Don’t Follow Your Passion. Let me clarify.
I was listening to a podcast recently which had an interview with Mike Rowe, the Host of the Popular TV Show Dirty Jobs. One thing Rowe talked about was how there are 5-6 million jobs in America that are vacant and not filled because a) manual work, even skilled manual work, is looked down on many b) people are too lazy to do these jobs c) people don’t want to relocate to do this type of work, and d) welfare is too good of a deal. This is surprising, since most of the rhetoric from both parties is about how to “bring back jobs.” There are plenty of jobs, many of which pay good money, but people are not “passionate” about doing them. So they stay on unemployment, at home living with their parents, on welfare, or in a low-wage part time job they hate.
Another thing that Rowe said really hit home with me. “Don’t Follow Your Passion” was one of his biggest pieces of advice. By this, he did not mean “don’t be passionate”. Rather he said that passion comes from becoming skilled and good at something, and learning to bring value to the market. Becoming good at something and succeeding creates a passion for work. I loved this, and this is where my mind and philosophy have been heading for a long time in other aspects of life. You don’t follow passion. You follow the path and passion will follow.
It’s not that we shouldn’t try to find things we are passionate about, and enjoy doing. But most things that are worth doing are hard and frustrating at the time. Learning how to play a musical instrument is not “passionate”, it is challenging and difficult. The joy comes in learning how to do it, not in whether people like to hear you play or how you feel at any given moment. And not in whether you become famous. The same goes with work, and most other things, including fitness. Getting in shape does not coincide with how “passionate” or “emotional” you are, but about how you can control and channel those things into fitness.
Following your passion does not lead to physical fitness. I repeat.
Following your passion does not lead to physical fitness. Or any type of fitness.
Passion will wane, as will emotion. Becoming a professional, and someone who gets the job done, is much more about controlling passions and emotions than it is “following your passion.” Following your “dreams” sounds good on paper, but this is often a form of escapism or procrastination. Don’t follow your passion. Instead, do the right thing, do good things, healthy things, and be passionate about it. This makes much more sense in the long run. We just aren’t going to feel passionate about anything every day, and enough to get any better or succeed if all we are relying on is passion.
I am rarely ever passionate about getting up at 5am to go to work. But I do enjoy my work, and the people I work with, and the feeling I get from doing a good job and earning good money. I am passionate about that, which involves me getting up early. I feel passion after I am able to help someone with the acquired knowledge I’ve gained in 20 years of study. What I’m getting at is that we need to start focusing on the emotional reward as a side effect of truly excelling at something, being committed to something, and doing something well and doing good things.
We don’t volunteer for some cause because it is glamourous but because of the way we feel afterwards. We are not passionate about exercising every time, but about the way we feel afterwards and the rest of the time. Who is ever going to be passionate about chopping up vegetables for a salad? Not me. “Following your passion” often means never committing, never deciding, and never improving. It’s good to be passionate, but it’s better to be passionate about the right things. Eating well, living well, working well, being fit, and bringing value into the world are things worth being passionate about.
The more I learn about what is best, the more I question the wisdom of the age we live in, or the lack thereof.
So I ask again.....
Don’t follow your passion. Channel it.
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