Follow Your Passion: What Kind of Advice Is That?

I’m intrigued by the advice I’ve heard for decades to simply “follow your passion.” Do that, and the money will follow, they say.

I have to disagree. To be honest, I’ve disagreed with this for a long time. Follow your passion, in your career endeavors, gets a big nope from me.

follow your passion gets a nope from me

I don’t think you have to discard, or put away, your passion, but I do not think everyone will all be able to make a living by doing the follow your passion thing.  Sometimes, our passion is something that we can’t do (like me playing professional basketball or football), or the passion is not monetizable.  Okay, maybe if you are creative enough you could monetize pretty much anything, but some things might be (a) hard to monetize, or (b) not ripe for monetization (in other words, you can’t make much money doing it).

So, what do we do?  Resolve to work in a field that we can’t stand?

No, I’m not saying that either.

The message I’d like to give is that if you find work in a field that you are not passionate about, it doesn’t mean your life is a failure.  Let me present an idea to you:

Follow your passion vs. find your passion outside of your job

Plenty of people go to work, take pride in what they do, are okay with it, and then spend their non-working ours pursuing their passion.  Maybe they volunteer, or paint in their home, or join clubs, or whatever…

My point is, if you haven’t found your passion, or you aren’t in a field you are passionate about, you aren’t necessarily a loser, and you might not be wasting your time.

You can certainly choose how and where you’ll spend your time, outside of the office. Maybe that’s where you follow your passion.

Maybe what you choose to do professional funds your passion, which you pursue outside of work!

That doesn’t mean your work isn’t fulfilling. Maybe it’s super fulfilling, even though it’s not your passion. I know plenty of people who fund their passion through their work:

The high-paid lawyer who volunteers at hospice, and is super passionate about his volunteer work.

The dentist who, as his son says, is a dentist to fund his IT hobby (making computers).

The eye doctor who would rather spend time rappelling or in kayaks than in peoples’ eyeballs.

It can sound discouraging to not follow your passion at work, but remember you are multi-faceted. There’s more than what you do at work.

I want you to be excellent at what you do, and enjoy it. I want you to grow and skill up (or, learn more). I want you to be valuable to your customers (which includes end customers as well as bosses). I want all of that for you. And then I want you to figure out and follow your passion, even if that means you do it after hours and on weekends.

I bet, doing that, you’ll be more valuable to your employer and customers because you’ll be more rounded, and fill your bucket, when you are away from your office.

Follow Your Passion Can Lead to Misery

There’s another element of the follow your passion advice that could be bad. I’ve heard from people who were passionate about something and then either figured out how to monetize it or found the “perfect job” based on their passion. I hear one of two things:

First, they do the follow your passion thing but they are low paid. Think of the ski bum who is so excited to get free season passes because they work on the slopes… but they don’t make nearly as much as they could in a different job. Unlimited skiing doesn’t pay for some of the material things we need.

Second, they do the follow your passion thing but then they get burned out and find that what the were passionate about has become a chore.

And then they lose that passion. Yuck.

Listen, you do you. Do what you need to do. But consider this as a different approach to the common follow your passion advice.