Passion is overrated
Eat cheesecake instead. (New York cheesecake, if you can find it. Otherwise, Japanese cheesecake works a treat too.)
Last week we got back from New York, which was fab. I’d go as far to say it’s even almost as good as Melbourne. It is the type of place that inspires much consumption of cheese, in so many glorious forms. NY cheese pizza, NY cheesecake, actual fancy cheese (and so on*).
Cheese aside, the main reason we were in New York was to attend the 99u conference. (If you don’t know who 99u are, do check them out. They’re ace, and dedicated to the art and science of making ideas happen). The speaker lineup at this event was super, (including the likes of Seth Godin, Jason Fried and Tina Roth Eisenberg). But for me, I was looking forward to seeing my current favourite author — Oliver Burkeman.
Burkeman wrote The Antidote: happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking. Ah, what a glorious subtitle.
I admire this guy’s thinking greatly. In fact, if you’re in the market for a new book (after The Game Changer), get this one.
Rather than tout the conventional motivational folklore of setting massive goals, visualising success and following your dreams, Burkeman (like moi) offers a different approach. Something much more grounded in stoic reason and pragmatism.
Take the concept of ‘passion’, for example.
In Burkeman’s first book Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done (another brilliant subtitle), he writes:
“Few ideas have spread so rapaciously through the worlds of self-help and pop-spirituality as the notion of Finding Your Passion. Like a nasty outbreak of Dutch elm disease, it has infected entire populations, compelling publisher after publisher to use it in titles or subtitles. Motivational speakers, hypnotists and career coaches have also jumped on the passion wagon, taking a word hitherto reserved for those extra-special moments in life — making love, say, or being crucified — and applying it to the whole of it.”
And so, have you found your passion yet?
You have!? Well, good-o. Now you must Live Your Passion, every single day (as one speaker alluded to the day after Burkeman spoke. Awkward.)
But if you haven’t found your passion — well! Either you’re not trying hard enough, or you need to enrol in my 7-day e-program The Seven Secrets to Finding Your Passion, Living Your Dreams and Achieving True Success (valued at $4,997 but yours today for the limited special price of $47). Yes please don’t email me, I’m being facetious again.
You see, the trouble with the notion of “finding” your passion (Burkeman writes) is that it presumes that you have a single predetermined passion, and that it is indeed something to be found. Cal Newport (an author and professor who also spoke at a 99u conference previously) argues that passion is the feeling you get from mastering a new skill. It’s something to be cultivated, not sought for.
You don’t find your passion — you create it.
This is important. “Suppose you dislike your job,” Burkeman writes. “[If your] passion is ‘out there’, waiting to be found, you’ll feel that quitting is the only path to happiness… but if passions are made, it’s conceivable that doing the job differently might be an alternative answer.”
In other words, if the game you’re playing isn’t working for you: change it. Experiment. Play-test. Cultivate micro-passions. Plant seeds. Meander ruthlessly.
Easier said than done, Jason!
Of course! Who said this’d be easy? If it were easy, we’d all be doing it already.
The thing is — you’re not trapped. You’re not ‘stuck’ with a poor process, a bad work culture or boring work. Quitting is always an option — and it can be a great option — but it’s not the only one.
Instead of looking ‘outside’ for the solution (that elusive goal, the comparison-game, or that green grass on yonder paddock), and instead of simply looking ‘inside’ yourself (artificially forcing yourself to find passion within, to the point of burnout)… try finding passion within the work.**
Not out there, not in you, but within the work itself.
Or, failing that, eat cheesecake.
* I have no more examples. Our diet in New York mainly cycled through these categories of cheese. Sometimes with martinis. But! If you’d like to get a glimpse as to what our adventures were like, my good friend Dougal (of Jaxzyn) put together this short video, featuring fellow conspirator Jen (and a rare glimpse of the Dangerlam too!).
** Stuck on how? Think like a game designer. I hear there’s a book on this topic somewhere.