3 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before ‘Following Your Passion’

Every generation has a prevalent thought that dominates its unsuspecting members. For the Bangladeshi urban youth, during the 70s it was about revolution and pop music, during the 80s it was about becoming famous in Notun Kuri and getting featured on Betar, the 90s were about cricket and IT and getting featured on Television, 2000s were about band music (particularly alternative rock) and movies and in the 2010s, it’s about following your passion (and making it big on social media).

Mandatory 3 Idiots Reference (more later)

The above statement can be debatable, but there is no way to doubt that today’s Bangladeshi youth are a lot more concerned about their ‘inner desires and wants’ than getting a desk job after graduation and then starting a family. This keyword that puzzles the 19 year old soon-to-be-sophomore-student about his choice of undergrad topic or a 23 year I-just-threw-my-graduation-cap-alum as he ponders over job opportunities is ‘passion’. Even ambitious Bangladeshis in their late 20s and early 30s are concerned with this word. From learning to play a guitar after your SSC exams to buying a DSLR with your first salary to quitting your decent paying job to join a startup, this one word is driving major decisions in many young Bangladeshis’ lives. Thank you, Three Idiots.

And the stories of social network superstars!
And startup superstars! And youngest billionaires!

That list will go on, but let’s stop here. Because not all is well and sunny on the lane of passion driven decisions, as often people fall victims to hasty, poor decisions that lead them to a place where they never desired to land on. And when they hit a dead end, they blame the whole concept of ‘Following Your Passion’ or their circumstances. A ‘Shift+Delete’ of Three Idiots is underway. Some can even think of burning the cheap, Nilkhet-edition paperback copy of ‘The Alchemist’ while they’re at it, but by then the scars of the crushed dreams have already set in too deep.

Nope, sorry. At that particular time ‘aal’ is not well. Life rarely gives us second chances, so better make the first one count.

So before any of this grave and unpleasant events occur, before you even begin saving money or nagging your parents for that DSLR or that musical instrument, or calling your best friends or university batch mates for a cup of coffee to discuss whether or not you want to launch a startup based on that idea you pitched at a business competition; ask yourself the three questions that follow. And as clichéd as it may sound, really try to ‘listen to your heart’ when thinking of the answers. For now, pretend that you’re Santiago, who will ‘find his treasure wherever his heart is’. And be absolutely truthful to yourself when you’re thinking of the answers to these questions.

Be absolutely truthful to yourself when you’re thinking of the answers to these questions.

Why am I passionate about this?

Do you know why Howard Schultz, the man responsible for turning Starbucks from a six-stores-in-Seattle-coffee-chain to a globally recognized premium coffee shop brand started business? Because he wanted to “create a third place between home and office”. Steve Jobs was so passionate about his work because he saw himself working on ideas that were going to “change the world”. So ask yourself this question, “Why am I passionate about this particular craft?” “What is it going to bring to the world? And me?” “What is the ideal end result of this journey?”

Don’t worry about the financials at this stage. If you become good at something, you can make money from it. And if you have an undying passion for a craft then you will figure out a way to learn how to be better at it. And when you’re consistently producing remarkable work, people will notice you, like they noticed Salman Muqtadir or Charlie Puth. And if you can please them, they will pay you.

Undying passion about a craft=Learning new ways to better yourself=Becoming exceptionally good=Show me the money!

(The ‘=’ sign shows the logical consequence, but remember, in order for this to happen you need to put in effort)

As easy as it looks, it might take years to get from the first step to the fourth. That’s why you need to know, in your heart, why you want to do this. And don’t answer with materialistic concepts like money, car, women, etc. You will lose motivation as soon as you achieve them. Your why has to be something pure and true to your nature. It has to have a deep impact on yourself. Only then you can impact others when they hear your why. This purpose has to be ingrained in your existence, your soul. You have to be one with your purpose and your purpose needs to be one with you. Only then will you have a real shot at becoming remarkable.

You have to be one with your purpose and your purpose needs to be one with you.

Would I do it even if I wasn’t being paid for this?

Every passionate person has faced hardships in her pursuit for fulfilling her dreams. Albert Einstein could not manage a teaching job after he graduated. Later, he started working as a clerk in a patent office. He had to, due to financial concerns. But that did not stop him from spending his spare time theorizing and calculating about how the laws of physics are at play regarding light and gravity (and playing a beautiful tune on the violin). Jon Hamm, AKA Don Draper, the lead actor of ‘Mad Men’ had been a school teacher until he got offered that role. He was 36 years old then and before that offer his career was going nowhere. Needless to say, all these years he kept his dream alive. His passion only kept growing during these years of struggle.

Trust me, this joke isn’t funny when you are actually broke. And if you’ve been there, I apologize for bringing back that memory. But tell me, do you want to go there again? Especially when you’re in your 30s?

The point here is, you might not be lucky on your first shot. Your story might not be like that of Ayman Sadiq’s, becoming the CEO of an award winning startup that’s being funded by a big corporate house like Robi Axiata at the age of 24. You may simply, fail on your first venture. And maybe many times after that. But can you sustain your passion even after the failures? Will you keep doing it even when you find no incentive except the satisfaction of following your passion? Even when you are penniless, will you pick up your attitude like the poet Sukanto picked up his pen to write poems? If it’s a resounding yes, only then can you go ahead and risk it all.

Otherwise, get ready to hear this for the rest of your life.

Who am I doing this for?

The answer to this question helps you in many ways. First of all, no matter what you want to do, to become successful at it, you need to be able to express your expertise to others (either in subtle or in loud ways). Unless you want to end up as Van Gogh, you need to know how to communicate with your audience. So once you know who they are, from time to time, get in touch with them and try to understand them better. See the world from their perspectives, imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes.

Because if you don’t hit that sweet spot, you’re only talking to yourself.

Why do this? Because, you need feedback to grow in the right direction. And since we can’t please everyone; it’s equally important to remember: you need feedback from the right people. When you know whom you are serving, who your ideal audience is, whose hearts you want to make sing and whose reactions and responses can make your heart sing, that’s when you have identified your audience/customer. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Also, remembering the people who will benefit from your service also helps you keep your motivation up during times of struggle.

If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.

In Conclusion:

Let’s be honest, no one can guarantee whether your passion will lead you to your destiny. It’s supposed to, it might not. But the real thing to be sure of is, will this passion last for you? Do you enjoy doing this? Do you feel tireless when you’re learning new things about this passion of yours? Because when you want something that bad, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. But if you give a half-hearted effort, you will get a half-satisfying reward. It won’t satisfy you. And then you will feel like a failure and start to wonder about whether you made the right call. And then this OMG moment happens when you just feel like locking yourself in your room, turning off the lights and cover yourself with a thick blanket and your unbearable shame, wishing you don’t have to face anyone anymore. You will have to swallow all of your pride and choose something else, because your ‘passion fuel tank’ has gone empty.

If you give a half-hearted effort, you will get a half-satisfying reward.

Now, if this happens when you are in your early 20s, you can still jump to a safety net of one of those ‘boring desk jobs’ as a ‘corporate slave’ and tell others that you’re happy that at least you tried something different and the outcome doesn’t matter (you will still have to swallow your pride though). But if you realize it when it’s too late, you’ve invested too much of your time and money and now must downgrade your lifestyle; then it’s a dark and arduous path back to a respectable life. So to avoid that wrong turn, be truthful to yourself before you begin. Think it over and then decide to do it. Or not to do it. That’s fine too.

In the end, you need to remember this is what passion must do. Will yours?