What you're told about "following your passion" is wrong
So much of our work-related angst relates to this idea that we need to “follow our passion”. At a base level, it's true that your work should connect with you; you should take pride in it and enjoy the day-to-day. But sometimes the way you define what it means to “follow your passion” sets your journey off on the wrong path. Following your passion is only half of the equation. Fulfilling work is also about how you can provide a service to someone else. How you can solve other people's problems and create value for them. You may be at the point where you want to follow your passion at work, instead of fitting it into your spare time. It's at the intersection of your passion and service to others that you'll find fulfilling work. Not simply following what you describe as your passion.
To some of you, that may sound like mumbo jumbo. But think of it this way: Say, you love playing tennis. It's what you describe as your passion. You could jump on the passion bandwagon and think “I need to play tennis to follow my passion!” Well, actually you don't have to. Maybe you're pushing 50 and there is zero chance you're going to chuck in your well-paid job to take down Federer. Does this mean you can't follow your passion? Is the chance over for you? No. Finding your own intersection might mean becoming a tennis coach, opening a tennis centre, or starting a tennis podcast.
Sometimes we love the physical doing of our passion but don't get into the rest. For me, I love training Jiu Jitsu. The physicality and the learning. But I'm not that guy on YouTube watching videos and living my day obsessed with all things Jits. It might be my physical passion, but I can do more good by sharing what I've learned than I can by becoming a competitor.
Finding your intersection
This is the part that takes some work and requires action. Sometimes we get so damn busy that we lose sight of what we are passionate about. I know how being busy and having a young family can erode interest in your passion. You don't have the time to do them, or they just don't matter anymore. The other thing with passion is that it can and does change. Training, for me, is still very new. 10 years ago I hadn't even started in the gym, let alone done martial arts. My passion back then was different to what it is now and in 10 years' time, it will have changed again.
So, if you're overworked, overwhelmed and just plain over it, finding something that interests you is a good place to start. Get back into something you used to love or try something new that you always wanted to. Put aside 30 minutes this weekend to do that thing. Reigniting an old passion, or finding a new one, might be one action away, so give yourself permission.
So, what about the intersection?
So you've started to do things that get your blood going but how do you convert it into something you can do for work? Or even just start to think about it? A good place to start is to think how you can serve others who love doing that thing as well. How you can add value with something you value. For instance:
- What barriers of entry can you break down?
- Are there products involved in doing it that you could market or you can make better?
- Could you teach others how to do it?
- Do you enjoy talking about it and could you start a blog or podcast on it?
Finding the “value” to someone else might be as simple as thinking about what you value in the activity. Or you could consider what problems you've faced that someone could solve.
There is no “one” way to get to the intersection. It's going to be unique to you. But, if you start asking the right questions you'll have lots of good answers to get you there. It might not end up with you making a huge change in the short term. It might simply allow you to embrace your passion and find new angles to enjoy it. However, there are many people who have created great businesses at this point of intersection.
Whatever you do, think about the why, think about how it aligns with what you value, and do it on your own terms.