It seems everywhere you look; someone is telling you to ‘find my passion' like it's the panacea to all your misery.
I don't know if it's just me noticing it but it feels like it's an easy bit of throwaway advice these days. Find your passion and all your problems will fade away. How true is it, though?
In my experience, like so many other well-intentioned ideas, it just isn't so. Let me explain why.
- Most of us will have many different passions throughout our lives.
- Many of these won't pay the bills, no matter how invested or committed we are to them. Sure, we can have altruistic passions and even pursue them over many years but if we're looking to do something with our lives we're passionate about AND get paid, many of our passions won't do it.
- Of those that do have commercial value, perhaps only one or two will energise you long enough to see you through your first big dip. (read Seth Godin's book on this topic for more).
- Some of your passions will never meet with sufficient skill or temperament to be successful at it, no matter how hard you grind.
- Every passion once pursued commercially, becomes a ‘job' before long so you'll probably quit it – just like any other job.
Disheartened? Confused? Don't be.
All of these points contain valuable clues as to what you can do, even if they sound like rain bearing down on your parade. Let's look at them again in a bit more detail.
Most of us are ‘multipotentialites'. We have a number of different skills, talents and interests, rather than one big passion lit up in neon. That's actually a good thing. Imagine investing years in your one true calling, only to find no one wants what you're offering? Sadly, a lot of people fall into this trap and never get up to try again.
I was listening to one of James Altucher's podcast episodes the other day where he talked about nine different businesses he and a friend tried and all of them failed. His friend was ready to quit trying and go back to what they were doing before, but James wanted to try one more. The tenth business worked like a charm and made them both a tonne of money.
You don't need to zero on your ‘one thing' and fail in a blaze of glory. You can fail at many things, providing you're prepared to see it to the point where you hit a dead-end, you identify a dip (and push through it) or it works. The trick is knowing when to quit (as soon as you realise it is a dead-end), pivot (when the core idea is sound but needs to move in a fesh direction) or push through a dip.
To convert something you love into an income, you need to deliver something of value to an audience you understand. This audience must have money to buy what you're offering and be prepared to pay for it. If these elements are absent, you're unlikely to break through.
Starting is easy. Persisting is hard.
Beginnings are exciting. Starting something is charged with the smell of possibility. Reality always kicks in, though. Unless you're all-in on your idea; unless you're prepared to commit consistent effort and show up every day – especially when you don't want to – your big idea will fizzle. The idea must be so important to you or so engaging and enjoyable that you'll do it for peanuts and savour the struggle – for years if need be.
I've failed at many different things, and I reckon this is the number one reason. I love starting things but I hate the grind that follows. The two exceptions to this have been writing and photography. I can do those for the rest of my life – even if I don't make money. That's why I've consistently made money from both.
Are you kidding yourself?
One of the keys to success is knowing how and when to quit. Most people quit after months or years of slogging. That's expensive. Unless you're going to live till you're 200, that's an enormous waste of your time and attention – both worth a lot more than money. The best time to quit something is at the beginning when it's cheap.
It pays to do your homework before you embark on your journey, lest your idea falls on deaf ears and all you here is crickets. Study your audience, look at others who are already doing what you're planning to do. Learn from those who are the best at what you're embarking on. If no one's doing it, there's a good chance there's no market for it. It takes a lot of time and very deep pockets to educate the market why your idea is brilliant, and why they need or want what you're selling. Apple can do this. You probably can't.
It's also better to acknowledge early whether or not you'll ever have (or be able to acquire) sufficient skill to make it.
And if you're a physically or mentally ill-equipped for the journey and you're unlikely to become so; it's better to quit now and move onto another idea.
Everything becomes a job.
Provided you understand and accept your great idea will soon become a job, you can step forward with the determination and commitment it demands. Anyone who's achieved anything significant knows the fairytale of unicorns and rainbows soon gives way to 1:00 am sessions in front of a computer screen and a pile of empty coffee cups on the desk.
The exception to this rule is Andrew Huang, who created the YouTube video, “Big Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows”.
The Alternative to Finding your ONE TRUE Passion
Okay, so armed with this perspective on ‘passion', where does that leave us? If I have one big takeaway, it's this.
Finding your passion isn't the riddle to solve. As I said, you probably have many. People think they have to find THE ONE, and it must become their life's mission. For some, this happens. But most of us aren't so blessed with such a distinct and inescapable choice.
My advice for you is very simple. I know it works.
- Find something you enjoy doing.
- Google who's doing it now and having commercial success with it. Study them.
- Learn about your audience and develop an outline of your target persona – your ideal customer. Do your thing for that person.
- Define how your voice and your interest in this thing will bring a fresh approach to this audience. Authenticity is key here.
- Learn about the various business archetypes and decide which ones you'll be.
- Master your thing and aim to be the best in the world at it. ‘The world' might mean, ‘the best teacher, blogger, YouTuber or coach in your state on car detailing for women'. You get the idea. It doesn't have to mean ‘the whole world'.
Continue to learn, hone and iterate your idea. Invest time in learning from the greats in your field of interest and in the strategies and philosophies of building a successful business. Learn from people like Chris Guillebeau, Seth Godin, James Altucher and many others.
Once you begin to master your craft, and it starts resonating with your target audience in the space/s you've chosen; I promise you, the passion will follow.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at email@example.com. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit.
Disclaimer & Disclosure: I'm not a psychologist and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but rather a collection of personal opinions, based on my own experiences. Some of the links on my site are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I provide links to services or products I have used and liked or researched and recommend. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you believe they will be beneficial to you.
Also published on Medium.