The Brutally Honest Guide to “Finding Your Passion”
Ugh. “How to find your passion” Cue the doves, rainbows, and synchronized unicorn dance ensemble.
Talk about a horse that’s been beaten to death.
I like talking about topics that have been extensively covered like finding your passion, waking up early, journaling, reading, and getting motivated because there’s always a new wrinkle, insight, or useful tidbit of information to be found.
So what’s my wrinkle to the topic of how to find your passion?
I’m glad you asked.
How to Use a Double-Edged Sword
I refer to the double-edged sword concept a lot. Life comes with tradeoffs and opportunity costs. You can’t experience the positive aspects of a decision and remove the unintended consequences at the same time.
One example I use often is the fact that self-improvement can help you find the inspiration you need to change, but it can also lead to mental masturbation — the process of congratulating yourself for learning without taking action.
Learning how to find your passion has a double-edged sword, too. One of the best lessons I’ve learned involves understanding both sides of an argument. Unless you can fully understand the opposite case to what you believe to be true, you don’t have knowledge. It’d be easy for me to take a one-sided approach to the idea of finding your passion. I’ve done it before.
In my process of learning and implementing self-improvement, I’ve gone back and forth between stances. I don’t consider this waffling. I consider it true learning. If I wrote something in the past that I come to change my mind on in the present, I won’t change or delete the article. I think of them as timestamps in the past; solidified pieces of thought. I need the reminders of what I used to believe to inspire me to keep questioning my belief systems.
Let’s take a look at the passion debate at every angle so you can make a decision that works for you.
The Pro Argument for Finding Your Passion
A Gallup survey revealed that “A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. ”
You spend basically a third of your entire life working, which means that doing what you hate just to get by robs you of a large portion of existence. Doing what you hate for a living also has a ton of negative consequences. It drains you of your energy, which causes you to be less present with your friends and family while you’re not at work. Being in a negative environment for eight hours a day has a spillover effect.
You’ve seen people who let the jobs they hate whittle away their soul. You see them every day on the highway while you drive to work. Hell, maybe you are one of these people right now. You see the feeling of desperation in the person you walk past in the grocery store and make eye contact with, only for them to ignore you or even frown. And it’s not just that they’ve had a bad day. You can tell life itself has put them into this default state.
Finding your passion, however, produces the exact opposite effect. When you find your passion, you’re full of life. You want to wake up in the morning because you’re excited about the day. When you work, you don’t feel like you’re working. You’re in a flow state and the time passes by without effort.
You’ve heard the saying “Find something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
Why Trying to Find Your Passion is Dangerous and Counterproductive
You can’t eat passion.
Passion doesn’t pay your bills.
You can’t enter “finding your passion” into an application for medical assistance.
Who the hell are these millennials with no life experience to be telling you how to find your passion and live your bliss? They don’t know what they’re talking about.
Someone has to wash the dishes, haul the garbage, do your accounting, construct your roads, and wait your tables. The world spins because of people who don’t follow their passion. On top of that, finding your passion is all good and well until it doesn’t work. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to find it only to get zero tangible results.
If that wasn’t enough cold water splashed on your dreams, here comes the tidal wave, finding your passion can be dangerous. I actually wrote an article about this topic.
Here’s the most highlighted passage:
The problem with focusing on what you’re passionate about is… it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it comes with a poor underlying assumption.The assumption is that your level of love dictates how dedicated you’ll be to the journey. You think that once you find that ultimate passion, things will fall into place, and you’ll do the work necessary to succeed.
This is backward.
In reality, you don’t find passion until you get good at something. When you develop competence in something you enjoy, you build more confidence to help you tackle larger challenges, and you continue to grow, which fuels more passion to repeat the process.
Most people want the results without the effort. They want passion to fall in their lap. You shouldn’t chase or seek your passion because that means it’s trying to evade you. Often, you’ll end up chasing your own tail, running on the advice treadmill, and making no progress toward building a life you love.
Passion is for the birds. Do your job, be thankful you have a roof over your head in the first place, and stop being so entitled.
So, What’s the Real Answer?
As always the real answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The odds of you finding a magical passion right away are basically zero. On the other hand, trying to find your passion is still worth attempting, even with low odds, because the alternative of living below your potential can have dramatic negative consequences, too.
How do you find balance? How do you overcome the hurdles and build a vehicle for your freedom? Here’s everything I know based on a half decade of learning, testing, experimenting, failing (multiple times), and finally succeeding.
Take Everything I Say With a Grain of Salt
I’m a human being just like you. I have my own faults, biases, and beliefs about the world. You can take the exact same steps as me with dramatically different results. There are no guarantees with any of this. Not to tickle your lizard brain and push you toward a negative behavior you’re prone to, but be skeptical of me.
Most people start following self-help writers until a weird thing happens — they fall in love with them.
