Don’t Follow Your Passion

image cc BurgTender

It’s an age-old story: Boy meets passion, boy follows passion, passion turns out to be a mirage and/or actually a big pain in the ass, despite how rosy it may have seemed from a safe distance.

(And, ladies? You’re just as susceptible to this as men. Don’t think I’m giving you a pass.)

Let’s Talk About You

So. You’re in love with a thing. Let’s say it’s coffee, books, design, code or solving interesting problems. You decide to open up a café to follow your passion for coffee. Or a used book shop, because you’re passionate about books. Or, because you’re passionate about solving interesting problems through code or visuals, you hang out your shingle as a freelance developer or designer.

Six months to a year later, and guess what?

Turns out that you hate running a café (or book store, or…). Turns out that running a café is as much about the coffee as raising a child is about snuggles. Yes, the coffee happens — and so do snuggles — but what really makes up the typical day is very little sleep and lots and lots of poop.

And who has a passion for poop?

A Perfect Example, in the Flesh

The small cafe connects to the fantasy of throwing a perpetual dinner party, and it cuts deeper–all the way to Barbie tea sets–than any other capitalist urge. To a couple in the throes of the cafe dream, money is almost an afterthought. Which is good, because they’re going to lose a lot of it…

Guess what, dear dreamers? The psychological gap between working in a cafe because it’s fun and romantic and doing the exact same thing because you have to is enormous. Within weeks, Lily and I — previously ensconced in an enviably stress-free marriage — were at each other’s throats.

Bitter Brew: I opened a charming neighborhood coffee shop. Then it destroyed my life.

Another well-meaning passion-follower falls victim to The Cute Little Café Syndrome. The Cute Little Café Syndrome will never die — it’s too damned appealing. It’s romance, it’s magical princes, it’s Happily Ever After with a side order of delicious Vienna roast and the absolute best croissants.

It’s Follow Your Passion.

And it’s hardly limited to real-life, actual cafés. The Cute Little Café Syndrome applies to any situation where you blindly follow your passion… and it leads you to a pit of despair (or at least, a pit of debt).

Battling the Cute Little Café Syndrome

Don’t want to find yourself chewed up & spat out by The Cute Little Café Syndrome?

There’s only one thing for it: abandon meatless aphorisms like “Follow Your Passion!” and take stock of reality.

In reality…

  • Turning your beloved, refreshing hobby into a job can kill it.
  • Doing something you love for yourself isn’t the same as doing it for others.
  • You can love something and not know the slightest thing about it.
  • You can love something and not be good at it.
  • You might not know what Your Passion™ is, at least not with enough fiery motivation to get you going.
  • You may believe you’re passionate about a subject but it’s likely your true deep-down-fulfillment passion is about actions, connections, or environment.
  • Or, your logical conclusion is that you should engage in actions when your passion is really a subject.
  • The Poop Factor is ever-present: most of what goes into running a real business is very different than what you fantasize about.
  • Finally… some things just aren’t money-making propositions. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love them.

So. Does all this mean your working life is doomed to be dull and loveless? That you should go bet on “a sure thing” that you don’t enjoy?

Not at all.

Smokey Robinson Has the Answer

There’s nothing wrong with passion. Passion is a good thing. A good thing you nevertheless need to approach with your eyes open.

Take a page out of Smokey Robinson’s book:

Try to get yourself a bargain, son.
Don’t be sold on the very first one.
Pretty girls come a dime a dozen.
Try to find one who’s gonna give you true loving.
Before you take a girl and say I do, now.
Make sure she’s in love with you, now.
Make sure that her love is true, now.
I hate to see you feeling sad and blue, now.
My momma told me, you better shop around!

Yep. Shop around. Eyes open. Don’t take your passion and assume that its ultimate manifestation, the thing you should do, the thing to follow, is the very first idea that pops into your mind.

Don’t assume that just because you love coffee, you should open a café.

Or because you love books and cozy reading nooks, a book store.

Or because you love photography, a tool for amateur photographers.

Or because you love programming, a software dev shop.

Or because you love design, a freelance design co.

These are obvious top-of-mind ideas. And heck, you might end up loving them. But the likelihood is that you won’t.

