Follow your passion is often thrown around as pithy, heart-felt and earnest advice to people pondering the big questions of life.
But, it’s terrible advice.
Passion is good for many things. But one thing it is not is a predictor of success.
Let me explain.
I get to meet with a wide range of people in business as part of my role as Account Director at Bonfire, which I love. One of the perks is meeting interesting and successful people who have incredible stories of working hard, being smart and creating a business that bring them and other great pleasure and financial reward.
What’s interesting in all this is the passion many display about their businesses. And why not? They’ve created a successful business. They have every right to be proud of that. But when you consider the nature of the businesses, it makes you wonder how did you get passionate about industrial waste removal, renting port-a-loos, or debt collection*?
The answer is they didn’t start passionate about these things, but when they saw an opportunity, launched out and invested themselves in a business in these areas they BECAME passionate about them over time.
I recently heard a typically verbose Tim Ferriss podcast with a guy by the name of Mike Rowe (whose name had me thinking of very small things – say it fast). He made a great comment about this very topic which inspired this post. He said:
Don’t follow your passion. But wherever you go make sure you take it with you.
Now that is great advice.
There is no correlation between what you are passionate about, and whether or not you can turn that into a business, career, job or success. I am passionate about basketball, but in spite of my passion I am not going to make a career out of it (no matter how much I dream).
Now, you say you might not be good enough to play in the NBA but you could train to become a journalist, or analytics guy, or podcaster, or sell fan gear. Again you could but also none of that is any guarantee you will succeed or be good at any of them.
In the mid 2000s one of my early forays into trying to create an income online was a blog centred around my passion for the West Coast Eagles. I had heard you can make money blogging so I got writing and whacked some Adsense banners up and I was set to rake it in.
Yes I managed to get some traffic and gain some regular readers but “raking” in $20 per month in footy season and virtually nothing in the off season didn’t make me rich. I followed the “passionate path to success”; but it didn’t work.
Why didn’t it work? Because following your passion won’t make you successful.
Taking your passion with you, however, will.
So how do you do that? Look for opportunities first and apply your passion to it.
Opportunities trump passion alone. Trying to shoehorn into your passion will more often result in frustration and failure. The result of this will be a loss of passion. And if your passion was all you were building on in the first place, then you are in trouble.
On the other hand, opportunities are egalitarian. They exist for anyone to take advantage of, to apply themselves to and to profit from. Giving your passion to a great opportunity will reward you many times over.
*Not real clients by the way, but you get the idea