A piece of advice that self-improvement gurus and “successful” people around the world don’t seem to tire of shouting is, “Follow your passion.” Just one Google search and millions of results will present themselves.
But just like most other famous quotes, I’ve realized over the years that this inspiring and romantic quote is actually poor advice for the real world.
First, There’s No “One” Passion
As a middle-schooler, I was extremely fond of sketching. Nothing used to offer me more joy than bending over a sheet of paper for hours and pouring life into my imagination. But somewhere along the line, my passion for it fizzled out.
Towards the end of middle school, I discovered roller-skating and fell in love with it. I trained hard every single day, competed, and even won a few medals.
In 12th grade, I started lifting weights, and it usurped skating’s place. In college, thanks to the free time and gym culture, I became a full-blown gym rat. A skipped workout or a cheat meal would have me tossing in bed at night.
Last year, thanks to the lockdown, I chanced upon the world of finance, fell in love with stock trading, and found myself contemplating a master's in finance. Fast forward a few months, I wrote my first Medium article, and soon, writing took the front seat.
All my life, new passions have cropped up and old ones have faded away.
Today, I read, work out, write, invest, and explore. I have no illusions about these passions either and am certain that they'll change as I grow through life.
With hundreds of thousands of things to do in today's world, isn’t it absurd to think that you would find only “one” passion?
By sticking to and following your “passion”, you stop exploring and deprive yourself of other passions — possibly ones that you would love more than your present one.
You could think that “This is it! I’ve found my true calling” but still find something more enjoyable in the future. Tim Denning dreamed of becoming a world-famous DJ but found and fell in love with writing instead.
Similarly, I was dead sure about fitness, but writing came along. Down the line, something else might replace it as well.
With hundreds of thousands of things to do in today’s world, isn’t it absurd to think that you would find only “one” passion?
It Will Suck the Soul Out of Your Passion
When I got serious about fitness and transitioned into a full-blown gym rat, I started posting regularly to Instagram and Quora. I even contemplated building a career in fitness.
One day, a Quora answer about my body transformation went viral and messages flooded my inbox. Seeing an excellent opportunity, I rolled out personal coaching, and many enrolled.
Soon, my following was increasing, minor brands were reaching out and there was a steady trickle of clients. On the surface, things were looking great, but beneath it, my passion for fitness was waning.
The tedious process of preparing diet plans made me hate and procrastinate on my own meal prep. And the need to constantly click photos and record videos disrupted my workouts.
With followers, likes, clients, and money mattering, fitness ceased to.
On the road of following my passion, I was losing the passion itself.
So I quit — I stopped both posting and personal training. And working out became bliss again.
Similarly, in my beginning days on Medium, the lure of money made me write cheap clickbait cookie-cutter articles and develop an obsession with the stats. Only losing a night of sleep because of the stress and anxiety made me go, “F**k the stats and the earnings.”
When you follow your passion and depend on it for a living, the pressure to earn money and pay your bills will leech the fun out of it. One of the top writers on this platform, Tom Kuegler has also experienced the same. To quote him:
“It used to be therapy for me to write something — even if nobody would read it. Now I feel nothing. My goal isn’t to stop writing blog posts or making videos or running my publication — it’s to not have to rely on that for money. My goal is to turn a hobby back into what it’s meant to be — something enjoyable.”
Author and Journalist, Elizabeth Gilbert also has something similar to say, and she puts it beautifully.
“I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life… I’ve always felt like this is so cruel to your work — to demand a regular paycheck from it… I held on to my day jobs for so long because I wanted to keep my creativity free and safe
There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence?”
When you make your passion your job, it ceases to be your passion and becomes just that — a job.
Do This Before You Seriously Pursue Your Passion(s)
Despite being ultra-passionate about writing, I have no plans of quitting my job and becoming a full-time writer anytime soon. The same goes for fitness.
Both are integral elements of my life that afford me joy and I want to keep them that way.
But what I do plan on doing is achieving financial freedom or “retiring” as early as 27 or 30 and then pursuing my passions. The idea is simple — financial independence means that you don’t have to work to earn money anymore.
You basically set yourself up so that you don’t have to work to pay for your living expenses anymore. You can achieve this through consistent saving, prudent investing, and minimizing your expenses.
Once we achieve financial freedom, we can truly pursue our passions. When I don’t have to worry about paying my bills, I can go all-in — work on a book, restart personal coaching, start a venture, or anything else.
The best part is that you have a safety net irrespective of whether or not your pursuits succeed since you are financially free.
When I don’t have to worry about paying my bills, I can go all in.
It’s never too late to start working towards financial freedom, but the earlier you start, the better.
So start now.
Follow your passion is not poor advice but rather incomplete advice.
You should seriously pursue your passion or more accurately passions, but only after achieving financial freedom. Should you sideline them till then and slave away to earn money?
Absolutely not. You can and should still make the time to pursue them. Don’t give the excuse that you don’t have enough time.
Swap out things like mindless social media scrolling, regularly partying, binge-watching, etc. and you’ll have more than enough time. It’s all about prioritization. If you want to make time for something, you will be able to.
So work towards financial freedom, devote time to your passions, keep exploring and once you achieve financial freedom, go all-in with your passions!
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, consider joining A Better Life. It’s free! You’ll receive my best posts and a weekly newsletter called Sunday Self-Scaler to help kick your week off to a good start. Also, here are a few similar articles you might enjoy,
Why “Being a Good Listener” Could Be Holding You Back
Really connecting with someone takes a good deal more