After all: would you rather use your passion, or sell it?

Ask Yourself…

Would you still feel passionate when you were struggling to pay the bills and hire wait staff? Or struggling to deal with the clients that inevitably come with solving interesting problems on a freelance basis? Or what about handling customers who are cheapskates and not even particularly tech-savvy?

If you want to run a successful café — and enjoy it — you need to love a lot more than coffee. You’ve also gotta get some kind of pleasure, even grim satisfaction, out of the daily grind. (Ha ha.) Which means, of course, interacting with customers, hiring & managing wait staff, handling the day-to-day necessities like ordering supplies, cleaning, paying rent, marketing your butt off, and dealing with customers who want to squat on your valuable tables all day for just $2 of brew.

Likewise, if you love slinging code, but hate interacting with people who don’t understand you immediately, then you’re going to be miserable doing training or providing support of any kind. If you love creating dramatic illustrations of people and places, but chafe at people who tell you what to do, being a freelance illustrator is going to rub you raw.

And everyone’s heard the story of the guy or gal who quit the rat race, retreated to a cabin in the woods to write a novel… and proceeded to go absolutely bonkers from loneliness, without even a single chapter to show for it.

That’s what Following Your Passion can do to you.

The Solution: 6 Steps

So what’s the alternative? Go to law school? No. (Not unless you’d love being a lawyer. Which means, by the way, a lot more than enjoying reading about torts and arguing.)

What you really need is to:

  • Figure out what your passion(s) really are — process? environment? action? subject? connections?
  • Ask yourself all the different ways you could work that passion into different kinds of businesses — less obvious than coffee->café
  • Add in the Poop Factor for your fantasies — all those daily things we never imagine when we’re fantasizing, you’ve got to confront them head-on — in advance
  • Imagine selling it, or dealing with clients, or a certain type of customers — and be honest how you’d feel about that all day long
  • Honestly appraise the potential for sustainable income — by studying other people/businesses doing the same kind of thing, and comparing it to how much you want to live comfortably
  • Take your best shot from all of the above

It’s true that this won’t all fit in a three-word slogan as eminently tweetable as “Follow your passion”. But how about this?

Practice open-eyed passion.

Or, as Smokey would say:

You better shop around.

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Discussion

  1. Alan Wilensky

    Saint Amy:

    It happened to me. I loved electric vehicles, scooter and such, well before it was fashionable. I opened one of the first EV shops in MA. Oy! Hoy! It was a mostly a nightmare punctuated with glimmers, glimmers of potential. Since I could not buy the high en EV’s (nothing like todays products), I had to buy mid prices and lower end, I fixed, I sold, the market and ebay slashed, the mfr slashed. Not good.

    We had a few good days there in Northampton MA. One day, with less then 27K in the bank, I said, “lets just stock up and see what happens”. We had sold like 12 units that week, and UMASS was coming back into session. The container of 30 bikes came in on 9/10/2001. There was no holiday buying that year, obviously.

    50K down the pooper. I hated dealing with retail customers that complained of the self inflicted damage to themselves and their scooters. It takes a certain type to do a retail shop on the street. I am a born tech and strategy evangelist. I was born that way, a radio experimenter since boyhood, the fist to author CD-ROMs and the high school crop out that wrote the business plans for Harvard MBA’s without a clue

    And you are my hero,. BTW, what do you make of this Node.js thingy?

    Reply
    • Amy

      Oh, Alan, you’re right, that’s the perfect illustrative story. Thanks for sharing… and sorry you went through all that!

      As for Node, it’s really super cool. But I haven’t used it yet – it’s on my list – so I don’t have much of an opinion except that it’s super cool ;) I don’t know yet if it’s pragmatic to use for anything or not.

      We’re working on an app that has constant ajax polling, and might normally have a teeny tiny backend written in C. Ours is in Ruby now, but when it gets too slow, we’re probably going to do it in Node. If we do, Thomas will blog about it at http://mir.aculo.us !

      Reply
      • Noah Gibbs

        Amy, if you switch from Ajax polling to Comet and want a Node.js backend, look into Juggernaut 2 (Juggernaut on Github, written by maccman). It’s not for doing the heavy server-side work, but it does a great job of combining the messaging stuff via socket.io with great scalability using Node.js and Redis.

