We’ve all heard it before: “just follow your passion”.
Every time I turn around it seems like someone is talking about why this is bad advice.
And, while I know what they’re getting at, I’m going to push back on that idea a bit.
Passion certainly isn’t everything, but I believe it plays an important role in the work we do.
Here are several reasons I believe passion matters.
Passion Gives You a Reason to Get Up in the Morning
If you’re not getting up in the morning for passion, what are you getting up for? Money?
I’ve found the pursuit of money to be empty. Maybe you find it motivating, and if so, more power to you.
Are you getting up in the morning for your family, your friends, your loved ones? I admit that’s a great reason to go to work.
Are you getting up to serve your customers and solve their challenges? Are you getting up to add value to the world? These are great reasons to get up in the morning too.
But arguably most of the “good reasons” I’ve listed can be tied to passion. Interesting.
It’s unlikely that every day will feel like a walk in the park (more on that later), but if you know your reason for doing what you do, you’ll be far more motivated to keep going. And that brings me to my next point…
You Will Stick with Something for Longer if You’re Passionate About it
Certainly, it is possible to develop a passion for something.
I’ve had that experience where I thought something looked boring from the outside, but when I actually tried it I found out it was fun. Playing metal, country or jazz music, for instance. I found out these genres were a lot more fun to play than to listen to.
But if I was thinking about building a business and I had two options — one I was passionate about and one I wasn’t — I would go with the passion business every time.
Why do I say that?
Because I know I would stick with it for longer.
Building a business is not easy. Inevitably, there are some hardships on that path.
If I did something I cared about, I’d be far more likely to persevere and follow through.
If I did something I didn’t care about, the temptation to give up would be greater. And, if I gave up, there would be no chance at success. If I found a way to keep going, there would still be a chance.
We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence before. Where does that persistence well up from? The work. What enables you to keep going when your work becomes a grind? Passion.
People Will Believe in You More if You’re Passionate About What You Do
So, your business makes you a lot of money. Good for you.
But how happy are you? Have you even given that any thought lately? Have you thought about why you’re making the sacrifices you’re making?
You’re lying to my face if you tell me you’re not passionate about what you do. What you do is clearly offering you the rewards you’re seeking.
People wouldn’t even believe in you if you weren’t passionate about your work on some level. Your customers wouldn’t. Your team wouldn’t. Your investors or partners wouldn’t.
Why build a business in the first place? For the hell of it? I don’t believe you.
There is passion behind what you do, and that’s why people believe in you. Try doing what you do without passion. Your inauthenticity would be neutralizing at best, and repelling at worst.
Where Passion Commonly Fails
I can admit that passion has its shortcomings. Here is where I see the greatest flaws with following one’s passion:
· You can lose your passion. In my experience, it’s also possible to regain it. But I’ve talked to people who gave up something they were once very passionate about. It’s not impossible to lose your passion. It’s about what you do when that happens that matters most.
· The object of your passion can change. By definition, passion is an intense emotion. And, as we all know, emotion can change from one day to another if not one hour to the next. Following fleeting emotions is generally unwise and can get us into trouble.
· Passion can be blind. I’ve been passionate about a lot of things. And, when I was younger I often thought about what I was meant to do and tried find it. That is, until I realized how pointless that pursuit was. I could search my whole life for what I’m meant to do and still not know. So, why not engage in what excites me now so I know if it’s something worth pursuing long-term?
Passion & Suffering are Mutually Inclusive
I think this is where many passion haters get it wrong.
Following your passion sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Yeah, but guess what? It’s going to be hard. You’re going to be faced with tough decisions. It’s not going to be all rainbows and ponies — I guarantee it.
People sometimes say if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.
I can appreciate that perspective. But if you told me there wasn’t any suffering on your journey, I’d be skeptical. I would wonder whether you got anywhere with your work.
So, if there’s going to be suffering with passion and suffering without passion, which would you choose? I would choose suffering with passion.