We’ve all heard the quote, “Do what you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”.
However, not everyone is able to hit the career jackpot to turn their passion into a way to make a living, but you can still find value and fulfillment even if your passions are found outside your day to day work.
This concept of doing what you love is a relatively contemporary idea that only sounds plausible in the modern developed world. However, in spite of the common advice, following your passion isn’t the best way to maximize your success or even happiness.
This may come off as negative. It’s not. Keep reading. I mean to inspire you.
The advice of, “Never give up on your dreams” or “follow your passion” tends to come from those who managed to align their professional life with their dreams. It’s usually a successful entrepreneur or business mogul, athlete or actor, who have made a boat load of money or otherwise reached the pinnacle of success in their field. They then attribute their success to doing what they love.
While I’m sincerely happy for them, they ignore the hundreds and even thousands of others who shared the same passion but were never able to achieve that outcome for themselves.
They do not recognize they are looking through the view of survivorship bias.
Many of these individuals who succeed attribute their success to their passion, but passion is not sufficient, nor is it necessarily the secret to their success.
Those who failed likely also followed their passions but… they still failed. Not for a lack of passion, or even a lack of trying, but an assortment of other factors, not the least of which is the lack of ability and even timing (what some might call “luck”).
Do This Instead – Follow Opportunity and Your Strengths
If you want an example of talent not meeting passion, look no further than American Idol auditions where certifiably tone deaf singers are utterly shocked when they are told they aren’t any good.
Instead of blindly following your passion, identify your strengths and look for opportunities that align with those.
If you are an 8 foot tall reasonably athletic male, you should probably pursue basketball. You may have a passion for playing baseball, bass guitar, or maybe painting is your ultimate love, but let’s face it, basketball is a very clear option that appeals to your physical gift of height. It doesn’t guarantee you will make it in the pros, but it is an opportunity you should at the very least pursue based on your overwhelming advantage.
The popular romantic advice of following your passion won’t necessarily lead you to success.
Following your strengths and opportunities are far more likely to lead toward a well paying career and something either you can learn to love, or at the very least, provides you with the resources to follow your primary passions as hobbies.
Don’t Hate What You Do
You don't have to love what you do, you simply need to love what it allows you to do.
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On the other side of the coin, you don’t want to hate what you do.
The often repeated cliche, “There’s more to life than money.” IS true. Quality of life is something you must consider and prioritize. You can absolutely justify making less money for a higher quality of life, so there is a balance.
Regardless, don’t choose a path that requires you to compromise your values, causes you to sacrifice your health and well being, keeps you from enjoying your life, family, and friends.
Any and all of these will result in you hating what you do.
It simply isn’t worth it.
While choices in your life will always include trade-offs, what some might call sacrifices, I absolutely DO NOT advise pursuing something that makes you miserable even if you are amazing at it and/or you could make a lot of money. At least, don’t allow that to be your long term path.
However, you may need to consider short term pain for long term benefits.
In the example of a professional basketball player, it’s a hard life. They get paid well (minimum salary is over $500k), but they are on the road a lot and face enormousness pressures as celebrities. However, the trade-off is they can do that for a relatively few number of years, and if they live modestly, they can retire in their early to mid 30’s with a lot of options, including pursuing their passion.
There is nothing wrong with making short term sacrifices for future reward, but in the end it’s up to you to decide what trade-offs and sacrifices you are willing to make and if those are worth it.
Whatever you set out to do, look for ways to maximize your chances of success. Chasing rainbows will often lead to disappointment, and if you chase them too long, you may end up passing up what otherwise would have been amazing opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of feel good stories of perseverance and late life success that wouldn’t have happened if those people chose another path, but it doesn’t mean passion alone is what got them there. They still needed the talent and opportunity.
Bottom line: I’m not saying run away from your passion, or passion isn’t an asset. I’m saying focusing on your opportunity and strengths ahead of passion will maximize your chances of success.