The Brutally Honest Guide to “Finding Your Passion”

Ugh. “How to find your passion” Cue the doves, rainbows, and synchronized unicorn dance ensemble.

Here’s a topic used frequently in entrepreneurship.  “Make your work your passion and you won’t have a job.”  Two points of view below.

How to Use a Double-Edged Sword

I refer to the double-edged sword concept a lot. Life comes with tradeoffs and opportunity costs. You can’t experience the positive aspects of a decision and remove the unintended consequences at the same time. One example I use often is the fact that self-improvement can help you find the inspiration you need to change, but it can also lead to mental masturbation — the process of congratulating yourself for learning withouttaking action.

Learning how to find your passion has a double-edged sword, too. One of the best lessons I’ve learned involves understanding both sides of an argument. Unless you can fully understand the opposite case to what you believe to be true, you don’t have knowledge. It’d be easy for me to take a one-sided approach to the idea of finding your passion. I’ve done it before.

In my process of learning and implementing self-improvement, I’ve gone back and forth between stances. I don’t consider this waffling. I consider it true learning. If I wrote something in the past that I come to change my mind on in the present, I won’t change or delete the article. I think of them as timestamps in the past; solidified pieces of thought. I need the reminders of what I used to believe to inspire me to keep questioning my belief systems.

Let’s take a look at the passion debate at every angle so you can make a decision that works for you.

The Pro Argument for Finding Your Passion

A Gallup survey revealed that “A staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. ”

You spend basically a third of your entire life working, which means that doing what you hate just to get by robs you of a large portion of existence. Doing what you hate for a living also has a ton of negative consequences. It drains you of your energy, which causes you to be less present with your friends and family while you’re not at work. Being in a negative environment for eight hours a day has a spillover effect.

You’ve seen people who let the jobs they hate whittle away their soul. You see them every day on the highway while you drive to work. Hell, maybe you are one of these people right now. You see the feeling of desperation in the person you walk past in the grocery store and make eye contact with, only for them to ignore you or even frown. And it’s not just that they’ve had a bad day. You can tell life itself has put them into this default state.

Finding your passion, however, produces the exact opposite effect. When you find your passion, you’re full of life. You want to wake up in the morning because you’re excited about the day. When you work, you don’t feel like you’re working. You’re in a flow state and the time passes by without effort.

You’ve heard the saying “Find something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Why Trying to Find Your Passion is Dangerous and Counterproductive

You can’t eat passion. Passion doesn’t pay your bills.  You can’t enter “finding your passion” into an application for medical assistance.

Who the hell are these millennials with no life experience to be telling you how to find your passion and live your bliss? They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Someone has to wash the dishes, haul the garbage, do your accounting, construct your roads, and wait your tables. The world spins because of people who don’t follow their passion. On top of that, finding your passion is all good and well until it doesn’t work. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to find it only to get zero tangible results.

If that wasn’t enough cold water splashed on your dreams, here comes the tidal wave, finding your passion can be dangerous. I actually wrote an article about this topic.  Here’s the most highlighted passage:

“The problem with focusing on what you’re passionate about is… it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because it comes with a poor underlying assumption.The assumption is that your level of love dictates how dedicated you’ll be to the journey. You think that once you find that ultimate passion, things will fall into place, and you’ll do the work necessary to succeed.”

This is backward.

In reality, you don’t find passion until you get good at something. When you develop competence in something you enjoy, you build more confidence to help you tackle larger challenges, and you continue to grow, which fuels more passion to repeat the process.

Most people want the results without the effort. They want passion to fall in their lap. You shouldn’t chase or seek your passion because that means it’s trying to evade you. Often, you’ll end up chasing your own tail, running on the advice treadmill, and making no progress toward building a life you love.  Do your job, be thankful you have a roof over your head in the first place, and stop being so entitled.

So, What’s the Real Answer?

As always the real answer lies somewhere in the middle.  The odds of you finding a magical passion right away are basically zero. On the other hand, trying to find your passion is still worth attempting, even with low odds, because the alternative of living below your potential can have dramatic negative consequences, too.

How do you find balance? How do you overcome the hurdles and build a vehicle for your freedom? Here’s everything I know based on a half decade of learning, testing, experimenting, failing (multiple times), and finally succeeding.

Take Everything I Say With a Grain of Salt

I’m a human being just like you. I have my own faults, biases, and beliefs about the world. You can take the exact same steps as me with dramatically different results. There are no guarantees with any of this. Not to tickle your lizard brain and push you toward a negative behavior you’re prone to, but be skeptical of me.

Most people start following self-help writers until a weird thing happens — they fall in love with them.  They get so caught up in the people they’re following they take all their advice verbatim and spend more time idolizing the guru than doing the work.

I read a bunch of self-improvement books. After a while, something interesting happened. I ran into conflicting advice from different sources I respected equally. That meant I had to figure out what was true by testing both sides of a debate to see what works. As I improved my own life, I started to look at these other influencers at eye-level instead of looking up to them. I see behind the smoke and mirrors. I also realize these people are just human beings, not Gods with superhuman talent or vessels of the “secret sauce.”

Far too many of you get trapped in hero worship and mental masturbation. Reading some self-help writers book means nothing. Testing and filtering out their techniques to see who really knows what they’re talking about does. Taking bad advice isn’t neutral. It pushes you back. Be optimistic, but pay attention to who you’re listening to, how they got where they are today, and whether or not you can replicate their strategies.

Eventually, you’ll narrow the people you listen to and you’ll have weeded out the pretenders. Here’s what to do next.

Please, Please, Please Don’t Be This Person

It’s fascinating to see people pick apart advice.  I have a hobby. I go read negative reviews of Amazon books. One comment I hear often “The author didn’t go into enough depth and provide enough actionable advice.”  Ok. What did you expect exactly? Did you really think an $11 e-book was going to give you the blueprint for millions? What were you looking for exactly?

Resources:  Here are all of my most tactical, detailed, and useful guides on finding your passion

AND…What Part Does Passion Play in Your Success as an Entrepreneur

The energy of passion. Such energy will keep you going when the tasks are unpleasant, the money isn’t coming in, and your physical energy has done left the building. It can be the one thing that earns the trust of your employees and customers. It will fuel your business when the economy gets tight and the competition gets fierce. Without energy, as I said in “3 Ways to Leverage the Resource You Can Least Afford to Do Without” you’re toast.