For most individuals finding and following our passions can often times seem like counterproductive career advice and lack any sense of direction for a solid professional trajectory. Coupled with the passion gap that most of us find ourselves in, identifying the paths to successfully pursue meaningful work and find our dream jobs seems daunting, if not, impossible.
The important missing piece of guidance is that it takes more than simply “following your passions” to find contentment in your work. While passion is always an excellent motivator, in terms of your career it must also be partnered with commitment, creativity, talent, strategy and a lot of hard work. Additionally, and not insignificantly, not all passions clearly align with a feasible professional track.
Cal Newton, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, altogether dismisses the notion of following your passion as the key to success. Rather, in a lecture on the topic, Newton asserts that “American culture is obsessed with the idea that we need to ‘find our passion’ in order to be happy and successful. But…. we have no pre-existing passion. Instead, passion is found by first building a rare and valuable talent and using it to take control of your career path. In other words, be so good and work so hard that no one can ignore you.”
So, how do we operationalize our pursuit of passion and all the while build a meaningful career?
1.) Know your professional interests and create a strategy.
Quite a few people have no idea what they really want to do or if they do, how to do it; so defining your future based on passion alone becomes an overwhelming challenge, particularly when you need to hold on to your current job. Being realistic about where your current skill levels are at and how to grow them is a critical starting point for progressing in any medium. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, make a plan around where you want to focus your skill and talent and then create a tangible timeline to invest in your interests with the objective of gaining experience and growing your skill set. From there, it’s important to plan accordingly for the investment it will take to do so while maintaining a realism of the goals and plans you’ve set for yourself in place of an idealism that passion is all that matters.
2.) The better you become at a skill, the more it becomes a “passion.”
No matter how passionate you are about something, whether it is your career or not, the saying “practice makes perfect” rings true. Experience does matter and is a key factor in career contentment and growth. Having the expectation that merely because you are passionate towards a certain field, role, job, or hobby creates your destiny is a far cry from the work and time necessary to make it a reality. You must be willing to dedicate your time to acquire and advance your skills and experience. The result is a practical passion that is built on perspective, dedication, experience and achievement.
3.) Find a compromise that fits on your passion spectrum.
Back to the earlier point that not all passions align reasonably or responsibly to a professional career track for all people, it is possible to pursue a role that is along the same spectrum as your passion. Doing so also contributes to gaining experience and practice that can still allow for professional and personal growth. It is believed that with a thoughtful perspective, it is possible to find an area in an adjacent or relevant role that still provides financially as well as contentment in your areas of passion. Keep in mind, often times, indirect experiences can have a direct impact on future endeavors, for example, gaining management and general business knowledge will be irreplaceable should you ever run your own business.
4.) Be brave, be humble.
Investing in your own happiness is not a heedless risk. Seeking out creative ways to advance your interests and passions, possibly outside of your day-to-day tasks, connections, and responsibilities, is often times beyond comfort zones, but can really go a long way in contributing to professional contentment. Create a culture for yourself that adheres to your own values, builds your self-confidence and motivates you to continue to grow your interests. Maintain a sense of humility and a perspective that every opportunity holds merit for insight and growth that you can glean.