      • Alp

        Fantastic goods from you, man. I have keep in mind your stuff prior to and you are just too great. I really like what you have reeicved here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way in which by which you are saying it. You are making it entertaining and you continue to take care of to stay it wise. I can not wait to learn far more from you. That is really a terrific web site.

  2. GreggB

    I’m following my passion and loving every minute of the poop and the smiles. Although I did one thing differently: tossed the romance of a “passion” out the window, and then dug deeply into fully understanding what I was getting yourself into. I interviewed others, even used job interviews to grab face time with competitors. In the end; listen and learn their failures, struggles, and successes…and above-all, never do it in isolation; build and maintain a strong support network.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Gregg, sounds like you did everything right! I’m glad your passion turned out to be something you could enjoy WITH the reality instead of in denial of it!

      Reply
  3. Max

    To put it in other words: Just cos you love sex, don’t mean you’d love being a prostitute.

    Reply
  4. Chenoa

    OMG. This article is so wise! I definitely did that with Freelance web design and painting. I went and got a degree and every time I start a project for someone else I get irritated…

    I’ve got to figure it out — deep down inside lol.

    Thanks for this article!

    Reply
    • Amy

      Chenoa, I hear you. I wrote that part about freelancing from my own experience. At one point I thought, “Hey, if I raise my rates, I’ll get a better class of client and I’ll enjoy it more.” Well, I did get better clients, and I earned a helluva lot more, but I still hated to do work for somebody else.

      So I’m making products and teaching other people how to do the same. It’s much, much, much more fun :)

      Reply
    • Jessica

      i did the same thing. i got a graphic design degree because it was art i could make money at. right? um no. i hate doing design work for people. People changing their mind is the most infuriating part for me. I stopped, and decided to start an artisan craft business making handmade custom leather jewelry and am happier than ever.

      Reply
  5. Reid Walley

    Very cool article, Amy! And thanks for sharing your personal freelance experience (in the comments) of “but I still hated to do work for somebody else. So I’m making products and teaching other people how to do the same. It’s much, much, much more fun.”

    I’m beginning to shift over to this making-products passion as well: away from freelance graphics to just a few printed products that keep getting get re-purchased.

    Reply
    • Amy

      You’re gonna love it, Reid. It’s maddening but very fulfilling to make & sell your wares directly to people who want it!

      Reply
  6. Avdi Grimm

    For the record, there is much more snuggling than poop in an average day of childrearing. At least in our household.

    But the point is well taken. It’s easy to think you’re passionate about a whole business when you’re really only passionate about one specific aspect of it.

    Then again, it can be surprising how much you cad learn to put up with in the service of what you care about. Is wading through contracts and tax forms my passion? No. But I’m passionate about being with and supporting my family, and if being in business for myself makes that possible, I’ll put up with the tedious bits.

    After reading a particularly unicorn-and-rainbow infested find-your-passion article, I find watching an episode of Dirty Jobs to be a useful corrective. Watching guys and gals sling poo (literally!) for a living and say they are basically satisfied with their lives can remind a person that sometimes the job simply serves the deeper passions.

    Reply
  7. Sarah Bray

    Yep, yep, and triple yep. Last year when I had my most gigantic bout of burnout, I actually considered doing something completely different. Something that I “loved”. And then I realized…I used to love this. I do love this. When I’m not completely and totally stressed out from keeping up with it all.

    So I sucked it up and focused on getting rid of some of the poop. And out of that I discovered that I had a different passion that I had never known about — leading people. I always thought I was an introvert, but I’m totally energized by strategically planning and implementing vision within our team. It sounds so corporate, but it is SO not for me! I’ve got big-girl pants on now. :)

    So now most of my time is spent figuring out how I can do more of that while letting other people do more of what really gets them going. And life is better all around.

    Amy, you are beyond awesome. One of the few blogs that I read with religious zeal.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Aww, thanks, Sarah! So glad I could help you. Welcome to the world of Big-Girl Pants. (And don’t I know exactly what you’re talking about. I can’t tell you how many years I spent moaning about how much I hated client work while cashing those big fat checks. What an addict I was.)

