“Follow Your Passion” is Dangerous Advice

“Follow your passion” . . . you’ve likely heard it and read it countless times, from the likes of whoever made a speech at your graduation, a range self help experts or multi millionaires when they’re trying to dispense life advice. Except it’s not always the best advice, and can often be very dangerous advice. There are practical arguments to be made against “follow your passion”.

Passion, by its very definition describes something intense, bold and uncontrollable. Something intense is very often short lived and burns out.

This idea of telling young people to follow their passions is something we should perhaps be steering away from, due to the fact that many passions offer an incredibly narrow chance of success. Also, is the passion a deeply rooted, long term urge to do that, or is it a passing phase? The following should be considered:

– Are there employment opportunities in it?

– What are the chances of actually being a success?

– Do you actually have the necessary abilities and talents?

– Is this something you’ve had inside you for a long period of time, or is it a  relatively new interest?

If your passion is writing, your chances of being published and making good money from writing is extremely slim. An absurdly small percentage of manuscripts make it to publishing. If your passion is Roman history, how easy would it be to forge a long term career in this field, and where would opportunities come from? If your passion is singing, it’s an unfortunate truth that very few singers ultimately make it big.

Young people need to be given the freedom to experience as much as possible as they grow. Let them try new things, experience different activities and get involved in a range of subjects. However, it seems to me that it might make more sense for us to be saying to them instead of ‘follow your passion’, rather find something which holds opportunities, jobs and career prospects. In addition to this, is it something you’re good at, have a respect for and can find some rudimentary enjoyment doing?

Passion is overrated. You can be an enormous success in a field while only mildly enjoying it. It’s easy for millionaires to dispense of the advice of “follow your passion”. For many of them, following their passion early on was perhaps more a case of following wealth and riches, and once the first couple of millions were made, they could actually start enjoying it.

Having things you’re passionate about are important and often a requirement of a fulfilled life. However, often these passions need to exist as long term side projects and creative outlets.

Embrace what you fear

The more you run from your fears, the bigger they get. The more you embrace them, the more you find they tend to disappear.

If presenting in front of people scares the hell out of you, volunteer to do it more, or put yourself in a position to do it more often. If a senior boss intimidates you, make a point of bumping into them more often so you can speak to them more.

It is only by doing that we improve our performance in areas where we are weak or fearful.

No great progress was ever made in the comfort zone.

Measure yourself against your own standards

Never judge your performance or benchmark yourself according to what your boss expects.

You end up just being a pawn for what someone else wants, while never pushing yourself – resulting in a lack of confidence and self-motivation. Instead, set your own high standards for your performance, and judge yourself according to those. Then be your own toughest critic.

You’ll find yourself more engaged and delivering more for your superiors than if you’re benchmarking yourself against what they want. Measure yourself based on your own high expectations. Your boss is the facilitator of your progress. You’re the master of it.

Give your opinion when it’s asked for

During your early years as an employee and thereafter, you’ll be asked your opinion on various aspects of the company and industry by your boss and superiors. It’s incredibly frustrating when young employees answer these questions with “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know”. Not only are you not contributing anything to the conversation, you’re also showing an attitude of disinterest.

When asked for your opinion, give it. Even if you haven’t thought of it properly, take a position and give an opinion. You reserve the right to change your mind later, but in the moment, your boss wants an answer from you, not a shrug of the shoulders.

Excellence is the next 2 minutes

Excellence is in the current moment. What are you doing now? Do it well. If you’re working on an excel sheet, give it 100% focus to ensure it’s accurate. If you’re talking to a co-worker, give them the attention, respect and acknowledgements that will make them feel valued instead of looking bored and trying to get away from them. If you’re typing an email, give it the necessary attention to ensure it is well written, error free and clear. Every email you send gives an impression about you.

Excellence is not a long term concept. It’s the next 2 minutes.