This month will mark eight years since I opted to follow my passion instead of taking the safer route towards a more predictable and steadier paycheck. It’s been a journey filled with joy and tears, successes and failures, moments of certainty that I’m on the right path and others of being down on my knees, hands on the floor, questioning my sanity.
It’s changed me. It’s had me look at people, places and life differently. It’s had me rethink how I view this idea of going for your passion and what that really means when it comes to doing work you love and loving the work you do.
There’s a difference between following your passion and being passionate about what you do.
I used to think that the two were interchangeable, that if you weren’t following your soul’s passion it wasn’t possible to be passionate about what you were doing. But I see now that isn’t true.
My passion, that one thing that I would do if money were no object, the thing that fuels my soul, has always been to be a writer. But I have learned that does not preclude that there is other work I enjoy doing that I’m also passionate about.
You can be passionate about doing work that is not your heart’s one true passion.
We all have that one true passion that lives in our hearts. Some of us choose to pursue it. Some of us keep it so buried we can’t even define it. But if you’re open to it you can find passion in what shows up.
In my early days in radio, I was told I had to sell a Country Music format – at the time a music genre I barely tolerated. I thought I was going to have to quit. But instead I found something in there that I could be passionate about – selling and the power of sound and how radio could help my clients.
Passion can be reignited.
In the later years of my corporate life, I thought my passion for marketing and advertising and helping people grow their business – which is essentially what I had spent most of my career doing – had been sucked dry. The television and radio business had changed. The focus was no longer on the work or the product, but on bringing in the money at any cost. There’s very little creativity – much less passion – to be found in that.
And then I met digital. This whole new area of media was unfolding just as I left my old world. I entered it as a way to brand myself and my career – whatever that was going to be – not expecting that all these new tools to test out and new ways of communicating messages would be something I found really exciting and lay the groundwork for what I do now. The people who were in it weren’t afraid of the changes. They embraced them and exuded a passion and authenticity I had not seen in a long time.
Environment is important to fueling your passion.
Staying passionate about what you do requires surrounding yourself with like-minded people. You can’t do it in a bubble. Passionate people like to help other passionate people.
This has been perhaps one of the hardest learning experiences for me. I’ve always had a full garden when it comes to friends. But until I set off to follow my own passion and do something different, I was not fully aware of how few of them harbored any real passion for what they were doing or cared that they didn’t. Equally surprising was where I found support in my journey and where I didn’t.
The disappointment is that along the way, some of those people got weeded out to make room for those on similar quests.
It’s easier to work when you can find your passion in it.
My ninety-three year old mother often comments that it seems I work more now than I ever did in my corporate days. This is partially true. There’s little demarcation between my work and personal life and because my world is not planned around a Monday to Friday, nine to five regiment it can appear as if I am always working.
But the other part is that when you’re passionate about what you do and when it brings you joy – it doesn’t always feel like work.
Joy is a by product of doing work you are passionate about.
Writing brings me joy. Not just for myself, but it turns out just as much as when I’m writing content for a client. So does teaching and helping other people or when I’m speaking in front of a group. When a client tells me I’ve energized them and simplified what otherwise seemed enormously complicated, I feel joyful and I know it’s because I bring my passion to everything I do.
Your true passion will fuel you, but you may find that to not be enough.
I dreamt for a long time of doing nothing but writing all day. But once I had that opportunity, I realized I still needed human interaction.
I needed to write to breath, but I still had to have my pulse on the marketing and business world. If my novel was made into a movie tomorrow and money was no object, I would still want to teach and speak and consult when I wasn’t writing.
What you’re most passionate about may not be what earns you the most income.
Above all else, I do, I am writer. Unfortunately it is still – at least at this writing – what I get paid the least to do. Still, I continue to feed that passion whenever I can because I know that by feeding that passion, it’s easier to for me to bring passion to everything else I do.
Passion is important.
The world likes to discuss it as a luxury. That shouldn’t be. Whether it’s your true passion or something you tripped over that you’re passionate about doing, seek work that elicits that feeling. It’s a necessary part of the equation if you’re going to get anything more than a paycheck out of what you do.
Passion is an attitude that can be cultivated.
One of my former NYU students told me she wanted to be like me when she got older – passionate and still excited about learning. I told her it required work but the secret was in staying curious. In knowing that you will never know it all and there is always something new to explore. It’s also about being present – making the time to meditate, do yoga, or as I like to do tap – all of which require breathing and staying open to possibility.
Passion still requires hustle.
There is an idea out there that if you build it they will come. If you do what you love the money will flow forth without effort. While that can happen and it’s a necessary part of the equation, it’s generally not that easy. Going for your passion or just being passionate about the work you do still requires hustle. The difference is it’s hustle with passion.