      Mega-burnout has a way of showing you what’s true. It did for me too.

      BTW – totally loving your content strategy series over at http://sarahjbray.com/ !

      Reply
    • Dave Doolin

      Sarah, you may still be an introvert, a gregarious introvert. Many leaders require significant quiet time. It’s also interesting that you are the only person in my extended “blogging” acquaintance commenting on this article. Even more interesting, I was wondering last week what happened to you, your name isn’t quite as “out there” as it was a year ago, no shame in that! Not in my book anyway.

      Reply
      • Amy

        VERY good point about the “gregarious introvert,” Dave.

        I’m one of those :) To be happy, I need to be surrounded by energetic, funny, thinking people… but at the same time, if I’m around them 24×7, I will burn out like whoa.

        That’s a type of system where I actually do need to find… wait for it… balance. Tip too far one way or the other and I become a very unhappy camper indeed.

        Also – haha on “the passion patrol.” Can I steal that line from you? It’s so true.

  8. Matt J.

    Amy,

    Best post ever. All true and will still be all true tomorrow.

    The number of names I can list of people I know personally who went bankrupt opening up Cute Little Cafes (the real kind that sell coffee) in the past 10 years is astounding.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Oh man. I wasn’t aware that Cute Little Café Syndrome was SO catching. :( Sorry to hear about your friends but I bet they learned quite a lot from the experience.

      Glad you liked my article. Stick around, there’s more where that came from :D

      Reply
  9. batchix

    so true! following your passion doesn’t mean making a job of it. Passion is like being a super hero, it’s what you do when you take off the clark kent glasses at night.

    I am a 3d modeler by day and a doll maker, comic book maker, seamstress, designer, sculptor and musician by night. the best part is i don’t have to worry about money to go into it since i make plenty at my day job.

    after having worked in a “cute little cafe” i have trouble understanding anyone who wants one. After that job, which i took because i couldn’t find work doing something else, i couldn’t look at cinnamon rolls for years.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Oh no! Not cinnamon rolls!! Ha. Yeah. You’re so right – if everyone who wanted to open a cute little café actually WORKED in one for a while, they’d get the surprise of their life. And save themselves so much heartache.

      Reply
  10. Claire

    I really appreciate this entry. Mainly because although I enjoy writing, I’m actually trying to decide whether or not I would be comfortable with writing as my 9-to-5–or would I prefer doing it solely on my own terms.

    Time will tell…

    Reply
    • Amy

      Claire, I guess the big question for you would be: Does it matter what you write about?

      There are lots of ways to make good money writing about topics you pick, if you don’t mind not being totally in love with the topic. (Which is still more enjoyable, for most people, than writing-on-demand for clients :)

      Reply
  11. Jon Glick

    I always hated all the “passion” talk they fed me during school as if it was something everyone has, or should have. I’ve never had a strong passion for any single thing and talking to career counselors left me feeling insufficient. Turns out it’s treated me much better than it did for those fanatic theater majors.

    Also, I recently had a friend explain to me that 1) you shouldn’t do any of your hobbies for money, and 2) if you do, be willing to sacrifice it for money’s sake. You won’t enjoy it the same anymore. Giving up an enjoyable hobby for a job I don’t hate sounds like a fair trade-off to me.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Jon, I bet there’s something that lights your fire but it doesn’t LOOK like a “normal” passion. Most people consider that a passion has to be about a TOPIC… but people can also be passionate about process, actions, connections (with other people), or environment.

      Which means that you can be much more flexible in what you do, you just need to find work that offers you the element you want & need to enjoy it.

      I discovered lately that, despite how much I care about interaction design and writing… if I’m not surrounded by a group of excited, passionate people, I totally wilt. I learned this by moving to a foreign country where cultural norms about exhibiting excitement are very, very different. In short: the hard way.

      Now, turning your hobbies into a job can certainly kill it. But I know from experience that, even if you have a difficult, hard-to-detect passion, it is POSSIBLE to find a way to enjoy your work!

