It’s Time We Started Pursuing Our Passions — Despite Our Day Jobs

HS Burney
HS Burney
Sep 3, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

In the corporate world, we talk a lot about hiring people with ‘passion’. They need to be excited by what they do. They need to be intrinsically motivated. Money only goes so far. Passion is the fire that allows people to excel in the workplace.

But how many people are actually passionate about their jobs?

A banker retired last year after a 40-year career. Her plan for her newly wide-open days? Spending her time at the local SPCA. She was an animal lover. She couldn’t wait to be surrounded by meowing cats.

A senior executive at a global bank spends tens of thousands of dollars every year supporting animal charities. Only I know the truth about how burned out she is. She often talks about her deep-seated desire to buy a farm and raise animals.

At some point I will quit the bank, she tells me. But she is only 40. She needs to make more money before she feels comfortable jumping ship.

An acquaintance is a corporate lawyer. Her passion? Traveling. A few years ago, she started a travel blog which ultimately grew so big that she tendered her resignation at the law firm. Her friends were surprised. They had no idea she wanted to quit. She seemed so happy.

But once the sponsors came calling and her blog started churning out a hundred thousand dollars a year, she couldn’t escape the legal world fast enough.

A CFO of a tech firm announced that she was quitting — to become a yoga teacher. Quite a change of pace, I couldn’t help but note. She smiled wider than a crack in the earth during a category 8 earthquake. Yes, indeed. That’s the point! she said.

Although thrust into the breakneck intersection of tech and finance by destiny — and Asian parents — she hungered for long, uninterrupted moments to breathe in her Oms. She had paid her dues, taken two companies public, and made her parents proud. It was time to focus on her own fulfillment.

Is this the only way?

Pursuing a socially acceptable career while caressing the internal child of your passion. Soothing it, and reassuring it that, One day, I will give birth to you. One day, you will see the light. One day, we will make each other very, very happy.

We don’t encourage people to find and pursue their passions early in life. We box them into ‘safe’ and ‘respectable’ careers that follow well-worn paths.

And so, we wait until retirement or auspicious financial circumstances to set our whole selves free.

Even if you make it to retirement, what if your passion fades? People change over time. Or what if you no longer derive joy from what you once loved?

We all have financial obligations that may necessitate pursuing traditional, ‘safe’ career paths. But why can’t we pursue our passions concurrently?

Look at your life as a wall that you need to outfit with different colored drapes. Each drape represents a different priority. You have your day job that pays the bills. You have your family. You have travel. You have your side hustle. You have your hobbies.

At different stages of your life, the colors on your wall will look different. As you get closer to retirement, travel and hobbies will start to take up more space. But it’s much easier to make room for them if you already have them on your window.

Finding your passion isn’t a one-and-done exercise to plow through when you are nineteen and deciding on a college major. Few people know what they are passionate about at that age. Our decisions are mostly determined by outside influences.

“My dad thinks I should go to medical school.”

“I’m choosing a business major because my guidance counselor thinks it’ll make it easier to find a job.”

It’s not that our true passion isn’t lurking inside us at that age. Usually, it is. It’s that we lack the life experience to package it and forge it into a career.

Finding your passion is an iterative process that takes a lifetime. Reflect on what lights the fire inside you. And then pursue it relentlessly. Don’t wait for retirement or some other Utopian event. You don’t know if it will ever come.

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