Don’t Follow Your Passion

Don’t follow your passion.

I believe writing is magic. It helps us think and process the world. The magic is really in the lines between the words. In the pauses. When I was writing our last book, The Passion Conversation, that journey sparked some questions in my own life.

Am I really following my passions? Am I making a difference in the world?

My kids are in their early twenties. If you have kids that age (and therefore know a bunch of people that age) you know they get told often to follow their passions. At graduation time that’s often the advice some wise and wonderful people hand out freely — and with certainty. I’ve most likely given that same advice myself a time or two.

But what if you don’t have a passion?
Many recent college graduates have no idea what they want to do. Many people who suddenly lose a business or a job have no idea what to do next. Is it right/fair to tell them to follow their passion? Have we screwed people up by telling them to follow their passion? I hear this one a lot too: I hate my job. I want to get up and feel passionate about what I do every day.

So, here’s the truth. Passion is like love. Love comes from doing. We have to apologize to these bright young minds and to people who are looking to change careers or start new businesses and encourage them to just do something. Start somewhere. Passion is what you discover about yourself along the way. It’s not something you just magically wake up and have. It comes from experiences. Passion conversations do not come from your heart first.

They come from a collision with life.

How can you collide with life?

1. Become a student of life.

Read books about neuroscience. Learn to play the guitar or the piano. Memorize a poem. We had an intern once that did NINE internships while she was in college. NINE. She wanted to find out what she might love. Emily Kosa, our Maven of Calm had this goal on her resume when I met her: To become a better leader by becoming an even better learner. People, that is a proper resume goal.

2. Push yourself out of your physical comfort zone.

In order to work and live life with passion you must become fearless. I have shared my lessons learned cave climbing at night and what it taught me about myself. We only use about 7% of our body’s physical strength. Push past that 7% to find the courage that is dormant inside your soul.

3. Think like a child.

Change the story of you. Make believe for a bit. Give yourself permission to pretend and daydream. My friend Libby longed to become a photographer. My advice to her? Get a business card with photographer printed under your name. Start taking photos all the time. Start introducing yourself as a photographer. She’s now working on book and takes some of the most soulful photos on this planet. It wasn’t easy but she got busy and did the work. Every day. And while she was doing that she created a story that is her passionate, beautiful life.

4. Bring excitement and joy to everything you do.

Passion is like a muscle. And you can strengthen your passion muscles. Love everything you do with all of your heart. We used to have an “office MOM” at Brains on Fire. She only works on Fridays now because she is using her other hours to follow a special calling. Mary Susan used to have this magical way of knowing when were overworked or just a little too tense. She figured out ways to cheer us up. She brought love and passion and popsicles to tasks that others could see as mundane. But she has never once done that. And now she is still not just working, she is growing beyond her wildest dreams.

5. Define your personal purpose.

Mine? I wake up every morning with the single-minded focus to create positive meaningful change in the world. Somedays that is a smile to someone I think needs it or a laugh with someone I love. Some days it’s fighting the stigma associated with addiction or trying to abolish child sex slavery or inspire families to learn together. Sometimes, it’s taking time to call my sweet 91 year old mom.

– – –

Maybe that yearning for more that seems present in all of us and puzzles me at times is also what keeps me excited and embracing life and all its many changes. Maybe it is what keeps me trying and learning new things. Maybe there are even more passions I have yet to unearth. More daydreams I need to let role play out in my heart. That knowledge is wonderful and magical and powerful. It makes me cry at times and helps me go to bed each night full of possibility for tomorrow.

For businesses that same insight is magical too.
Passion conversations, not product conversations, come from your organizations collision with life and the stories and experiences you share with those you serve. That is how you find your WHY, your cause, your mission. That is how you grow.

If you want to find your passion, you have to do stuff. You have to embrace changes and life with a sureness that love and passion and possibility are around every corner.

So. Don’t follow your passion. Go out and collide with it.

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