      You should come back because I’ve got another 2-3 essays exploring these topics in the works :D

      Reply
  12. Trevor

    Thanks for this forum enjoy the comments from all. In business with people from a poor country that import those products into a western country. The challenges the debt the unique handcrafts these people make, also the people you meet out there doing business and customers have changed my life in a new direction. It is not easy, but its great running ones own life through business, and learning from your errors.

    Reply
  13. Mia Jane

    There’s nothing like a smack upside the head to snap someone out of delusion. Thank you for one of THE BEST posts I have read in a long time. Particularly the points under “In reality…”

    I hope this post is a real life saver for many people. Funny thing is I think you just saved me from some romantic relationship delusion “You can love something and not be good at it” – that dead unicorn is a powerful image!

    Reply
    • Amy

      Wow, thank you Mia! I’m so glad to be able to help.

      PS – The dead unicorn is named Sparklefarts and the Narwhal of Truth is named Toothy. ;)

      Reply
  14. Angela J Mattson

    Wow! Yes! I made a decision NOT to follow several of my passions into business. Instead, I took what I’m talented and gifted at (organizing) and turned THAT into my business. I love it, I’m good at it, and I’m super interested in the running of the business itself.

    Gardening, pets, kayaking? All my passions are used to relieve the stress that the organizing biz brings to my life.

    Sounds like – and IS – the best of both worlds. :-)

    Reply
    • Amy

      Hi Angela!

      “I love it, I’m good at it, and I’m super interested in the running of the business itself.”

      See, that sounds like a type of passion to me :) You enjoy the action! Maybe you’re not passionate about ORGANIZING, but you’re obviously getting a lot out of running that business.

      On the flip side, I’ve seen lots of people who love coffee or enjoy hanging out in coffee shops… they opened coffee shops… and HATED the running part. Of course, a coffee shop is all about the running part.

      I’m not really passionate about time tracking, but I love making people happier with software, and I love helping small biz owners earn more. So that’s how I enjoy working on http://letsfreckle.com :) Like your business!

      Reply
  15. Lorinda Jackson

    Retail stores. So easy to think: I like clothes, games, coffee, and more! Nearly all of us do not have the billions to open a company with enough buying power to keep costs low. 50% mark up may seem like enough, but is not enough to pay bills, employees, yourself (and family), other necessary contractors like an accountant. Retail stores have a lot of transactions and takes a lot of time and energy you don’t expect (like poopy diapers). I personally do not like the trend of box stores but it would be impossible for me to work my buns off to prove them wrong (which was a part of my ‘passion’). My husband and I opened a retail skateboard shop in our twenties, lost a lot of money. It was our passion, but man, we hated running it; so much to do, then more and more, it was chaos. By the time a retail owner can depict reports and analyze, it’s too late, way too much has been lost. Time and the rest. At the time it was a lot to loose for us personally, and others we know have lost many figures taking on their ‘passions’ trying to fit them into a business. I get embarrassed about the whole thing but it’s done so we can move on! I love this article; you pointed to the exact problem. (my husband sent it to me). Action: cut it off as soon as you know it’s bad. It takes guts to admit your business passion isn’t working.

    Reply
    • Amy

      “Cut it off as soon as you know it’s bad.” Oh, so true, Lorinda. Sorry you had to go through all that!

      Reply
  16. Luana

    This is one of the reasons why I didn’t want to do art in university! I figured deadlines and presentations and having to adhere to guidelines would eventually kill what art means to me, so imagine trying to make a living from it! Will definitely be pointing friends to this article, thanks.

    Reply
    • Amy

      That was undoubtedly a good move, Luana! (I know that nothing kills my interest in something more than somebody else telling me how to do it… sigh!)

      Glad you liked my little essay and thanks for passing it on! :)

      Reply
    • Tiara the Merch Girl

      That’s what I found out about writing – a lifelong passion KILLED by university structure! Writing was a form of therapy and reaching out for me and the university’s ideas of commercial viability and deadlines etc didn’t give me the space for that. I have returned to writing now, but not as strongly as before, and in a very different way to how I started.

