Passion. It’s become an irritant of mine because apparently if you’re not doing something that you’re passionate about you’re not living. Really? Is that how success is being defined now? I don’t believe that should be the case, but sadly a lot of smart and gifted individuals are buying into this definition of success.
Our society loves extreme positions and over-simplification of complex matters. Passion has fallen victim to this as well. When my parents grew up the extreme was the opposite; work and forget your passion. For my generation, we’ve flipped that script and it’s now about passion or nothing else. And from my observation, this endless quest for passion seems to be the cause of a lot of people’s unhappiness and frustration with our economic situation.
How did we get it so wrong? How did a simple advice go so wrong? Well, I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve come up with one possible explanation. The conversation with respect to following your passion is often had without discussing a word that’s equally as important; economics. I said earlier our society often looks for simplified answers to complex problems. The advice to follow your passion is a simple answer to a more complex conversation that should be discussed.
Everyone has a passion, find it, and the world is yours
The key to success has been oversimplified. It goes something like this. Find something you love and are passionate about. Do that consistently and economic prosperity will follow.
I frequently enjoy the occasional wine. During one of my frequent occasions several years ago it occurred to me that wine was my passion. Consuming a good glass of wine is heavenly to me. I thought long and hard about how I could make this new found passion into my economic prosperity. Upon waking up the next day, I looked at my notebook of ideas to see what I came up with during my wine drinking night. The ideas were simple. Start a blog or some sort of wine show.
And there lies the first problem with passion. The assumption the key to a successful and economically fulfilling life is as simple as finding your passion. When most people say follow your passion they really are saying; find something you love and naturally you will make a lot of money from it. The advice comes from a good place but fails or entirely ignores the economic reality we operate under.
The truth is everyone one of us should strive to do things we are passionate about and give our lives meaning. However, making each of our passion into an economic money producing machine is far more complex and requires more than simply having a passion for something.
We further complicate things by giving the illusion that everyone has a passion waiting for them that will be the engine for their economic prosperity. Everyone does have some passion but not everyone’s passion will bring them economic prosperity. Some passions are simply meant to enhance your life and offer no economic benefits.
And why is that? Economics. Look you don’t buy every single product available in this world because not every single thing appeals to you or adds value to your life. The assumption that every single person in this world can merge their passion into an economic source of living is false. It’s false because that would mean each and every single passion we each have has enough buyers, no other competition for our passion, and people are willing to pay what we ask to deliver that passion. I just simply isn’t the case.
The economic reality we avoid to acknowledge
The economic reality we avoid when we discuss our passion is that most of the passion we have are not economically viable. As a result, we are blinded towards the fact most of our ideas we feel we are passionate about can’t yield enough economic value to warranty our full-time attention when we consider the alternative available to us.
Secondly, we are not alone when it comes to our respective passion. We are operating in a marketplace where there are many sellers and buyers. There are many people who share similar passions as us and many who are also trying to make that passion into an economic reality. And some of these people’s skills and ability far exceed ours. The point I’m trying to make is that you are not alone in your passion. There isn’t a passion out there that’s strictly dedicated to you and you only.
In our economic system, it’s impossible to have the entire population find a passion in something they each like while each individual also making millions of dollars doing it. Think of Oprah. We all can’t be Oprah with respect to making as much money as her, otherwise, there would no Oprah in the economic sense. But are a lot of Oprahs in the world who are just as passionate or even more passionate about helping others than Oprah. And when most people say follow your passion they avoid acknowledging this economic reality; passion alone isn’t going to make you into an economic powerhouse like Oprah. You require a plan, a marketplace full of buyers, and an attractive offer.
Not all of us can turn our passion into a business that provides us with a pay cheque. That’s okay, you don’t have to put that kind of pressure on yourself. Take me for example, I simply do not have the skill set to maximize or turn my passion for wine into a profitable business (though I want to really bad) but that doesn’t mean I should stop or can’t continue to be passionate about it. I just realized it’s not something that will be my economic driver for providing for myself or my family. I have other opportunities that yield me far greater return than trying to start a wine business. And that’s the key to overcoming passion unhappiness. Learning to quickly identify if you’ve got a passion or an economic passion.
Most of us are better of chasing opportunities over our passions
I know, it’s not what you wanted to hear but it’s the truth. Most of us are better off chasing economic opportunities available to us rather than forcing a passion into an economic passion.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to see if you’ve got a viable economic passion. It simply means you’ve also got to realize having a passion doesn’t necessarily translate into economic prosperity.
When you chase opportunities you’ve got a lot to work with. You know the possible return you can expect along with the economic value of any skills or abilities you might have. Opportunities can create a pathway for you to continue to building up your passion into an economic one or simply provide you with a means to enjoy your passion more (more wine drinking).
Unfortunately, most of my generation have been told pursuing existing economic opportunities (working a job you like) as a conscience choice is the same as giving up on your passion. Therefore, most people in my generation hate their jobs and often give up their job in hopes of turning simple passions into economic passions with a big pay day. And while I think the vast majority of people come out losing, I still feel a need to provide some guidance.
Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup provides 3 excellent question to ask yourself to determine if a passion is a hobby or potential business idea. He suggests you ask the following questions:
- Does the project produce an obvious product or service?
- Do you know people who will want to buy it (Or do you know where to find them?)
- Do you have a way to get paid?
Most of my passions fail on the third point. Not so much that I do not know how to get paid. It fails because, given the skills and abilities I have, the marketplace is usually willing to pay me far more than what my passion is able to generate.
For me, if you’re doing something you like that’s a good thing. If the standard is finding a passionate job at any cost, then I think you will have a difficult time and might end up making yourself more miserable. You have to understand there are approximately 7.4 billion people who also desire to do something they’re passionate about. You don’t have to give in the passion trap. Avoid doing things you hate but be content with doing something you find interest but might not be your passion. Use the opportunities you’re provided to further your passion or simply be able to spend more time on your passion.
That’s how I’ve decided to proceed. I have a lot of things I’m passionate about and enjoy what I do for work. I use the money from what I do to explore other passions further and enjoy a more fulfilling life.
Perhaps one day one of my passions might become an economic passion as well, but I don’t spend every moment of my life trying to force it. I chase opportunities instead given the skills and abilities I already have and avoid getting trapped by my passion.