Follow Your Passion - Good Advice or Bad?

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Truth, or happiness fallacy?

Summary: Following your passion might lead to a number of disappointments when jobs don't meet expectations.

Key Take Aways:

- Constantly looking for something external to satisfy one's self might be a wild goose chase leading to unhappiness.

- Growing your skill set may work better in the long-term because it can be applied to a range of opportunities.

The saying we often hear when people discuss jobs and career paths is follow your passion. There's an obvious problem with the passion-seeking approach to work though. Not all work is something that excites or fulfills one's passionate interests.

A person who waits tables to pay the bills is not likely to say their passion was to work in food service. However, that job does help them achieve a goal of utmost importance - survival. It may also be satisfactory because it is social and they get to meet many people. Additionally, the type of restaurant they work may match their favorite cuisine or they may enjoy the camaraderie with their co-workers. The work-life fit also may be contenting because of a flexible schedule or the availability of health insurance.

It isn't possible for everyone to be a hard-charging trailblazer like Richard Branson, and there are plenty of people who don't want to do that anyway. One might easily assume Steve Jobs was passionate about technology when he first started working with Steve Wozniak to form Apple Computer. In a recent article by Georgetown professor Cal Newport, he says when Jobs was a young man he was much more interested in eastern mysticism and living the life of a free spirit, than in technology. The computer manufacturing business initially appealed to Jobs as a way of making some quick cash. Newport uses the Jobs example to debunk the notion that passion alone will drive a person to success in practical terms.

It might actually cause a tunnel vision which results in a disconnection from the practical considerations of life, such as feeding oneself properly and having health insurance to practice a reasonable degree of self-care.

Instead, Newport pushes what he calls career capital theory. Using this approach results in the development of unique and valued skills that allow a person to position themselves so they can do work they enjoy. This strategy is very different from seeking a dream job, which may never be obtained. However, it may be created within an organization through one's own initiative or by starting your own organization. There are still some issues to keep in mind even with a dream job. It could go away due to a lay-off, bankruptcy or termination. Focusing on expanding on one's skills might help diminish that pain.

It may also help one work in a number of different jobs and have a broader range of work experiences. Nurturing a number of skills based on enjoyable activities might be a more balanced approach than pursuing a singular passion. Another counterargument is that turning your passion into a profession might ruin the enjoyment of that activity.

 Image Credit: Stacey Warnke, Wiki Commons

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