Sunday, January 24, 2016

Find your passion or let your passion find you?

At some point in time almost everyone in their working life will hit a lull in passion and motivation and start questioning what to do. I certainly did awhile back and I ended up taking a work “find yourself” sabbatical. During that time I was able to come across two great books which helped create frameworks for thinking about these things and guide my thoughts:

Follow your passion


The Crossroads of Should and Must talks about how it is important to follow your passion. We are told all of our lives what we should be doing with it. Should is what others expect of us and what is good, but that we know in our hearts that its not what we truly want. Must is different. Must is very genuine, a deep feeling in all of us. Choosing Must means finding and following that calling. Some of us know exactly what that is, others are not so sure and the book gives great ideas on how to find it. 

Finding your calling means a lot of self examination and some of the tips include
  • Ask yourself what “should” questions are in your life. Examine where they came from and if you still want them.
  • Look at the things that you do in your free time
  • What things are your friends doing that you are envious about?
  • What activities gives you chills?
  • Write your current obituary and then write a dream obituary

The last important tidbit is that choosing Must is very scary and taking a deep look at those fears will help you make a leap and choose Must.

Don’t Follow your passion


This leads me into introducing the second book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. Cal takes an opposing view to the idea of “follow your passion”. This widely spread advice causes many people to follow a broken  model and make bad choices. 

Science (Self-Determination Theory) says that motivation for work comes from

  • Autonomy - the feeling you have control over your day, and that your actions are important
  • Competence - the feeling that you are good at what you do
  • Relatedness - the feeling of connection to other people

By following the “pre-existing passion hypothesis” and seeking control (autonomy), many people are taking a leap before they have built up enough leverage. Passion in itself is not valuable. Example: If someone quits their job and follows their passion of becoming a yoga instructor, would you want to take lessons from this person or would you rather take lessons from the expert who has a built up valuable skills.

Cal proposes that most people are unhappy with their work because of how they are going about their work. “Working right trumps the right work”.

The follow your passion mindset focuses on what the world can offer you; which is kind of a self-centered way to look at things. Instead take a craftsman mindset which focuses on what you can offer for the world instead of if the job is just right; nothing is just perfect it is what you make of it. The craftsman mind set says to become great at what you do. This equity (due to supply and demand, because it is rare) will bring opportunities for autonomy and meaning. “You have to get good before you can expect good work”.


Find your passion and let your passion find you.


I loved reading both of them because they offered me great ways to think about seeking happiness in my work. I really enjoyed the introspection both provided of examining what makes me tick and how I can create that situation.   I don’t think the advice offered from both books are mutually exclusive. Continue to ask what one Must do (and the answer may not be to quit your job but to become more excellent) but (once that passion is identified) heed the practical advice of Cal and don’t be blind and stupid about it. In order to realize the dream, one must also take the necessary steps to build that dream equity.