What to Do When You Have More Ambition Than Discipline

I’m going to break the number one rule of online writing in the third line of this story.

I’m going to tell you the answer right now instead of teasing you for 750 words. Are you ready? If you have more ambition than discipline, you should do this:

Find your passion.

WAIT! Put down the rocks you use for people who bandy about platitudes like this and then ride off into the sunset of overused clichés.

When you are passionate, your work refreshes you, it doesn’t drain you. When you are passionate, you won’t care how many negative comments pop up. When you are passionate, you can wake up at 5 A.M. and stay up until midnight.

Still, passion has a lot of baggage. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot of work. Some days I think, “Is this really worth it?”

~~ 1 ) PASSION IS EARNED, NOT CHOSEN

People say

“You don’t know your passion? What’s wrong with you? It’s just something you like to do a lot!”

Okay, I have never heard anyone say that. I think it’s just the voice in everyone’s head. Or maybe just mine.

Here’s what I’ve learned: You don’t just get to have passion. You earn it. Somehow in the hype machine that is the Internet, most of us feel if we aren’t naturally burning with desire to fulfill on dream we’ve had since childhood, we are somehow broken.

The hierarchy goes like this:

Interest > A WHOLE lot of activity > Passion (maybe)

The root of the world “passion,” comes from the Latin “pati,” which literally means “to suffer.”

I know I’ve said that before. I will stop when it isn’t the top highlight.

Having multiple interests is amazing. Your ambition probably is what gets you to that point. I’m willing to bet, though, that you would only be able to put up with a couple of those interests day after day after day after day.

Try this: Pick one of your interests and do it every day for 31 days. That’s short enough to commit to, but long enough to make sure there are days you don’t want to do it. If it’s harder to quit than it is to keep going, you might be on to something.

~~2) YOU CAN HAVE PASSION FOR MANY THINGS (BUT NOT ALL THINGS)

I stole this one from James Altucher who stole it from Warren Buffet. (who says writers always have to be original?).

Take a few minutes and write down a list of your top 25 interests.

Now order that list from top to bottom — what you love most goes to the top. What you love least goes to the bottom.

Finally, cross off the bottom 20 items and keep only the top 5.

As a human being, you are allowed to have as many interests as you want. But you can’t have as many passions as you want. There simply isn’t enough time in the day.

Identify what you LOVE, and then let what you LIKE take a back seat.

~~3) PASSION CHANGES

For the longest time, I wanted be Tony Robbins. Here is a man who has been doing the same thing for nearly 30 years now. Not only that, it’s something glamorous. It’s something he loves. It’s something which gets a lot of attention and makes a lot of money.

Then I learned something about myself:

I get bored of nearly everything in 6 months.

And that’s okay.

Life is experimentation. Certainly there are boundaries to this (I’ve been writing nearly every day for the last 6 years), but you are allowed to change your mind. You are allowed to quit things. Quitting is underrated.

At your core, you are a human being whose cells get recycled constantly. Your body is literally reinventing itself physically at every moment.

It’s okay for your passions to do so as well.

(Also read: Dear Young People Looking For a Career — Do This)

~~ 4) PASSION WANES AND WAXES

Right now, one of my greatest friends in the world is in rehab after a massive cardiac event (read: heart attack). He is 26

One of my other friends lost her younger brother to leukemia earlier this year. At the end, he was a shell of his former self. He was 19.

I had a reader email me recently to tell me he was going through a divorce. He was having trouble, he said, getting through the day with energy. It was difficult to manage the situation what with his starting a company at the same time.

Can you imagine any of the people in the three scenarios above having the ability to chase their passions with fervor?

Me neither.

In the middle of your hustle, your grind, your business, whatever — remember, life.

Life is supposed to get in the way of your passions.

Don’t let it happen the other way around.

— TB