Monday, June 20, 2016

Forget About Following Your Passion

How often in your career have you been told that you should 'Follow Your Passion"?

The belief that this is the sole path to finding satisfying and fulfilling work has led many to feeling despair over ever experiencing passion for the work they do. However, when questioned what work they would rather be doing, what work they feel passionate about, many are unable to answer.

Given the admonition to follow their passion, many then engage in a search to find and define something they are passionate about.  However, it is this search that often leads them further from engaging in work that is meaningful than closer to it. The hard truth is that rarely do passion and ability align.  They are definitely not synonymous.
Passion and Ability often have very little to do with one another.
Believing you should follow your passion may lead you to attempt to build a career around a hobby you love and enjoy, but that you are not skilled enough at to ever make a living from. Pursuing your passion beyond the hobby level may prevent you from pursuing meaningful work that you do have skill and competence in, that you could be successful at.

Your happiness in the work you do has very little to do with the work itself, but everything to do with how well you do it. Your success can lead to passion.  You can become passionate about the work you do by becoming better at it.  Focusing on how to make you and your output more valuable is far more likely to help you build a career that you can be passionate about than chasing your passion ever could.

In his book So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport talks about the need to engage in Deliberate Practice in order to build your skill and your value.  This deliberate practice requires you to stretch your skills past your comfort zone and to seek out ruthless feedback on your performance, all with the intention of then applying those insights to improve your performance.  This is the same technique used by professional musicians, athletes and even professional chess players.  Is is through Deliberate Practice that you can expand your skills and increase your value.  In essence, build your mastery to build your passion.

There are typically numerous fulfilling opportunities missed by focusing solely on following your passion despite the fact that passion itself is not enough to assure success.  Instead, follow the opportunities life presents you with to prosper. Being good at something will typically lead you to feeling passionate about work that utilizes those skills and abilities.

Don't follow your passion to find fulfilling work, but do bring it with you, applying it to all that you do.  That's where success, fulfillment and happiness ultimately will all be found.

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