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.

A Tip to Overcome the Impostor Syndrome

The way I started my career was unorthodox, a combination of a bit of college and the vast majority I was self-taught. While working in the construction field for 12 years, I did freelance work as a software developer in my spare time. Shortly after that, I became a co-founder in a small startup that combined my skills in the construction industry and software development. I was very confident and successful (with the help of a friend) in developing the product we were trying to launch, but unfortunately, as the majority of startups, we ran out of runway before getting enough traction. I found myself at a crossroads, asking myself whether I should go back to working in construction full-time or get a job as a software developer.

I chose the latter, and for a while, I struggled with impostor syndrome. Looking back, I don’t think that I should have, because I had enough experience to be competent in the workplace as a developer. Whether the way I felt was rational or not, I still felt somewhat incompetent.

The Struggle

Showing up to work every day for a while was daunting. The uncertainty, whether I was going to be able to step up to the plate, was always looming. The internal struggle was constantly there, and hiding it from colleagues was draining. Appearing confident was taking its toll over time. The primary source of motivation was the fact that I was doing something I loved. I worked hard to get there and earn the opportunity to do it.

Change Your Perception

I kept working hard, stayed humble, and coachable. After a while, I realized that I was competent and capable enough to complete tasks efficiently. I worked hard, always putting a significant emphasis on learning and I still do to this day. The only thing I had to change was my perception of the whole situation. I ended up understanding that I was doing everything I should be doing to do well as a developer. I was too hard of a critic on myself. I started seeing the circumstance as some type of friction I had to overcome. The Universe’s friction is how I came to understand it after reading a few self-help books. The position I had found myself in was something that I will always have to work against one way or another. Focusing on being grateful for the opportunity and continually remembering that I’m allowed to do something I love every day started diminishing the impact that insecurity had on me.

It’s the Universe’s friction. Don’t give up.

I come from a technical background, so naturally, I looked for a logical solution for the way I felt. Trying to learn a new skill or skills seemed like a reasonable way of solving my problem. It turned out, the solution that worked for me was trying to digest the situation more spiritually. The root of the problem was the fact that there was a significant change in my life. I was in a new environment, new job, and new co-workers. Behind the scenes, this big change comes bundled up with a significant dose of uncertainty in your life. Every change in your life will come bundled up this way. Whenever you are trying to get ahead in life, expect this friction to be there, and stay your course.