The Truth About Following Your Passion
Chances are you’ve heard about following your passion. Some people swear they’re rich beyond their wildest dreams only because they found and followed theirs. Others, not so much.
If you’ve ever wondered about following your passion, whether it’ll make you rich or happy, if there’s something you need to know because (even when you’re trying to follow your passion) the Math ain’t Math-ing, you are definitely on the right page.
Because by the end of this blog post, you would have found the four problems with following your passion AND three things you can do to remedy them.
1) You have only one passion
When you hear about following your passion, it can be tempting to think you can only have one passion at a time OR be passionate about one thing all through your life.
But that’s simply not true. Human beings can be multi-dimensional, so you could be interested in more than one thing at a time AND you could lose interest in some things you previously thought you couldn’t do without.
Because that’s life.
2) You should know what your passion is
Some people assume that following your passion means, or happens because you definitely know what your passion is AND that you’ve always known what is.
Again, not true. Discovering your passion means that there was a time you didn’t know what is was. And that’s… OK.
3) The fact that you’re passionate about a thing, means you should do it
OK, this is a really problematic thing with following your passion.
Have you ever watched those “reality” TV talent shows where someone cannot sing to save their life, claims (a) singing is their passion and (b) filling out arenas and headlining tours is the dream?
Sometimes, even when you’re good at whatever your passion is, that is not an instruction to go do it – especially for money.
I always say to people I coach that when it comes to getting paid, you need to find the intersection of the thing (a) you know how to do, (b) that you love to do and (c) that people will pay you for. It’s really that simple, but it’s not easy.
Which brings me to my next point.
4) If it’s really your passion, following your passion will be easy
This is a thought that pretty much guarantees heartbreak for people buying into following your passion.
I’ve read that someone (important) said, “If you do what you love for a living, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” And this advice will end you after keeping you unsatisfied and making you miserable.
Because what are you going to do when things get tough? And I can promise you, that no matter how passionate you are about something or someone, things will get tough. It’s literally a matter of time.
I have NEVER succeeded at something I didn’t put in the work for. Whether it’s a job, a business, my books or marriage – I’ve had to work because there are times when motivation and feelings won’t be enough.
I don’t care how much you love singing, there will be times you’ll be sick, miss people that you love while you’re on tour – and that’s when everything is going well.
No matter how passionate you are about acting, there will be times when the phone doesn’t ring. Or the movie/TV show/stage production that you put your heart and soul into, isn’t loved by the audience or network or critics. And that can mean the project getting cancelled or you getting fired!
No matter how passionate you are about helping people, even by being a lawyer or a neurosurgeon, you will go through pain. Don’t let Instagram or LinkedIn fool you; there will be times when you’ll probably think packing it all in/dropping out would be best for you.
When you’re afraid of failing an exam (or you’ve actually done so) or meeting your financial obligations looks impossible or you are depressed so you can’t study, motivation will not see you through.
This is why following your passion as a buzz phrase is so dangerous. That advice or admonition tends to take too many uncontrollable variables for granted and never shows the whole story.
So, what should you do instead of just following your passion?
1) Start & be faithful where you are
Unless someone is trying to fail, sabotage another person or teach someone a bitter lesson, nobody hires or promotes you if you bring nothing of value to the table.
Think about it; if you have a graduation party, wedding reception or anniversary to host, you don’t hire an unknown caterer who hasn’t been tried and tested elsewhere. Especially if you’ve got money and you’re not actually trying to poison your guests.
You choose the one who although they may not have not done something on the scale of what you need, can demonstrate that they’ve catered something like your event and that the host/ess was happy.
So, if you want to be an actress, but your circumstances aren’t right to attend a prestigious acting school or conservatory, you can sharpen your acting talent with community theatre right now. You can do reels or short films on your phone. The more you do it, the better you should get.
Cos let’s face it, nobody in Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood is going to cast you in the lead for a production that costs millions of Dollars/Pounds/Naira to make, just because you THINK you can handle it, IF you can’t show any examples of your previous work.
Even when what you’re doing now seems so far from what you’d like to do, the fact that you’re faithful in that thing might be the reason that someone gets interested enough to notice and recommend you.
I promise, you don’t know what network the person watching you (whether it’s a boss or a customer) really has. And they need a good reason to remember you.
It’s how my first book was published as a paperback. I did some editing work for a psychiatrist, who also had a publishing company – but I didn’t know. If anyone had suggested it would happen that way, I’d have asked “How?” Cos publishing and psychiatry are such different fields, I’d never have considered a connection.
This is why you need to be faithful where you are; little opportunities, even when they look unconnected, can lead to the so-called big break/overnight miracle.
2) Be open to opportunities
Even when something doesn’t look like what you want, you could be pleasantly surprised if you stay open.
I always say I fell into the media, but folk think I’m being cute. However, quite a while after the release of my first book, I was in a McDonald’s restaurant in London one night. I got talking to two guys who I’d never seen before (I’d been going to that McDonald’s everyday for maybe a month).
It was crowded when they came in and I was at a pretty big table, so they asked if they could sit with me. I said, “Yeah” and after a while, we got talking. Long story short, after they found out what I did, one of them gave me a business card for a radio presenter; he said she would love the content of my book.
When I eventually called her, I found out he was right and she asked me to come into the studio for a recorded interview.
I thought it would end there and I was very grateful for the opportunity, but right after the interview was broadcast, she (the presenter) called me to tell that me a retired BBC correspondent had heard me and thought I had a voice for radio. So, he was curious and surprised to learn that I hadn’t been media trained.
I ended up getting an offer to do my own show, from the owners of the station I’d gone to promote my book. I didn’t know anything about radio production or even presenting when I started, but I learned on the go. Radio presenting could never have been what I’d have considered on my own, not even in a million years.
But I eventually got another offer from a different radio station to host my own show! And I had to do some more learning, which was a baptism of fire cos I was in Lagos, the station was in Croydon in the UK and it was a live weekly show!
My favourite mantra is learn to recognise people, things and situations for what they are – not what your ego or emotion would prefer – and treat them accordingly.
I could very easily have told those guys, “No, you cannot sit at my table!” I haven’t seen either of them since, so it’d have been my loss. And what a great one it would have been.
Or I could have been too afraid to take any of the opportunities that came from that.
It was also through circumstances that I couldn’t have foreseen, that my company was birthed.
Sometimes, it’s only when you look back you see the tiny slivers of opportunity that turned into something bigger than you could have dared to imagine they would.
3) Get educated
If you’re religious, you’ve probably heard about how god will give you a blessing you don’t qualify for. And I just want to let you know that (a) it is a myth, (b) it will get you in a lot of trouble and ensure your frustration.
Even if you somehow slip through the cracks and book the job to do the thing you’re passionate about, and you want to call that following your passion, it’s going to become obvious at some point that you don’t actually know what you’re doing.
And while nobody knows everything about anything, it helps to know some things.
I always say know the craft AND know the business. So, say you’re a woman in Law or Media, it’s not enough to have a degree or know how to act or present a show or write a book or a blog post.
You also need to understand the business you are trying to function in.
Else you’re going to end up broke, burned out, hanging with the wrong people who will endanger you cos you don’t know different or burning bridges you should be committed to keeping. Yet, you’re going to say you’re following your passion and wonder why it’s not working.
That is why I help young women in Law and Media develop strong voices, solid careers and stable personal lives. So, if you fit the bill, book your paid consultation to ask for my help here.
PS: Was there anything you just read about following your passion, that really surprised you? Let me know in the comments section below.