Monday, February 25, 2013

Follow Your Passion - You Just Don't Get It!

Why do other bloggers write about Following Your Passion as "crappy advice?" If you Google "Follow Your Passion" you will find a number of articles on why it's the wrong thing to do or why it's crappy advice. Maybe somebody is just missing the whole point! There are two articles I found provoking enough to cause me to put fingers to my keyboard: 

Article #1 - the minimalist  
In one of the questions in this article they talk about Steve Jobs and a speech Steve made at his Stanford Commencement address. He told students (paraphrasing) "You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle."  The writer goes on to say that if you go back and read the social media and press that surrounded that event people took him to say "follow your passion" The writer also says if you read Steve's biography it is not what he did. His passion at the time was eastern mysticism and that he stumbled into Apple computer to try and make a quick buck. I did find more of Steve Jobs quote during this speech which was not in this article. He also said "the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking."

This writer of this article clearly does not get what following your passion is all about. He says "...Passion sounds more accessible. If you're dumb, there is not much you can do about it, but passion is something we think anyone can generate in the right circumstances. Passion feels very democratic. It is the people's talent, available to all. It's also mostly bullshit. Consider two entrepreneurs. Everything else being equal, one is passionate and possesses average talent, while the other is exceedingly brilliant, full of energy, and highly determined to succeed. Which one do you bet on?" This writer gives us an example of when he was a loan officer. His boss taught him that it was not good practice to loan money to someone who was following their passion. The example he gave was "you don't give money to a sports enthusiast who wants to open a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty. That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He's in business for the wrong reason."

My confusion and concern with these two articles has to do with the loose use of the word “success” and the writers’ interpretation of success = passion.  It begs the following questions:  How do we define success in our lives?  How do we define passion? Do success and passion go together? 

Success - I believe success is a personal achievement. It's something that we make ourselves. It is about the lives we touch every day in our own communities. It is about respect. It is about love. It is not about money, how much of it you made, what wealth you achieved…it is a personal journey that means something different for each one of us.

Passion - I believe passion is inside each of us. It's an intense emotion that keeps us moving forward. Our passions are what drive us to reach deep within ourselves to move in a direction that makes us happy and feel fulfilled. Whether the passion is something we do as a hobby or something we do as a drives us. Whether the passion is something we use to help others or we use to further drives us. 

How does the parent who has a passion to stay home and raise the kids define him or herself…a “success” or a “failure”?  Can others put a monetary value on his/her choice? Can that parent pursue other passions and still be a stay at home parent? Of course they can! Can you be successful in your career like Steve Jobs and still pursue other passions? Of course you can. 

Sometimes, like Steve Jobs, what we call successful careers are handed to us while we are pursuing other passions. Does that mean all of a sudden we are not following our passion? Do we consider "following our passion" a scale for career? I hope not. We can be "successful" in our careers, enjoy our jobs, and make a good living. Our passions do not have to dictate or define what we do for a living or where we work. We cultivate the passion in our lives each and every day. Life is about the never ending pursuit of happiness. We learn and grow. I believe Steve Jobs was right in his quote " ...if you haven't found it yet, keep looking." 

The person who walks into a bank to ask for a loan because he or she wants to start a business based on "following their passion" should be given the same opportunity as that person who walks into the bank to get a car loan. The main reason the bank issues any person a loan is because the person has the means to pay it back. It’s the well-thought out and the well-written business plan that reassures the bank when assessing the level of risk. Passion is what will drive that person to make it work.  Just because a person is following their passion does not mean they are automatically at risk of financial failure in their business venture. That gross generalization is demeaning for all of us who are out here doing what we love and finding our definitions of success in following our passion.

We must not put passion and success in a nice square box with a bow on top. We all define them differently. We all reach our life's goals differently. We all touch others lives differently. We all succeed differently.

Our lives change and so do we...

Cynthia Cosco

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