The Hidden Dangers of Following Your Passion

Why did this happen?

The passion hypothesis convinces people that somewhere there’s a magic “right” job waiting for them, and if they find it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the work they were meant to do. The problem of course is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt — Cal Newport

The Short Road from Passion to Poverty

hidden dangers of following your passion
Photographer: Hobi industri | Source: Unsplash

Passion is not something you follow.

Tourists riding camels
Photographer: Chandler Chen | Source: Unsplash
  1. Exploring what I was curious about
  2. Becoming aware of what I found engaging
  3. Developing skills
  4. Striving for mastery.

4 Keys to Avoiding the Hidden Dangers of Following your Passion

Follow your passion isn’t just bad advice. It’s vague. Maybe you’re passionate about something, but you have no idea what to do about it. Discovering your passion, on the other hand, allows you to be more strategic and intentional.

1. Curiosity

hidden dangers of following your passion
Photographer: Annie Spratt | Source: Unsplash

2. Engagement

Photographer: Sam Moqadam | Source: Unsplash
  • How do you know what you’re attracted to? Think back to a project you’ve done before, whether it was for work, school, or church. You probably enjoyed those projects so much that they didn’t feel like work. You had so much fun with the process that the outcome was irrelevant.
  • Don’t focus on the projects. Pay attention to the aspects of the projects that made them compelling. While you may not be able to make a career out of such projects, you can transfer those skills to other endeavors and you won’t fall prey to the hidden dangers of following your passion.

3. Skill

Photographer: Vince Veras | Source: Unsplash

Phase 1: Suck

When you start learning something new, you’re going to suck. There’s no way around that. All you have to do is look at the earliest work of people you admire. This work is often lousy, ridiculous, and looks nothing like it did when you heard about them.

Phase 2: Suck Less

When it comes to any skill, there is a concept I share with aspiring creatives that will accelerate your progress faster than almost anything else. In his book, Adam Grant says the following about many successful creatives.

Phase: 3 Don’t Suck

When you stop being bad, people will start paying more attention to you. Your work will get the attention it deserves. But don’t get distracted by your press or rest on your laurels. The myth of the I’ve made it momentis often the beginning of the end and leads to people becoming one-hit wonders.

Phase 4: Good then Great

What follows skill development is the accumulation of what Cal Newport calls career capital. In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal says, “The craft mindset, with its relentless focus on becoming “so good they can’t ignore you,” is a strategy well-suited to the acquisition of career capital.” That’s why it trumps the Passion Mindset if your goal is to “create work you love.”

4. Mastery

There’s can’t be any skills that have been around for so long and barely changed in hundreds of years. Watching our farrier shoe our horses was fascinating  watch. A true craftsman at work.
Photographer: Jonathan Bean | Source: Unsplash

Passion is a Byproduct

The gold rush of passion is alive and well. You can find a dozen books and online courses on how to monetize your passion. But in reality, you’ll get much further by monetizing your skills and discovering your passion.



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Srinivas Rao

Srinivas Rao

Candidate Conversations with Insanely Interesting People: Listen to the @Unmistakable Creative podcast in iTunes