don’t find your passion
“It’s messing people up, this social pressure to “find your passion” and “know what it is you want to do”. It’s perfectly fine to just live your moments fully, and marvel as many small and large passions, many small and large purposes enter and leave your life. For many people there is no realization, no bliss to follow, no discovery of your life’s purpose. This isn’t sad, it’s just the way things are.
Stop trying to find the forest and just enjoy the trees. “
“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”
Mark Z. Danielewski
I originally wrote this piece, Don’t Find Your Passion, in September 2014 and it is possibly my most unpopular piece I have written to date. Yesterday I felt slightly vindicated when Psychology Today just published a piece called “Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ is Terrible Advice.”
I have always struggled with the ‘find your passion’ advice. Ok. In fact. I believe most ‘find your passion’ advice is bullshit. I say its bullshit mostly because passion and excellence are not inextricably intertwined. In fact. Passion and purpose are not inextricably linked. In other words, I may be passionate about something, but may actually suck at doing that ‘something’.
I may be passionate about something, but it doesn’t feed some grand purpose <in the world or even to myself>.
Ok. The sucking thing I mentioned. Think about it this way – maybe I don’t suck at it, but maybe it is just not what I am best at doing.
Let me be clear. I am very happy for those who have a passion for something specific. And I would like to think everyone should be passionate about something. My point is that, unfortunately, the ‘something’ just may not be the thing you build your career and life around because you just may not be good at it enough to master it enough beyond maybe simple competence (but you can still enjoy it).
What makes me think I am qualified to say this whole follow your passion is bullshit? I am not sure I personally have a singular passion … except for thinking. And, boy, let me tell you, that is not a skill you can be paid for in the business world.
Getting paid for thinking is a bonus.
But I assume I get paid <when I do get paid> for something I must be good at <or someone wouldn’t pay me>. In other words, I have to actually do something, not just think.
Does this mean I am grumpy or unsatisfied because I am not ‘following my passion’? Nope.
Practically speaking, I understand that what I am passionate about:
<a> there are more brilliant thinkers than I out there in the world, and
<b> thinking without doing has significantly less value than thinking & doing. And by value I mean value to others and, frankly, value to self. The doing shows value. It shows the thinking wasn’t simply some pie in the sky rhetoric which ends up in some ‘nice but impractical’ idea folder gathering dust in some vacant office.
Next. I think the whole ‘find your passion’ or ‘find your purpose’ is overly simple in its guidance because following your passion is tricky.
Let me take that back.
It is actually dangerous. If you are not careful, it can empty you.
“They told me to pour my heart into everything I do. So that’s what I did, I poured and poured and poured.
Now they ask me why I’m so empty.”
This is why I am always hesitant to flippantly suggest ‘do what you are passionate about’ or ‘find something you love.’ I tend to suggest ‘find something you are incredibly good at … and see if you love it.’ In fact if you do that not only do you find out what you are really good at, but you also start jettisoning things you don’t like <or are passionate about>.
Next. I sometimes hear people suggest they are passionate about ‘results’ <sales, money, some outcome>. Well. Sorry. That is bullshit <to define passion that way>.
Ok. Maybe it is just lazy living. Lazy in that you take the easy way out when discussing passion or purpose by suggesting a result as validation for value in life and life pursuits.Lazy in that you are using results because you just don’t want to admit you may not exactly like what you are doing.
Some things just cannot be measured. Like … well … passion.
Ok. That said. I am going to let the ‘I am passionate about results’ people off the hook today because the real issue is that society shouldn’t be forcing people to even have to HAVE some grand passion or purpose.
Let’s be clear. Neither passion nor purpose needs to be grandiose.
Because, frankly, life is mostly avoiding run face first into trees or sitting and enjoying a moment under a tree and not seeking some way to fly above and see a forest.
So what would I suggest instead of finding your passion or purpose as a guiding principle?
Seek to maximize the moments the best you can. Seek to find “good” and … well … be happy with good <and this includes just being good at what you do>.
As the initial quote suggests … larger passions and purposes will inevitably glide through different moments. Don’t worry that you do not ‘own’ the larger purpose … just enjoy the little glimpses of passion and purpose … and maybe even the variety.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
What this all really means is that maybe the only decision you truly need to make has nothing to do with some grand passion or huge purpose … but rather simply deciding what to do with the time … the moment. If you do that well … I imagine you will plant a shitload of prosperous trees. And, in the end, will have built a forest for yourself you can be proud of.
Some of you may now be saying “well, shit” now. Don’t. All advice is just that, advice. Ultimately you choose what is best for you. You shouldn’t be using my advice, or anyone’s for that matter, to choose your path for you. Decide what is best for you and, well, go prosper in Life. But. I will suggest I am fairly sure you will be happier if you are doing something you are good at, so maybe start there.