Earlier this year I contemplated writing a graduation speech. I wanted to inspire, but I needed inspiration myself.
I watched some of the most memorable graduation speeches ever — Steve Jobs, Jerry Zucker, even Bono.
To me, the takeaway was always the same: “stay true and follow your passion.” But what the hell does that mean? And if it’s so easy, then why are 64% of workers under 25 disinterested and unhappy with their jobs? There’s clearly something missing.
We know to follow our passion, but the majority aren’t passionate about their work.
Did this problem arise from a genuine lack of interesting work, or could it possibly have stemmed from a misguided belief of what passion is and how it can be achieved?
Personally, I think it’s the latter. Let’s take a minute to redefine passion, explore two of its most sinister myths, and finally look at effective methods for discovering your passion.
Passion is insatiable curiosity.
It is the limitless desire that arises from working towards and mastering a skill. But oftentimes we forget that passion is not something that is always readily apparent.
Passion needs to be discovered, cultivated, and built over time.
And our biggest mistake of all?
We get so caught up in trying to find this elusive “passion” that we forget to enjoy the adventure of searching for it in the first place.
Now, let’s delve a little deeper into two of the most common myths about passion.
Myth 1: Passion is self-evident
You don’t inherently know what you’re passionate about.
While some people discover passion from an early age, the large majority are left clueless, anxiously searching for that perfect position we can fully identify with. Rather than the job hunt being an exciting exploration of promising options, it becomes a strenuous process that is littered with periods of self-doubt.
Lack of passion at the workplace is a HUGE problem.
For most of us, our job will constitute 60+ hours per week. It’s not far-fetched to assume that literally half of our waking lives will be centered around our work, so the immediate desire to find passion is obvious.
But what if you don’t know what you’re passionate about, or what direction you’re supposed to head with your life? Is something wrong? Hardly. To quote Ira Glass:
“the idea that you can figure out in the abstract what you are supposed to do with your career is not just a mistake, but a tragic mistake.”
There is an overwhelming belief that your first few jobs will impact your career path indefinitely. That’s bullshit. For context, at age 25:
- Mark Cuban was a bartender in Dallas. Now he owns Magnolia Pictures, Landmark Theaters, and the Dallas Mavericks.
- Ariana Huffington was traveling the world going to music festivals. Since then, she’s started the Huffington Post.
- Ralph Lauren was a sales associate at Brooks Brothers before founding Polo Ralph Lauren and a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
- Warren Buffet was an investment salesman. Now he’s arguably the most prominent investor ever and worth over $50B.
- And best of all, Tim Allen was being arrested and thrown in jail for two years for possessing over 600 grams of cocaine. Since then, he’s become an incredibly popular American actor and entertainer.
Myth 2: Passion is self-existent
Passion is acquired through experience and excitement. It’s derived from turning something you love to do into something you’re skilled at doing. You don’t just discover passion and then match a job to it;
it’s something that needs to be grown and cultivated over time.
The problem is that we seek immediacy.
We want to be good at what we love NOW. Not tomorrow, not 6 months from now, and certainly not ten years from now. We forget that discovering and developing passion is itself a process, and oftentimes a lengthy one.
It requires you to hone your abilities and leverage your value in order to shape working life into a lifestyle that resonates within. Just because you think you’ve found your passion doesn’t mean that it can instantly translate into a meaningful and fulfilling profession.
Cultivating passion is a blend of hard work and determination.You need to be willing to put in the necessary time for experimentation and exploration. If the work is becoming increasingly more enjoyable, you know you’re on the right track.
Avoiding the fate of the 64%
My advice? Replace decisiveness with curiosity. View every job not as an irreparable decision, but as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and a stepping stone towards identifying your true passions.
Remember to always remain open-minded and versatile, as no position is permanent and new opportunities will always arise.
Life is about constant learning, discovery, and rediscovery. Passionate work will come, but it can’t be forced. And when opportunity does present itself, be ready to go after it with all you’ve got and “be so good they can’t ignore you.“
Artwork by Marta Job.
4. Quote by Steve Martin: http://blogcastfm.com/blogcastfm/how-to-be-so-good-they-cant-ignore-you-with-cal-newport/
5. Additional inspiration from http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/10/16/the-passion-trap-how-the-search-for-your-lifes-work-is-making-your-working-life-miserable/