Why Following your Passion is Wrong.

Recently I might have been rough posting this message on my Instagram account, but I didn’t mean to be harsh. Let me explain.

I used to believe “Follow your Passion” was the most excellent advice anyone could get, especially since Steve Jobs gave this advice on his speech to Standford graduates. It made perfect sense; everyone wants to have a great life and following what you are passionate about should amplify the chances of that happening.

I started listening to the audiobook “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport, and before I even finished the second chapter, I was compelled to think about the message it brought right away.

Look at it this way

First off, a lot of great things that have been invented were not created based on passion. One of the most prominent examples is Apple. Steve Jobs did not get into manufacturing computers because he was passionate about it. He got into that because he saw an opportunity, and it turned out to be a successful business. His passion at the time was spiritualism, and creating personal computers was his primary purpose at that time. He saw an opportunity, and he took it. He focused on making great products and somewhere along the way he became passionate about building great products and, well, you know the rest of the story.

I am a software developer. One of my passions growing up was being or becoming an architect; becoming a software engineer was not one of them. Growing up, I never thought about being a programmer. Surprisingly I can now say that I have a passion for writing software.

Why following your passion could be wrong.

You can follow your emotions at any time. You might even feel passionate about doing something. You can also remain passionate about something for a long time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be happy or prosperous once you start following your “passion.” Let me give you an example; I cannot cook to save my life. Let’s imagine that tomorrow I developed the urge to open up a restaurant and be the chef at this said restaurant. After a few months that call turns into a passion, I pick up cooking and start learning more about it. I take out a loan and open up a restaurant. I followed my passion. If I get lucky that could turn into a “thing,” but that would be highly unlikely because there are many other chefs in my city that have more experience at creating amazing dishes and running a restaurant business. In the end, I could end up in debt due to a failed attempt at running a restaurant.

What’s the alternative? Why being practical pays off

By no means am I wealthy, affluent person or anything related, at least not yet. However, I focused on the craftsman mindset, and I can now say that I am now reaping the benefits of doing that. What is the craftsman mindset? As Cal Newport mentions in his book, we tend to look at the World and try to figure out what the World can do for us, instead of focusing on what we can provide to the World or how we can make it better. In short, taking value instead of offering value. What I realized, early on, while listening to the book was that gaining skills in your current field pays off. Circling back to my story, I stayed firm on polishing my programming skills, learning new things on my own until I reached an adequate level of expertise. Now, I can say I am passionate about what I do and being skilled at it helped.

My Advise/Conclusion

Be practical, find out if the job you currently have has a way to build career capital, which is a way to leverage your experience over time when you go find your next job. Make sure that your job is providing value to the World and that you do not have to deal with people you hate to be able to do your work. If what you are currently doing to earn a living meets any of these three criteria, does not build career capital, does not bring value to the World or having to work with unlikeable people, change careers. Otherwise, hone in on increasing your skill level and be patient to start feeling a passion for what you do. Eventually, you will have enough “career capital” to be successful and be passionate about what you do.

Lesson Learned

Being a web developer is easy in comparison to being an entrepreneur. I’m able to build applications, some take time, but I’m capable of turning an idea into a working service or product. Having help expedites the process, but I’m capable of doing small projects by myself. However, wearing my entrepreneurial hat has been more challenging than developing apps.

Misconceptions about being an Entrepreneur

There is a difference between being a business owner and being an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur has to be able to wear many hats and to have an understanding of software development is only one of them.

Many people picture the entrepreneur life as being glamorous full of excitement and riches, but that is seldom the case. Being an entrepreneur is a tough learning journey.

What lesson did I learn?

I am lucky and grateful that Edifica’s investors believed I had the potential to develop Edifica’s web application with their help. We set out to develop the product and we did a great job doing so. After several months into the development process, we finally had a working application and decided to start marketing.

Soon after we realized we had messed up. We should have started marketing at the same time we started developing the application, maybe even sooner. By the time we were done developing the initial offering, we did not have a community and we didn’t have constant traffic to our site. That was a big problem.

Suggestion                                                                                                                  

If you are currently working on a product and you are planning to make it available to the public, I recommend that you start letting people know about your product right away. You should keep your ears open and listen to any feedback you might get and take that feedback into consideration while the product is still under development. On Edifica’s case, we started gathering feedback after we had a working product. If we had started spreading the word during the development phase, we could have made better decisions about the product’s features. Planning your product’s marketing early on is crucial.