Do We Find Work We’re Passionate About … or Do We Become Passionate About the Work We Do?

Posted by


It feels bold to follow your passion—fearless. And common sense tells you that if you like something, you’ll put in more time doing it.
It feels bold to follow your passion—fearless. And common sense tells you that if you like something, you’ll put in more time doing it.

Most of us need a job to survive in this world. As young men and women, we struggle to inventory our strengths and consider where we might thrive.

Find your passion. Follow it. The concept has been around a long time. And most everyone agrees that passion for your work is essential for success. And, yes, it’s a powerful motivator—the more enthusiasm you have, the harder you’ll work, and the better you’ll get.

But here’s where there’s disagreement: Do you take something you’re already enthusiastic about and turn it into a career pursuit? Or do you develop passion over time by becoming an expert at whatever you’re doing?


The Follow Your Passion Camp

The Internet and YouTube are clogged with items encouraging you not to settle, about people giving up financial security to follow their dreams. Steve Jobs encourages you, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Guides are out there that assist with self-examination. Discovery is the first step. Does it make you feel good? Do you get lost in it?  Does it fill up your free time? Photography, cooking, fixing your friends’ computers, working at the soup kitchen—turn it into a career.

Then, the encouragement: Take a chance. Believe in yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t quit. Keep trying new things.

Then, a hint of reality: Maybe don’t just quit your existing job, but make a plan to move forward in that direction.


The Build Your Passion Camp

The reality of following your passion is that many passions don’t readily convert into a job. Will an introverted surfer make a good instructor? Is there a job for a bookworm that will pay the bills? Maybe your passion is people or leading—passions you would never discover by taking inventory of your interests at a young age.

Then there’s the question of money. If your passion is to be the owner of a private island, your hobbies may not take you there. “There’s this idea out in our culture that if you follow your passions, that will always lead to financial success. In interviewing people, I didn’t see much correlation between how much people earned in their careers and how passionate they were about their work,” says Martha Mangelsdorf, author of Strategies for Successful Career Change: Finding Your Very Best Next Work Life.

Is all that searching causing you to obsess on whether a job is “right for you,” making you hyperaware of everything you dislike about your job?

Buckling down and doing the job might lead you to another discovery: You’re really good at what you’re doing. And the better you get, the more passionate you will become. With patience and hard work, you will achieve mastery. Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You calls attention to the passion trap and suggests that you don’t follow your passion.

Mysterious surveys are touted as showing job satisfaction most often comes down to professional fulfillment. Find a job. Commit yourself to mastering it. Build your expertise. Take pride in your mastery of that job.

Proponents claim that chances are, you’d be good at many things if you just stopped dreaming, kept your eyes open, and got to work.


The Answer

Can passion be your guide?  

Is there merit in soul-searching or is passion simply the goal?

Maybe what you do isn’t as important as how you do it, the effort you put in, the commitment.

Choose a course. Work hard. Keep your eyes open along the way for opportunities. 

Be bold but not irresponsible. Be committed but not trapped. Be successful by understanding that your efforts affect the outcome. Soul-searching? Sure, as long as it’s not an excuse to delay the inevitable: A successful career in a satisfying or lucrative field.

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.