A few weeks ago I met a key media personality, and being in the same industry he asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I must admit, this question caught me unaware and I had to actually stop to think about it. I couldn’t recall the last time I had been asked this. I considered myself already grown and way past it. He went ahead to say that in his opinion, part of the reason as to why the unemployment rates are high is because most people do not really know what path to take in life, so they’re just swayed by whatever comes their way. He said, ‘It’s easy. Just follow your passion. It will lead you to the answer.’ I went ahead to defend myself, telling him that I don’t have a single passion.
You see, there are people who grow up knowing exactly what they want to pursue career-wise. That was never me. I never had a single passion. Instead, I have always had a passion for every single thing that I put effort into, and most of the time, that is in every opportunity that I get. That’s my passion. So if someone were to tell me to follow my passion, they would be leading me to a myriad of things. Dancing, fabric paintwork, poetry, writing, cooking, working out, photography and a whole bunch of things that cannot be cohesively put down as one career. My consolation is that having one passion in life is extremely self-limiting in a world full of endless possibilities. For me, life is about constantly growing, evolving and learning great new things about yourself. To stick to one particular path would be extremely restraining.
Weeks later, I stumbled upon an article on Forbes magazine that stated blatantly that following your passion is dead. Instead, billionaire Mark Cuban suggests that you should follow your effort. This means doing the things that you are willing to constantly work on for the better without feeling drained. I have to admit that it made me feel a little better about myself for not knowing what my one passion in life is.
A Stanford Research Paper summarizes it this way: “Finding your passion” presupposes that interests and passions are fixed, rather than fluid and evolving as we age and gain wisdom and experience. Those who follow the fixed mindset are much more likely to give up when obstacles arise. As the authors say, “Urging people to find their passion may lead them to put all their eggs in one basket but then to drop that basket when it becomes difficult to carry.”
But that’s not all. Casper co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jeff Chapin says that, “Follow your passion” sounds a lot like “go do your hobby.” The result is people thinking, “I love kitesurfing, so I’m going to go start a kitesurfing business. The reality is you probably ruined your hobby because now you turned your passion into your job.”
Here are a few reasons as to why you should not follow your passion:
- Not everyone has a passion, and this statement makes them feel inadequate
There are people who, from an extremely young age, have a longing towards one particular career such as medicine, law or music. They feel it in their heart that that’s the path they would like to take in life. I have always admired it. Then there are people like me, who’ve always struggled with knowing the answer to this question. This does not mean that there’s anything wrong with the latter. In fact, we end up doing a lot more things in life and venturing into a lot more opportunities. The problem is that when someone asks you what your passion is and you happen to not have an answer, it makes you feel inadequate, when that shouldn’t be the case.
In fact, a study conducted by Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton concluded that following your passion could make you less successful. They said that focusing on a single passion made people less likely to consider new potential areas of interest. This close-minded view can be detrimental to the success of the individual and to the success of communities.
- Passions are not always fulfilling
The fact that you enjoy doing something in your free time does not mean that you will get the same joy in doing it every day. There have been instances where people loved to do something, but the minute they were placed in a situation where it was an 8-5 job working on that particular thing, they started to hate it. It makes sense because some things are just meant to be left as hobbies. If you turn your hobby into a career then it may just stop being a hobby and start to become tiresome. That’s why we are advised to follow our effort. Something that you enjoy learning more about every single day, as opposed to something that we are already supposedly ‘good at.’ There’s nothing fulfilling about being stuck in a space that has no room for growth because you’re already good at it.
- The statement does not consider the market
Let’s be honest. We all need money. I’ve heard people say that doing what you love will translate into money. Which pauses the question, do you work for money or does money work for you? I agree it makes no sense to be stuck in an unfulfilling career that pays a six-figure salary. There’s everything wrong with that. However, the opposite is also true. It makes no sense to be stuck in a fulfilling career that is unable to pay your bills. If you were to blindly follow your passion you might just end up in this situation. Which is why it’s important to differentiate between hobbies and passions. The Forbes magazine actually put out a list of the top 20 jobs that are disappearing. It might not be the best decision to blindly walk into these jobs in the name of following your passion.
- Interests and passions are not fixed, they evolve with time
I’ve met so many people in university who, halfway through, start to question whether what they are studying is actually what they want to pursue career-wise. In their freshman years, the same people were 100% sure of what they were doing. I think the system placed before us also limits us to a certain extent. At 18 years you are expected to make such a big decision that affects your whole life. There’s absolutely everything wrong with that because 20, 40 years down the line we have to live with decisions that were made in our adolescent years. The thing is, people are constantly evolving and growing. Every single day. If you are the same person who you were a year ago, then there’s a problem. Every day should be a learning experience. Your beliefs and interests change every so often, and to have a single passion will catch up with you when it changes because you will feel stuck.
- The statement suggests that passion is all you need
Life would be quite easy if all you had to do was follow your passion in order to excel. However, this is definitely not the case. There are so many factors that go into job satisfaction and ultimate success. To define success as a result of following one’s passion would be misleading.
The problem comes in when all along you are led to believe that all you need to succeed is to follow your passion because when it doesn’t work out you won’t have answers as to why this happened. We are bad at predicting the jobs that we would be best at just by thinking about it. There’s a lot of things to be considered in this determination.
The problem is, we only get to hear the success stories of those who followed their passion and it worked out ultimately. We only hear the good side of it. What is ignored the most is those people who went by this mantra and ended up failing.
I’m not saying that you should completely dismiss the statement. All I’m saying is, consider a few things before accepting that all you need to succeed is to follow your passion. At the end of the day life is about the choices that we make. We are the only ones who will suffer from or enjoy our selections. All I’m saying is that on top of it being your passion, have a much deeper reason as to why you’ve chosen that particular path.
“If you just want to pursue something you enjoy, that might be a sign of laziness rather than genuine passion.” ~Harry Briggs Venture Capitalist