Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Horrible Advice (What To Do Instead)

You’ve probably seen this advice somewhere while surfing the internet, watching a TV show, or reading a book.

Or perhaps, at some point in time, you’ve asked someone you considered an expert – someone you highly look up to – for advice on how to build your own business so you can escape the Rat Race.

They undoubtedly gave you the same misguided advice:

I’m here to tell you that this is the worst advice you’ll ever get, and therefore, you need to stop paying attention to it.

Unfortunately, this mantra has become one of the most popular pieces of career advice in recent times.

This cliché suggests that the key to discovering a good career is figuring out what you’re most interested in (your passion) and creating a career around that interest.

It’s a very sexy piece of advice – just follow your passion, and you will have an enviable career.

This advice undoubtedly comes from a good place– a place where people can feel permission to do the things that bring them joy and fulfillment.

And if you look at all of the successful people in the world, they’re always passionate about their jobs and businesses.

But the “passion” thing is misleading for several reasons.

Don’t “Follow Your Passion”

1. Passion Alone Cannot Guarantee Satisfaction

Let’s face it.

The truth is that even if you’re interested in a particular thing but you lack the necessary disciplines required to build a career in that interest, you will still be left unsatisfied.

You may be really passionate about baking cakes, but you’re terrible in the kitchen.

Similarly, let’s say you have a passion (and the skillset) that can make you money, but you work with people you dislike, you will still hate the lifestyle you’ve created.

In a nutshell, “following your passion” could mean leading you into situations which are much less than ideal, and therefore, deeply unfulfilling.

Even if your work is your passion, you will still need to be disciplined, focused, and balanced. These are not easy things to do and can cause you a severe amount of discomfort, even though you’re doing what you’re most passionate about.

2. We Often Have More Than One Passion

Let me ask you a question: What is the only thing you’re passionate about?

Having trouble picking just one thing?

Exactly the point!

We’re often passionate about many things, and a lot of the time, we’re passionate about those things with the same level of intensity. So how do we decide which of these passions to follow?

Unfortunately, most people who go with this advice usually get confused choosing between two passions and end up not doing anything.

Sometimes, different ideas may appear to be so far apart that it becomes hard to combine them into one passion. This leads to “indecision paralysis”. They are unable to make a decision, so the decision they make is to do nothing.

Let’s say you spent a really long time pursuing one passion, but then because of #1, #3, and/or #4 you realize that you don’t want to be doing that anymore, you will spend the next little while steeping in regret over not picking another one of your other passions.

This is a serious demotivator.

3. You May Not Have A Profitable Passion

The fact that you love a particular thing does not mean you can make money with it. What if you’re the only one who likes the thing that you do?

Let me tell you, for you to be able to carve out a good career from your passion, it must be something that already has an audience; it must be something that people are ready and willing to spend their money on.

But unfortunately, some passions lack this quality.

Let’s say your passion is bicycle repair, but there is no one riding a bicycle in your neighborhood…

What are you going to do? Don’t tell me you will manufacture bicycle riders!

If you have a passion that does not readily have an audience that will benefit from it, then the idea of building a career with your passion is a dead one.

Note: A bicycle repair blog could be a very profitable niche…

The simple fact remains: Passion does not always equal profit.

4. Passions Change With Time

Like every other thing in life, passions evolve — what you liked doing as a teenager has probably changed as you got older.

Sometimes you just don’t find these things fun anymore (at least, not as much as you used to), and you would rather do something that you know will be more fulfilling and will ultimately add value to other people’s lives.

It’s always advisable to be open-minded and not focused on just chasing a self-interested passion, because in the future, you might discover something else that brings you unquantifiable joy.

In one of his posts in the Huffington Post (Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bizarre Advice), Cal Newport carried out an experiment where he met many people who all claimed to love what they do for a living.

However, after listening to their stories, Newport discovered that, “Very few of these happy workers knew in advance what they wanted to do with their life — their path was more haphazard.”

Simply following the string of your desires is not going to mean anything if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Your passions will change, so instead of following them, you need to figure out how to do something else that will lead to fulfillment.

Don’t Follow Your Passion (Do This Instead)

The first thing to do is to identify some general lifestyle traits that resonate with you. Some people seek power, energy, and respect, while others want freedom, comfort, and autonomy.

Whichever traits resonate with you, remember that you’re not identifying a job or even an industry. Rather, you’re defining a lifestyle.

After that, the next step is to discover a good position that will lead you to your target lifestyle…

Under one condition….

You must become insanely valuable to the organization.

This is where most people fumble. The traits that develop these types of lifestyles are often precious and hard to come by. Sadly, if you lack the valuable skills to offer in exchange for these traits, you’ll end up not getting them at all.

Now, here’s an important thing:

Most of the jobs out there will lead you to your desired lifestyle if you satisfy this value condition.

In fact, your current job might be a good fit.

Now, I’m guessing you know what your desired lifestyle should look like. Now, you just need to go and find a career that will lead you to that lifestyle. But remember, the prerequisite in this hunt is becoming an exceptional resource for your employer.

I’m not talking about being punctual and meeting deadlines. Instead, I’m talking about you being so good that your employer will do whatever it takes to retain you.

This goal is easy to understand, but it’s difficult to accomplish. Many people who desire excellence usually end up reading a lot and not doing anything. They fill their heads up with knowledge, but they don’t know how to execute that knowledge into something tangible.

True experts start by identifying a small number of specific skills that are most valuable to their industry, and then they practice these skills like how a professional musician practices their instrument. Daily practice is essential.

When you’ve succeeded at developing rare and valuable skills, you should leverage those skills to acquire the lifestyle traits you initially identified that you wanted to achieve.

When you start to maneuver through the business world with this mindset, you will start to accept that “follow your passion” is really silly advice.

The better advice is:

Don’t follow your passion.

Harsh Agrawal

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