Over the past number of years, you have heard a lot of “experts” say “Follow Your Passion” when it comes to deciding what to do with your life. However, I (and many others) feel that there is a significant danger in taking this advice. This may sound strange coming from someone that works for a company where Passionate is one of our Core Values (along with Collaborative and Consistently Curious).
The danger is not in the idea itself. It is in the over-simplification of the idea.
What if you are not very good at what you are passionate about? What if nobody is willing to pay you (an employer, or the market in general for an entrepreneur) to do what you are passionate about? There are just two nuances that highlight the danger of simply following your passion.
I think the better approach is to look for the intersection of your passion and your skills/strengths, and then try to find someone to pay you to do it. Although there are some exceptions to the rule, I generally find that people generally like what they are good at. Even if you are not passionate about something in the beginning, if you get really good at something, naturally a passion will develop in most cases. Otherwise, it is unlikely that you would be willing to put in the effort and sacrifice to develop the skills.
If you are having trouble finding your passion, I would suggest investing in a couple of assessment products. First try a personality profile like Predictive Index, DISC, Myer-Briggs, etc. This will provide you with some knowledge of ways to better understand yourself and how to manage yourself.
Secondly, I would recommend that you do the Working Genius, which provides you with a sense of the types of work that bring you energy (Working Geniuses) and those that drain you of energy (Working Frustrations). Working genius is less abut who you are as a person and more about how you best fit into a Team and the type of work that you are best suited for.
The combination of the two tools should give you a helpful foundation on finding your passion. However, there is still some experimentation that you need to do. It is highly unlikely that you will get it right the first time. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your company though. Over my career I took on many different roles within the organizations that I have worked in, each one was a stepping stone on my journey to entrepreneurship. Don’t get frustrated and each thing you find that isn’t your passion brings you one step closer to finding it.
Finally, I also want to point out that nobody gets to do what they are passionate about 100% of the time. This is just an unrealistic expectation. There will always be responsibilities or parts of your job that you are not passionate about (expense reports anyone?!). However, you can only delegate so many of those tasks (and earlier in your career its hard to delegate much as you are generally the delegatee not the delegator).
If you are able to find a role where you are doing what brings you energy (your Working Genius) and you are passionate about the work 30% to 40% of your time, you are better off than most. I am not saying we shouldn’t try to maximize the time we spend in our Genius or Passion, just that expecting 100% is unrealistic for almost anyone.
Whether you are just starting your career or you are looking for a change mid-career, don’t make the mistake of just trying to “find your passion”. Life, like most things cannot be oversimplified in such a way.
Interestingly, I wrote this post over a month ago. Recently, there have been several articles quoting Mark Cuban, the “Shark” and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks talking about not following your passion as well. I would never claim to have the insight that he has. However, it is nice that some prominent voices are joining the conversation.