      Reply
  17. Maria

    So it’s not “Don’t Follow Your Passion” but rather “Do Follow Your Passion, but with a bit of cop on” ? Because when I first read that I must admit I got a bit passionate myself! Afterall simply never “following your passion” is a bit of a cop out from life. A life without passion is nothing. Without passion everyone would be just simply surviving for the sake of surviving, and thats a very grim way of living. But I like your “open-eyed passion,” because blindly following anything will get you no where. You always jump off a cliff with a parachute on your back afterall. There’s my two cents for an interesting post :)

    Reply
  18. Veronika

    Timing of this article couldn’t be more perfect for me, thank you so much for sharing it. I’m somebody who’s been doing a job that requires big girl’s pants every day for the regular paycheque that supports not only a comfortable lifestyle but also supports my true passion – creating art (those art materials are really not cheap). I’ve been laid off just a few days ago and could see how tempting it could be to just think: “Hey, here’s my chance to really make a go of making a living selling my art instead of getting yet another corporate job.” But one of the major reasons why I won’t be doing that is that I want to continue creating art without having to worry if I’m ever going to be able to sell anything! :D I love the freedom that my regular paycheque gives me and that when I create a drawing or a painting I only have to think about whether I like it or not (although my ego very much appreciates any compliments that my blog visitors generously give :) I’m so glad I found your site, I’ll be back for more :)

    Reply
    • Amy

      Veronika, I’m sorry to hear about you losing your job but glad that I could help in some small way! Best wishes!

      Reply
  19. Alyssa Burtt

    I saw this tweet by @DanielleLaporte: “Be careful what you’re good at—you could end up doing it for years.”

    Exactly your argument, but from another angle: just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you’re going to like doing it….!

    Reply
    • Amy

      Damn straight, Alyssa. I faved that tweet too. I’ve definitely been there — only 1 year ago did I quit consulting, which was driving me absolutely crayyyzeeeee. (Good at it? Yes. Liked it? HELL NO!)

      It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut where the money is good and you’re comfortable. And soooooo hard/scary/crazy-making to take the risk to get out of it for your future happiness. But worth it.

      Reply
  20. Dana Reed

    Well, I am trying to turn my passion into a business but it lends itself to doing that in many ways. With photography I am looking at creating something very unique on the market that I think I can make a good living at but will be by commission. On the side I will create art for myself which I love the most and hopefully that will keep the passion going and allow business and passion to maintain some separation. And even that can be used for revenue and marketing. Since I am out of work now, I have the time to try and truly, I don’t want to go back to work for someone else. That alone I think will be motivation to find a way to make this succeed.

    Reply
  21. Dave Doolin

    “Would you still feel passionate when you were struggling to pay the bills and hire wait staff?”

    No. No, no, no and fuck no.

    I don’t write about this much any more, having finally fallen afoul of the “passion patrol:” passion is not a business model.

    Everyone preaches it, but where are they when your site goes down at 5:33 am? When the toilet is overflowing.

    While I’m on a roll here, “balance” is another pet peeve. Balance doesn’t pay the rent.

    And I’ve never understood the “cute cafe” thing either. I’ve worked food service to pay the rent. Where others might see “cute” I see dirty dishes, obnoxious city inspectors, and payroll. Ugh.

    Finally, a personal example: I love this whole blogging thing, a lot. But I have to put it down periodically to recenter myself. (Note: I didn’t say “balance”). Otherwise, it turns into the black hole of time suck, for no good reason.

    (Coming in from DOM Monster BTW)

    Reply
  22. Krish Mandal

    I’ve read many comments here that agree with the article, so I thought I’d take a different approach ;)

    Amy, I agree with what you’re trying to say, in spirit, but I don’t think you’re really going the full route here.

    It’s not the passion that kills you, or that misguides you. You have hit upon it briefly, but not intensely enough. Your passion is necessary, and you should follow your passion if you want it to be the thing that makes you money. But it’s not going to be the thing that keeps making you money.

    As a technologist, a UX designer, and a photographer, I have learned that my passion is in designing visuals, products, and experiences for other people. I have often thought of opening up a fine art portrait studio, or a storefront to sell my fine art landscapes.

    And knowing that passion only is going to lead me astray, I did research. I found out, over my years of working, that design is not about me, or for me. That is art. And that is why art is hard to sell. Because you’re doing it for yourself, hoping other peopel will like it down the road. Kinda not the right thinking there.

