Follow your passion.
Do what you love.
Find what lights you up and do more of that.
These statements are all partially true. They’re not, however doing you any favors or telling you the whole story.
Passion is great. When you’re having a conversation with someone and they seem to light up when the conversation shifts to a different topic—that’s passion.
When we “follow our passions” (in quotes because of how cliche it all is), we discover new truths about ourselves.
Follow your passion, but don’t follow it every single day, or follow it to the bank.
Untangle the idea that you need to make a living doing something you’re passionate about.
Do activities you have a deep interest in, and follow intense inklings, but relying on passion alone is dangerous.
Instead, focus on what you’re good at.
Where do you naturally excel? What do people always ask for your advice on? What can you do so easily, that it doesn’t feel like work, or like you’re trying at all?
You might be thinking of the old advice to do work you love so that you never work a day in your life.
This gives work a bad rap. What’s the problem with work? We’re designed to do work. To do meaningful work and make progress towards a big goal, making the world better, or figuring out a problem for the sake of a problem are all perfectly fine reasons to roll up your sleeves.
Passion will only take you so far.
Figure out what you’re good at. Make a living doing that. Maybe you’re a rockstar at solving problems, connecting people, or reverse engineering something. Follow that inkling down a dark alley and see where it takes you.
I’m passionate about wine, salty dark chocolate, handwritten letters, journaling, and reading books to make me a better human. Doing any of these things, even in combination, doesn’t support me financially. And the greatest part is that’s okay.
Consider one of my favorite quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, Big Magic:
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
I keep yelling at my cat for waking me up at 3 am, and he just stares at me. He’d give me the middle finger if he could. Trying to tell my passion to get it’s ass out the door to make money for me is no different. In both situations, I’m the idiot running around yelling, waving my arms in the air like a lunatic while everyone just stares at me.
What’s the secret sauce?
Well, there is no secret sauce, but you know this. Do work you’re good at. Follow your strengths. Double down on them to make them even stronger. Screw your weaknesses, and fill in the rest with passion. Do the work that lets you spend more resources, be it time or money on your passion.
Where will your work take you this year? What about your passion?