This myth of success limited my life
Success is finding your singular passion and sacrificing whatever it takes to follow it. Then, if you’re doing it right, you’ll live a life filled with prosperity and renown.
That is the definition of success I heard from family, friends, society, and the media.
If that is the definition of success, I’m not successful. I am doing everything wrong. I don’t have a single passion. I’m not making money from my passion. I don’t receive accolades for my passion. I’m not spending all my time on my passion. So, I must have a sad, sorry life.
Who decided that success is predicated upon pouring all my energy into my one true passion so I can receive my buckets of money?
This is unacceptable. My passion can be manifested any way I want it to be.
It’s okay to have more than one passion. I’m an artist, writer, and mentor. I’m passionate about creating visual art. I built a work life that centers around creativity. I cultivate design at my day job. I write often, and I love it. I’m connected to my work colleagues and professional peers. And that’s just my outward-facing life. All of these pursuits satisfy and nourish my soul. During my “me” time, I paint, write, think, and read.
Passion can evolve. A younger version of me lived and breathed painting. I envisioned myself in beautifully derelict and inspiring spaces, painting my heart out. I haven’t painted in over five years. Today, I am deeply fulfilled by writing. I am still creating and I’m expressing it in a different capacity. Was I following my passion earlier? Absolutely. I painted for hours and days. I would forget to eat. Huge chunks of my free time were devoted to painting. I was painting for myself. Sure, other people saw my art, but I wasn’t doing it for them. Am I following my passion now? Absolutely. This is how I spend my free time. Hours of it. And I’m still doing it for myself.
Authentic passion is not measured by riches. I don’t have to make lots of money following a heartfelt passion. Passion exists when I’m engaged in something I love. I’m fulfilled when I write. I’m holding myself back and limiting myself when I’m not helping and supporting others through mentorship. I’m not making any money from either of those things. Maybe I will later, but I’m not doing them with the expectation that I’ll get rich. I’m doing them because I have a deep need to do them. I admit, I wouldn’t say “no” to having more money in my bank account. However, if I live a perfectly comfortable life at this income level, and continued to pursue what makes me happy relentlessly, I’d be okay with this much money. I have enough. I have a day job I like very much, but it’s not my passion.
All else does not need to be sacrificed for passion. I like the life I have. Yes, I realize I’m fortunate and privileged. However, I’m not sacrificing my family, my young children, my home, my health, or my favorite foods to pursue my passion. I am tending to all of those things. I set aside time most mornings to write. I have incorporated my needs for mentorship and visual creativity into my job and how I run my business.
Passions don’t have to be lofty. My passions happen to be writing, visual art, and mentorship. What if all I wanted to do was make comfort food? What if my passion was tiny bugs? What if I was spiritually fulfilled by cleanliness? What about sports? There is no set of passions that is better than any other.
Passions do not require a grand scale. I may only ever publish a few of my writings on Medium. 90% of what I’ve written — maybe 95% — is still in a folder in draft form. That’s my choice. If I never write a bestselling book, does that make me a failure? No. If I never hold a show at a contemporary art museum, have I failed? Definitely not. If I never have people ask me for my autograph, will my life be sad? Nope, not mine. I will still push myself to do better, to present a more true part of me. But if the entire world does not experience my art, my writing, or my contributions, it’s okay. That is not failure. Failure is not having pursued my passions.
No one says how I should live my passions but me. My passions are mine. I own them how I want. I live them how I want. If they’re true and real, and I’m doing them with my whole vibrant self, then I’m living my passions. That’s why these are my passions.
What about you? Are you ready to let go of the definition of success you inherited? Are you ready to live your life and follow your passions in a way that is true for you?