    Art should be for you. Design is for other people. Baking a pie is art, brewing coffee is art, running a Vespa dealership, not so much art as it is a love of Vespas.

    So where does the rubber meet the road? It’s in the finances, the customer service, the maintenance of the space, the deliveries, the inventorying, the running out to get change at the bank, the standing online at the post office to mail that package. You said it in your article, it’s the “day-to-day” but most people don’t konw what that means. It’s not all poop. Some of it is for sure. But most of it is the non-passion. The boring stuff. The stuff you’d rather not do, and say you did so you can get back to your “art.”

    How to solve for that? Create processes up front that handle the day to day in logical ways. Look for patterns in your day, create a groove (but don’t get in a rut).

    If you don’t like criticism and don’t know how to handle it, then you’re not made to run a business. You are the owner, you will be criticized, and you will have to eat shit, and smile while doing it. That in itself is an art. And it takes a certain psychological maturity ( no, I’m not talking about being mature here, I’m talking about thick skin, getting your head in a “mode,” getting yourself to a therapist to work out the minor irritations that F-up your mojo).

    Only when you’ve solved these larger issues, only then can you really follow your passion and make it work.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Gotta disagree with you there, Krish. No amount of process-izing will change something you don’t enjoy into something you do enjoy.

      You don’t understand the full depth & breadth of what “passion” is.

      And I do design for me. I design what I want, when I want, and how I want. And I make money doing it. Huzzah! It’s totally possible. Writing it off as “art” and then saying “art doesn’t sell” — that’s a total cop-out.

      Reply
  23. Terry Simpson

    At 53 I became a father for the first time. Guess what- I don’t mind changing the diaper — I was afraid of the poop and now I find it is a way I can make my son feel better — (since I can’t breast feed him).

    Sometimes the poop scares you– but then again, I wasn’t ready to be a father until I grew up.

    Loved the article btw

    Reply
  24. Cynthia Brown

    Love this article!! Not only is there poop with any endeavor, but even if you prepare for the poop it might be larger and a tad more smelly than you had anticipated. The key for my husband and me was not to follow our passion as much as to let our passion help drive us through the harder parts of starting a business. Not even sure that makes sense.

    My husband and I bootstrapped our start-up and did all the design and development work. We’re workaholics and passionate about technology but even still we hit a few seriously stinky piles along the way. That being said, if you like challenges getting over the hurdles can definitely be part of the fun and is ultimately very satisfying. And there will always be challenges. Also, the baby and company analogy is funny and accurate on many levels. The husband and I always joke that the business is our first child…lack of sleep, $$$, and stress. Thankfully we can finally say, “Awww, look at what we made.” Now I just wish the company would snuggle.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  25. LindaLee

    Wow, truly needed to read this article! But am 15 years late. My passion started in 1993 after watching John Leguizamo’s Mambo Mouth on off Broadway. The minute I got home I started writing. I submitted my work to an HBO writing class less than three months later and holy beginner’s luck I received an honorable mention out of 3000 submissions. The following year, I submitted another piece and received Grand Finalist status. That means top 25 out of over 300o submissions. This early pat on the back was all I needed to pursue my passion. My company started as a small part time theatrical production company and soon turned into something much much more. Seven figures would soon follow. Those were the good old days. Ask me how I feel now? Oh, I’m singing a whole other cynical tune! I despise working with actors. Which really makes me sad because I’ve turned into a great director. I love creating but I hate relying on flakey egotistical whiners to get the job done. I don’t want to give up directing or writing or producing, I’ve learned so much about myself in this process, but I recently realized that I need to step away. I despise their neediness, their constant need for validation and their half -axxed work ethics. They dream about being famous and don’t understand that the lesson is in the present opportunity. Out of every 250 actors I’ve worked with, I can tell you that 5 are made of the right stuff. So to continue producing wonderful shows for colleges and universities around the country, I have to pretend I like working with these people. I have grown to despise actors. I do remember a time that I wanted to help each and every one of them become great! Now, how the hell do I get myself out of this one without losing my passion all together?

