There’s tremendous pressure to “find your passion” lately. Too much pressure, if you ask me. It’s also misleading: If I tell you to “find your passion,” we must presume that it’s been lost, like a set of keys or that coupon for a free burrito at Chipotle.
Not only is it lost, it’s now a job requirement: Unhappy in your work? Well, are you not living in or aligned with your passion? Are you not doing the work of your dreams? If you’re not absolutely compelled and swooning over our work, we’re told, you’re doing something wrong. We use passion as the barometer and measure of everything. And it’s a mistake.
Go ahead—call up any life-slash-business coach for an initial consult (I’ll wait), and in that first conversation, I guarantee you’ll be asked, “What are you passionate about?”
The pressure so many of us feel to “find your passion” is the pits. It can become little more than a self-indulgent navel gaze, and until you put rubber to road, it doesn’t amount to much. It also presumes you’re supposed to know something you don’t. I can’t tell you how many people, including myself, have thought, “Jesus. I don’t know what I’m passionate about. Why don’t I know? It must be because I’m devoid of drive and substance, and a complete waste of space.” This is not the kind of thinking that fuels great success.
I’m passionate about lots of things. But this notion that you must have some secret, singular passion does you and your work a disservice.
“I want to help people!”
You know what everyone tells me their passion is? Helping people. Yawn.
That’s not a passion; that’s a prosocial instinct that we’re born with to keep us from (completely) annihilating each other and isolating ourselves. It makes you human and not a monster. Saying your passion is helping people is no different than saying you’re busy. Everyone is. And to say either thing as a way of distinguishing yourself is to assume the other person isn’t, and it just never lands right. (I’m busy AND passionate, too, thank you very much!)
Passion is an emotion, and emotions are fickle and transient and will trip you up every chance they get. You push beyond them by doing, acting, responding, and using the tools and talents you have to create, make, or offer a thing that’s useful and valuable to other people. And if it’s not useful, than tweaking it and trying again.
That’s why I want to move the conversation past what your True Passion. Because who cares, really? My motto is that it’s one thing to have passion; it’s another to be compelling. And no one will buy your yogurt or hire you to do their taxes or donate to your cause just because YOU happen to be passionate about doing it. You have to do it very well, and you have to make what you do compelling to me. That’s the job.
Passion Follows Success
One of my favorite columns ever is this piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams that ran in the Wall Street Journal years ago. In it, he argues that passion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion,” he writes. But when things go down the drain, the passion can drain, too.
“In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked,” he writes. “But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”
I’ll tell you how I’ve been able to grow my own business, and it’s not by waxing poetic about my passion, but by doing—coaching, writing, speaking, connecting. Doing it, sometimes well, sometimes not well, every day. That’s how my real sweet spot emerged: I have knack and honed skill for getting people to bust through their hangups, biases, and blind spots so they can see what they do in a whole new way.
This is particularly relevant as I gear up to run a half-day workshop on Friday, July 10th in New York City for entrepreneurs, visionaries, brand managers, and freelancers who are having trouble finding their sweet spot (wanna come? Seats are still available!) They feel stuck and aren’t sure why. They’re wondering where passion has failed them. They question who they are and how to communicate what they do in ways that compel other people. And on July 10th, we’re going to bust through all of that together.
When you have a clearer, crisper sense of what you DO, not just what you’re “passionate about,” the wheels click into gear, and start to turn. You gain momentum. It feels amazing.
It feels….well, like passion.
(The event, btw, is called “Nail Your Brand & Revitalize Your Business” and it’s happening FRI 7/10 from 9am – 12pm at Wix Lounge in Manhattan—space is limited. If you register before July 4th, you’ll also get a free 30-min coaching session with me, and I promise not to ask you what your passion is.)