4 REASONS WHY “FOLLOW YOUR PASSION” IS THE WORST ADVICE EVER

Alice Vuong
Dec 25, 2018 · 6 min read

Why passion is the most dangerous word in our vocabulary

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I hate the word passion.

“Follow your passion” is the worst advice ever given.

We’ve been throwing it around carelessly with no consideration for the giant hammer that’s going to drop for those who listen to the be all end all rule.

Follow your passion has been given as advice for as long as I can remember and we eat it up. We naively believe that if we follow our passion, everything will just fall into place for us.

Here’s why “Follow Your Passion” is the worst advice ever.

PASSION MAKES US PASSIVE

When I think of passion, I think of this uncontrollable, unstoppable emotion that overtakes every ounce of my being. But how do we find an emotion? We fantasize about the AHA moment where we’ll wake up one day and finally know what to do with our lives.

And that’s all we end up doing.

Dreaming.
Waiting.
Dreaming.

If we wait long enough, that undeniable surging wave of passion will hit us and everything will fall into place. So instead of actively trying to find what our passion is, we wait for it to magically appear.

Rather than chase our curiosities, we succumb to complacency.

Passion will not fall into our laps. To follow is first to find but we can’t find if we’re standing there waiting to be saved.

Nobody is born with passion. Finding a passion starts by experimenting and exploring our interests. But chasing our curiosities takes effort and time, both of which we don’t want to waste so we don’t end up trying because of it:

  • might not turn out to be the thing we want to do for the rest of our lives
  • could be a waste of money and time
  • maybe one of those things we give up on

But how can we know any of these things if we’re waiting for passion to strike?

The only thing we can control is whether we’re willing to act on our curiosities or not.

IT TRICKS US INTO BELIEVING WE CAN ONLY DO ONE THING FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES

Passion is often compared to purpose and we all want to find purpose in and with our lives.

What happens when we lose our passion for something? We feel guilty if we no longer have the zest we once felt especially if we’ve been doing it for a few years. For most of us, passion erroneously means a lifetime commitment.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, the human mind is constantly evolving.

We change with time. We’re not the same person we were when we were 5 when our passions consisted of annoying our siblings and running around on the playground and we’re not the same person we were when we graduated from high school or college.

As kids, we had no qualms about starting or ending anything. It’s not until we get older that the idea of time and money start to plague us. We hate the thought of having wasted money or time but here a few reasons to move on from our current “passion”:

  • it no longer supports our values or belief system
  • we’ve taken it as far as we want to take it
  • it doesn’t fit in with our goals anymore
  • the idea of it no longer fulfills us or brings us joy

We are entitled to have different interests and we are allowed to evolve.

What we are not justified to do is limit ourselves to the choices we made 10 or 20 years ago. We are more capable of what we think we can accomplish.

Limiting our passions to just one only limits ourselves.

NOT KNOWING WHAT OUR PASSION IS MAKES US FEEL LIKE LOSERS

Everyone seems to be following their passion or advocating for this path. Those who don’t know what that is feel lost, alone, and basically like losers because they are surrounded by people who have seemingly figured it out. Not knowing makes us feel ashamed, lost and fearful that we’ll live in this limbo for the rest of our lives.

I don’t think anyone says it better than Mark Manson,

“Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. All of it.”

Just because someone else knows what their focus is right now doesn’t mean you need to know. We’re all at different stages in our lives and being at different stages doesn’t mean they’ve won and you’ve lost; you just haven’t gotten to the finish line yet. And so what if you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up?

The only thing we can do is to explore, experiment, and do something even with the doubt in our minds.

IT CREATES A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

A fire is burning.

There are butterflies in our bellies.

We have found our passion. HURRAH!

Now what?

Well, we have to quit our jobs and spend every waking moment on this new found passion!

Right?

No! Please don’t do that!

We don’t pursue anything just for the simple pleasure of doing it anymore.

We mix business with pleasure way too soon because there’s a need to make money off our passion as soon as possible.

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

It’s not a ridiculous notion that we would instinctively want to make money off our passion. But let’s face it, the reason why people continue to work and forego the idea of following their passion is because passion doesn’t always equal profit. It’s preposterous to assume that your passion will earn you money and we shouldn’t expect it to unless we truly work our asses off, possibly for years.

AND WE KNOW ALL THIS!

When someone tells you to follow your passion and the money will follow, it develops a “If You Create It, They Will Come” mentality and soon we feel entitled to the fame and fortune that our passion will supposedly bring. And when our expectations aren’t met, we’re disappointed way too soon and give up just as quickly. We develop the dangerous mindset of “If our passion doesn’t bring us profit, then why bother doing it?”

But rather than expecting anything from your passion, forget about the results and enjoy the process. When did we decide that working a 9–5 was now beneath us? There is nothing wrong with working a day job so that you can freely enjoy working on your passion project in the evening with no expectations from it except for it to bring you enjoyment. And there’s nothing wrong about working the day job until we figure out how to make money off of it if that’s our end goal.

Expectations create entitlement and we are not entitled to anything in this world unless we work our asses off to earn it.

“EVERYONE HAS TALENT. WHAT’S RARE IS TO FOLLOW IT TO THE DARK PLACES WHERE IT LEADS” — ERICA JONG

We allow the idea of passion to have such power over us and it’s like we’re helpless to it. If we wait around for it to hit us in the face before we get started on anything, we end up doing nothing. It leaves us confused and motionless if we don’t know what our passions are because how can we justifiably step into an abyss of unknown?

The word passion only has power to the extent that we allow it to. To follow our passion, calling, whatever you want to call it, is just a very scary way to say go after your interests, see what might come of taking a step towards realizing what you’re really capable of.

We are only as great as the decisions we make and the action we take.

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Alice Vuong

Written by

Living life imperfectly and as creatively as possible. I write about creativity, motherhood and personal growth. Website: www.alicevuong.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +719K people. Follow to join our community.

Alice Vuong

Written by

Living life imperfectly and as creatively as possible. I write about creativity, motherhood and personal growth. Website: www.alicevuong.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +719K people. Follow to join our community.

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