Don't Follow Your Passion

 Photo by Rodger McCutcheon   

Photo by Rodger McCutcheon

Earlier this week, I had a "walk and talk"—what we refer to here as a walking meeting—with my colleague, Surabhi. At some point in our chat she commended me on one of my strengths: passion. If you've met me, chances are you would be quick to agree. I'm passionate about many things, big and small. So, why am I saying "don't follow your passion?"

Well, this isn't a statement I stumbled upon. It's yet another fantastic talk from 99u last month. This time, it was Cal Newport, writer and assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University. He doesn't accept clichéd slogans. He digs deeper. In his studies on passion, he found following your passion assumes:

  1. You have a preexisting passion
  2. If you match passion for your job, then you'll be happy and enjoy work

Most people don't have a preexisting passion, and stress out because they're "trying to find it." I know people who are incredibly passionate about design, but they hate their job. Cal's advice is to cultivate your passion. You need to take the approach of a craftsman and work towards passion. The title of his book sums it up quite nicely, So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.

I realize my passion for design wasn't preexisting. First, I wanted to be a teacher, then I wanted to write about film. I ended up here by cultivating this newfound passion and working really hard. This is why I'm happy at work.

Did you follow your passion? Or, did you cultivate it? Share you story below.

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