    Reply
  26. Alex Zuzin

    You should give this phenomenon a (TM) of its own. Sucker’s Syndrom(TM), perhaps. It’s too common a pattern, it needs to be branded and socialized widely.

    Reply
  27. Simone

    Ha, I am so glad I came across this. I was recently considering following a passion, with a bit of an uneasy feeling deep down . . . after much reasearrch, have decided not to.

    And another note . . .love how you point out thos eamateur photographers! They seem to be EVERYWHERE on my facebook lately, and no offense guys, but YOU’RE SHIT and just that = AMATEUR.

    Reply
  28. Brandon

    Such an incredible article! Thank you so much for this advice. I was, just this morning, feeling my passion for my business waning. This article combined with some thought on the subject reminded me that what I am doing is not just about my passion, but about life.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  29. Kevin

    Loved the article. A couple of years ago I started my own brand development/outsource marketing agency. After 125k lost, I realized that I hated sales and trying to bring in business. What I loved was the strategy and the design process. Seeing the client smile. The “poo” as it were, was the accounting, the sales, the cold calls, the staying up at night wondering how in the world this was going to work. Oh and by the way, keeping my marriage, finances, and kids feds while I was losing my shorts!

    Lost my shorts and almost my marriage. I moved back to my hometown and did the hard work of repair. My marriage is healthy again and my finances are finally back in order. But what I’ve discovered is that that I loved being on my own. I’m not a daily grind guy at all. Love flexibility as most creatives do. However, being back in “corporate America” has been successful, it has cost me my balance.

    To me, passion is more about finding balance than process. With 3 kids and a wife, it can be hard sometimes to find time to “pursue” your passion. My desire is to consult remotely. I need the incubation time but I also need the team.

    But my advice to anyone looking for their passion is to weigh the consequences, find out what you would do even if you didn’t get paid (even though, being paid to do it keeps the wife and kids happy) and count the cost. Balance and healthy perspective is key. It helps pay the bills and keeps things moving forward even when your life gets stuck in a rut.

    Hopefully, I’ll be a brand consultant working remotely for an UI Agency. I love designing experiences. But for now, I need to bring my “passion” for designing experiences into my everyday life to create balance.

    Makes sense?

    Reply
    • Amy

      Yup, that totally makes sense. What a story! Thank you for sharing.

      For me, it took me a long, long time to realize that while I loved designing, I hated designing for other people. Some folks love the client education process, of explaining why they do what they do, & leaving the clients a little (or a lot) smarter than before. Spreading the gospel, as it were. Helping people who can’t help themselves.

      I hate it. :)

      Sound familiar? ;)

      Reply
  30. Bob

    Following your passion is always a starting point. Discerning the difference between passion and talking yourself into doing something and rationalizing motivation which you misinterpret as passion always leads to hitting the wall.

    Following your passion is always an ongoing process. Mistaking passion for talking yourself into doing something because your dissatisfied with your current life is never passion.

    Passion in it’s true form is couple with inspiration which is the energizing fuel that takes you to the completion of the experience you have passion for. Opening a coffee and being bummed out 6 months later was a rationalized intellectual motivation – doomed from the outset – because there comes a time when no more energy and effort can be invested in reaffirming.

    Passion never requires reaffirming or justification. Passion is a beacon of light through the noise which illuminates the path of least resistance utilizing “joy” as the ongoing feedback mechanism…

    Reply
  31. todd andelin

    yeah, well said. some of my passions turned out to be DOA as soon as they had real life in them.

    Reply
  32. Sasha

    I studied journalism because I love researching and writing articles. But when I’ve done freelance writing, it has totally ticked me off. People aren’t clear about what they want. They only know what they don’t want. Then they bitch and moan about you not giving them what they wanted even though they never could get around to expressing exactly what it was that they wanted. I get ticked off any time someone tries to get me to write something for them. I feel the same way about teaching. Just because I know how to do something doesn’t mean that I want to take time out of actually doing it to teach you how to do it. Boring! So I’m hunting for what to do next … it’s a challenge.

    Reply
  33. Verna

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

    Reply
  34. Enks

    I love sketching. Does that mean I should not pursue BS Architecture? Please Help me. I am now shifting to BA Journalism because I think this is really where I am supposed to be.

    Reply

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