My Problem With “Follow Your Passion”

“Follow your passion” is BS advice to the high school or college student. We have all heard to “follow your passion” via commencement speeches and passionate entrepreneurs. This leads many young folks to think their passion should have already come to them like a message from the muse. They can end up with 3 degrees and 6 figures of debt to go do social work, because how could you not be passionate about that?

Better advice would be to dig further into your interests to cultivate a passion and a craftsman’s mindset.

Here are three examples of cultivating passion over the last decade of my life.

  1. Work example: Growing up I wanted to be a truck driver like my dad or a soldier like my grandfather. I had zero passion for management, supply chain, excel spreadsheets, or writing as a hobby. I did have an interest in leadership, I find operations satisfying, and enjoy writing. Doing a brief study on each of these topics revealed that they have a complexity that is deeply satisfying understand and motivating to move toward mastery. Before I started into my career I was interested in fitness; I cultivated that interest by becoming a personal trainer.
  2. Entertainment / Leisure example: Most of my long time friends would know that I have historically been interested in non-fiction. Recently I’ve dug into some of Joseph Campbell’s work through his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and the PBS series The Power of Myth. I now have a stronger understanding of story structure and the impact of myth on culture. All of a sudden fictional movies and books are much more interesting to me.
  3. Hobby example: I have been training Jiu-Jitsu three times a week for four years. In March of 2020 I started getting into instructional videos. Each one containing 8 hours of content on one specific aspect of the sport. Since studying these topics I have gotten better at my sport which is rewarding in its own right. I now have more fun as a spectator since I understand the subtleties that makes someone a great fighter.

My belief is that digging deeper into your craft will cultivate passion as a byproduct. Of course, specific knowledge and skill-set play a factor as well – but that is a conversation for another day…

For 300 pages on this topic read “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport.

This is not to be confused with embracing the beginner’s mindset.

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