They get so caught up in the people they’re following they take all their advice verbatim and spend more time idolizing the guru than doing the work.
I read a bunch of self-improvement books. After a while, something interesting happened. I ran into conflicting advice from different sources I respected equally. That meant I had to figure out what was true by testing both sides of a debate to see what works. As I improved my own life, I started to look at these other influencers at eye-level instead of looking up to them. I see behind the smoke and mirrors. I also realize these people are just human beings, not Gods with superhuman talent or vessels of the “secret sauce.”
Far too many of you get trapped in hero worship and mental masturbation. Reading some self-help writers book means nothing. Testing and filtering out their techniques to see who really knows what they’re talking about does. Taking bad advice isn’t neutral. It pushes you back. Be optimistic, but pay attention to who you’re listening to, how they got where they are today, and whether or not you can replicate their strategies.
Eventually, you’ll narrow the people you listen to and you’ll have weeded out the pretenders. Here’s what to do next.
Please, Please, Please Don’t Be This Person
It’s fascinating to see people pick apart advice.
I have a hobby. I go read negative reviews of Amazon books.
One comment I hear often “The author didn’t go into enough depth and provide enough actionable advice.”
Ok. What did you expect exactly? Did you really think an $11 e-book was going to give you the blueprint for millions? What were you looking for exactly?
It’s entirely different to be skeptical and open to testing ideas at the same time than it is to twist the advice you’re given into a narrative that makes you helpless.
“Well, this book doesn’t work for me because I’m [insert perceived idiosyncrasy that thousands or millions of other people actually share].”
You know my response to these people? If this is you, consider this my personal answer to your problem.
Quit. Stop reading self-improvement articles. You’re right. This won’t work. You’ll fail. Go on about your life. Try it out on your own and see how it works. I’m not writing this for you. You are helpless. Just give up. If you’re that cynical about self-improvement, why the hell do you read it? Are you a masochist? Go away. Shoe, fly, shoe.
Nobody is putting a gun to your head telling you to do…anything. If you want to outsource your blame, go for it. It’s a free country. In the meantime, I have a message for people who are ready to hear it.
Shrink Your Ego Down About 1,000 Sizes
You’re at where you’re at because of your choices, beliefs, and effort. Sure, there are some circumstances sprinkled in there, but whether you like it or not, what happens next is on you. I don’t care what you think because the world provides that answer, not me.
You won’t get out of your own way and just listen.
That’s the number one skill of anybody who finds their passion and builds a dream — the ability to listen to and follow directions. If you knew how to guide your own life so well, you wouldn’t be reading this, but you are, so where does that leave you?
- Implement advice when given
- Feed your childish ego every day of your life until you die
I recall a moment that changed everything in my writing career. I read an article about promoting your writing. A detailed, step-by-step guide. I was tempted to rely on my mental crush and twist the advice into a mental pretzel I could feed my ego with, but I didn’t. I did everything the article said. It was hard, tedious, frustrating. I put hours into it with no guarantee of a positive outcome.
It worked exactly the way the author said it would. From then on, I’ve acted on the advice of every book, course, or coaching service I purchased. This is how you win.
Here are all of my most tactical, detailed, and useful guides on finding your passion
- The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Natural Talents and Strengths (5,000 words, detailed, with step by step instructions and resources.
- How to Build a Loyal Audience of Fans (17 minute read, with step by step instructions for writers and creatives and entrepreneurs)
- The Ultimate Guide to Publishing Your First Book (Since 81% of people say they want to write one and most self-help readers are closet writers)
- Kindle Publishing for Beginners (Again, for closet authors — a 10,000-word guest post I wrote on one of the top 5 blogging websites in the entire world with the strictest editing requirements out there. It took me 8 months to write this single post).
I’ve done the work. Lots of it. And I’ve laid it all out for you. What you do with it is your choice.
I know exactly how you feel.
I know, the dull pain you feel every single day of your life that’s just below the radar enough for you to tolerate it.
This isn’t easy, at all. I understand your frustration with the process and the disillusionment you feel toward writers like me who make promises you’re unable to follow through on along with the perverse almost masochistic hope that keeps you coming back for more.
I also know you’re not miserable either. Often, your life as currently constructed is fine. There is no shame whatsoever in doing what you have to do to provide for yourself and others. You can certainly live an amazing life without it being a fantasy.
But you do want more.
And pretending like you don’t won’t make that longing go away. The good news? You have unlimited chances until you die.
I like, you, read 1,034,723, 993 self-improvement and marketing articles while doing nothing. I knew I wanted to be a writer but did nothing about it for 5 years. Then one day, I did.
And five years later, I’m not a millionaire, but I’m basically financially free. My life and career aren’t without their problems. But I wake up every day, screw around on a computer, and get paid for it.
Some people get success and money then say “it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
Nah. It’s everything it’s cracked up to be.
You should find out for yourself.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.