Imagine that you have the perfect job. Every morning you show up to work as if to a party. Your Mondays and Tuesdays feel like a weekend. You don’t have to feel divided anymore. There is no more of the day job self, so different than your evening and holiday one. You feel excited about your work.
Pretty cool image, isn’t it? This is a life we all dream about and it’s actually attainable.
However, why on earth would the “follow your passion” slogan help you get there? And what does following a passion even mean, anyway?
What “follow your passion” tells you is that you have an innate vocation. Like a software stuck inside your head, written before you were even born, waiting for you to discover and activate it. It sounds a bit like Star Wars, yes.
IF you can discover it and bring up the courage to abandon your previous life and preoccupation, in order to follow it, your working life will become a dream come true.
Then, you get to spend the rest of your life asking yourself whether there is a bigger passion lying dormant, waiting to be discovered.
What if you already have a passion and you’ve been following it so far?
Well, then you must know that passion comes and goes, while hard work and good habits keep you going, at times. Moreover, you know that you’ve started developing your skill first and passion simply followed.
Why should I believe you? All great people followed their passion!
Try to read about the lives of people you admire keeping this idea in mind. You will discover that they didn’t follow a passion, they cultivated one instead.
Take for example Steve Jobs, the famous advocate of the “follow your passion” concept. We’ve all wiped a tear watching his Stanford Commencement Address. If you haven’t, here is a link.
“Do as Steve Jobs did, not as he said.”
However, Steve Jobs didn’t follow his passion. He actually stumbled into building the Apple Computer. At first, he only saw the whole computer business as an opportunity to make a quick $1000. At that time, he was passionate about Eastern Mysticism. He was walking barefoot around town, wearing his hair long and preaching Zen Buddhism. He was open to opportunity, though. Eventually, he cultivated a passion for computers, because he wanted to.
What does Science have to say?
A group of Stanford psychologists led by Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton conducted a series of studies that examined people’s belief systems and whether they help them succeed or make them fail.
470 participants qualified for the study and they were separated into 2 categories:
- science and math lovers
- humanities and arts passionates
The psychologists observed both groups reading articles and watching videos on various subjects: some of interest to them and others that they found boring. Participants only interested in one topic were less likely to understand and finish the whole study material.
What that means is that following only one passion made people less inclined to consider new areas of interest. This closed-minded view can be detrimental to personal success and the success of larger communities.
6 things you should do instead
1. Cultivate your passion
There is no passion waiting for you to discover. Passion is something you have to start cultivating. This is why you should put your efforts into building the passion for a job. Unless you totally hate it, it can be the job you have right now.
On the other hand, simply following a passion implies you take the time to first discover it, then you search for a job that eventually matches. This process could take years of unsuccessful research and confusion.
2. Change your mindset
You might think of the perfect career as an opportunity to live your passion every working day.
How about you start thinking of life as a long series of opportunities to develop and cultivate many passions?
3. It’s fun to be the best
Start developing skills! The more you practice, the better you become. When you become very good at doing something, you also become passionate about it.
4. Seek freedom
Freedom was discovered to be one of the most important indicators of happiness, according to Prof. Cal Newport in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You.
He explains that once you become able to provide real value, you can exchange this so-called career capital for more freedom. More freedom could mean the ability to only do the work that matters to you, working less, or working remotely. It could also mean projects with greater creativity, autonomy, and real impact.
5. Choose your skills according to reality
Every historical age had a few jobs of great interest and need. Other jobs, like the medical career, will always be important. We live in a time when the need for many jobs disappears faster than before and new careers take the spotlight every day. This is why you need to understand what skills are valued by the market you want to work in.
Decide what skills you want to learn and become very good at, relative to your competition and your natural aptitudes.
Don’t be scared of the competition! A competitive market means lots of jobs and great chances for you to earn big money.
6. Use the Hedgehog Method to choose your skills
This is a system described in the book Good to Great, written by Jim Collins.
What the method suggests is that you focus on learning a skill able to meet the following 3 criteria:
- It is something you enjoy doing
- It is something you can become very good at
- There is an established market for this skill
You can learn how to actually apply the hedgehog method from this guy. He’s got it all covered.
What does it all mean? It means that you have a lot of options for actively choosing a great career. You get to make your own choices and be passionate about many things in life. You are the one to choose what skills to master, not an innate calling planted there without your knowledge and consent.
Please leave a comment below and let me know what skill you choose to cultivate first!