Challenge to Change: Why Passion Isn’t Enough

If I had a dollar (or even a dime) for each time I read or was told that “following my passion” is the premier pathway to a successful career and overall life satisfaction, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I don’t doubt the tremendous value-add and personal fulfillment that accompanies a strong connection to your work and/or your organization’s mission. But personally, I find the ‘passion ethos’ lacks a healthy dose of practicality, especially for a mid-career professional who may be asking themselves, “What’s next?” (Spoiler alert: I am this person asking myself this question.)

If I answered myself solely on my passions (i.e., interests or activities I really enjoy, independent of whether I have the skills, talent, or experience to support them), a quirky, improbable list develops - I could try to become the world’s first storm-chasing mediterranean chef adorned in vintage garb, but I’m not convinced I’d get there.

It’s no surprise then that I would click on a link floating around Facebook titled “Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Effort” (even if it was penned by billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban). His argument is simple: Jumping down passion’s rabbit holes can be a huge waste of time. Instead, pay attention to how you spend your time and the instances in which you go the extra mile. Your effort will lead to expertise, fertile grounds for enjoyment and passion, which can easily grow success.

Here’s why I like Cuban’s post:

Time is a valuable asset and, like your paycheck, how you spend it is telling.

Fellow YNPNer Josh Dye recently provided great strategies for making the most of our time. Once your time management habits are in-check, start tracking those maximized minutes and hours. Do you spend a lot of your out-of-work time volunteering? Following local issues? Perfecting your jump shot or backswing?

I reflected on this point and realized that I spend a lot of my time on personal relationships. I frequently offer to help with whatever project or challenge is top-of-mind, and I enjoy every minute of it. This may indicate my next career experience should involve plenty of stakeholder engagement and problem-solving.

Sometimes, passion follows hard work, not the other way around.

Have you ever found yourself really getting into something that totally surprised you? My example of this is becoming a map-nerd. I took a few GIS classes in college, but I wouldn’t say that it was ever my “passion.” My job responsibilities required mapping on occasion - nothing too advanced - but as my skills developed, so did my interest. Before long, I requested additional training and started subscribing to blogs and listservs; my passion for social demography grew exponentially. Who knew? I didn’t - at first. Approaching “other duties as assigned” with an awareness for voluntary extra effort can lead us to something greater - like discovery or success.

Passion is not always the starting point. What we actually do with our time and effort - not simply what we dream of doing - can provide more insight into where we might find meaningful experiences and, ultimately, success.

How has your idea of fulfilling your passion changed or stayed the same?

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