplifies my interests would be great, I wonder where I would go do to escape? How would I maintain my work / life balance when my hobby or interest becomes ‘work’?

  4. The book Good to Great covers this topic well in what it refers to as the hedgehog concept. This concept claims that the combination of three factors leads to success (not any one in and of itself, but all three existing simultaneously together): 1. Find something that drives your economic engine, 2. Something that you can be the best in the world at, and 3. Something you’re passionate about. I have thought a lot about this topic and have come to believe this is very true and sound advice. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in business.

  5. Jason, you are right – it is more complex. It involves looking at and analyzing basically four areas and how they intersect: What you love, What you do well, What the world needs, and What the world will pay for. This gets to passion, career, vocation and charity, and where they all intersect can be bliss, or satisfaction, or comfort, or contentment, or fulfillment, or earnings. The one(s) you choose, depends on your particular values.

  6. They say if you love what you do, you feel like you’ve never worked a day in your life. How great would it be to get up each morning and LOVE to go to work! How many people can truthfully say that?

  7. This is a great timeless question – You inspired me to update with this:

    When people think about following their passion with their career, often it ends with the money. “Can’t make enough money at that”, we think. And, probably – it’s true. But, before you put the idea to bed, read The Man Who Quit Money – it’s a deeply moving story that changed my thinking.

    Check out the video – When not on his book tour, Suelo is your neighbor, he lives in a cave in Moab:)

  8. One thing I am passionate about is my running, but I am nowhere near the runner I would need to be in order to make any money at let alone a income to sustain a family. And doing something like a running store is impractical – how many of those can a community support? That means you have to do something different and stick to doing it as a passion/something I enjoy instead.

  9. I have heard that if you are the best at something you will find money in it. I think that this is connected to what you are passionate about. You can only become the best at something if you are passionate about it… I say go for what you are passionate about… life isn’t all about the money.


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