‘Follow your passion’ has become the go to catchphrase for anyone attempting to inspire others to lead a more meaningful life. It’s usually said with the best intentions, but it can create disastrous results.
Instead of following your passion, stalk it. Treat your passion like a misguided love interest who wants nothing to do with you.
Don’t worry, I’ll elaborate.
The Danger of Following Your Passion
You don’t have to look far to find a blogger, columnist, author or just some guy on Facebook encouraging you to follow your passion. As if these three words are all you need to transform your life from dull monotony to passion filled amazement.
Therein lies the problem. Simply saying ‘follow your passion’ implies that you already have a passion for something and all you need is the courage to follow it. If you have these two elements, you’ll be able to find a lifelong career that fills you with enough joy to put a permanent skip in your step.
‘Follow your passion’ is the same as saying ‘Six Pack Abs in Two Easy Steps!’
Just like getting that washboard stomach, creating a career and life that invigorates you takes work. It’s not a two-step process.
It’s also not going to be a non-stop thrill ride filled with the type of passion that would make an erotica author blush.
Despite these truths, what if someone does simply follow their passion? Can it be dangerous?
Let’s imagine an office worker named Trevor. Trevor hates his job. He reads blogs and articles all day that tell him all he needs is the courage to follow his passion and he’s set for life.
He doesn’t really know what his passion is, so he starts exploring. He discovers that he’s really excited about calligraphy. After a few months, he decides he can give calligraphy lessons online and quits the office job.
Passion, check. Followed, check. Now he’s set for life!
Whoa there, Trevor. Slow down.
Are you really passionate about calligraphy? Or are you just excited about it?
Trevor discovers after a few months of online calligraphy lessons that there’s not as much interest as he had hoped – and that he’s pretty sick of calligraphy already. He thought he found his passion and his courage to follow it. Now he has no job and no prospects.
Where did he go wrong?
Excitement is quite easy to come by – and it is fleeting. It’s not the same as passion. Passion takes time to cultivate, to grow and to distinguish from excitement.
Beyond this, transmuting even the deepest of passions into a fulfilling and life supporting career is not a simple task. It takes a lot more than courage – it takes planning, it takes effort and it takes hard work.
Just like stalking.
Stalk Your Passion in the Creepiest of Ways
Remember when you found your old high school crush on Facebook and spent a little too long going through their old pictures?
That’s not the kind of stalking I’m talking about. That’s the Diet Coke of stalking.
I’m talking old school stalking. The type that results in restraining orders and possible jail time.
(I want to be clear here that I’m NOT advocating actually stalking a person. It’s a metaphor, people.)
Random passenger or dedicated stalker? (Photo Credit: Flickr CC – heyitsopower)
A hardcore stalker didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start stalking the cute barista at his favorite coffee shop.
His interest was piqued at some point. Perhaps he liked the way she ground them coffee beans. He was excited about her for a while.
Then, something happened. He kept visiting the coffee shop just to see her. He planned his day around it. He started cultivating passion for being in the same room as the barista. Somewhere along the line, things got creepy.
Fast-forward a year and a half and he has the barista’s daily routine memorized. He’s sneaking extra vitamins into her shampoo. He’s making sure nobody steals her bike. He knows everything about her, from her Snapple preference to her dog walking route.
Yet, Stalker McCharlie still has a day job. He’s still paying his bills with what he knows works.
With dedication, focus and absurd levels of planning – he manages to fit stalking in with his daily life.
While creepy, illegal and immoral, McCharlie has a lot to teach would-be passion followers about how to make their dreams a reality:
1. Passion Takes Effort. There is not some corner of your consciousness filled with passion just waiting to be accessed. You won’t randomly wake up one day knowing what you’re passionate about and be done.
Passion is cultivated with effort over time. Those who say, “I don’t know what my passion is,” need to start exploring various hobbies and interests. Find some that are exciting. Stick with what excites you until the excitement fades. Cultivate passion by pursuing mastery of said interest/hobby.
2. Transmuting Passion into a Career Takes Time. Let’s go back to Trevor, our calligraphy-excited office worker. Imagine that he invested years of his life into cultivating passion for calligraphy. He mastered the art, studied with calligraphy masters and can be said to truly be passionate about it. Mix in some courage and he’s done, right?
He needs to consider how to turn that passion into a life supporting business. Before he quits his day job, he needs to take a lesson from Stalker McCharlie. He needs to learn everything about the business end of calligraphy.
- How does his passion translate into income?
- Is giving lessons over Skype the best way to go?
- Perhaps providing video tutorials or selling high end pens through an affiliate program would be best?
- Maybe he should create his own line of calligraphy tools?
Even after he has a clear business plan in mind and he’s decided that it is worth pursuing, Trevor should still think twice before drinking the Courage Culture Kool-Aid and quitting his day job.
He should start his business in his spare time (just like McCharlie feverishly scheduled his stalking). He should spend a few months, or even a few years, juggling his passionate business and his guaranteed paycheck. Once the business is doing well enough to support his life, then he can take the leap and leave his cubicle.
Taking the well planned and researched route is not only financially safe, it guarantees that his calligraphy business is, in fact, his passion. Very few people can balance a full time job with, well, most other things. Let alone running a business.
3. Passion Stalking is Not Easy. One of the biggest misconceptions of the ‘follow your passion’ mantra is that once you find it and follow it, life will be easy, fun and you’ll forget all about your worries and your strife.
Again, not quite.
It’s absurdly easy to find any ole job, clock in, hate it, complain, clock out and then do whatever you want for the rest of the day. That’s easier than passion stalking.
Passion stalking is tough. Especially if you go the freelance / entrepreneur route and build something for yourself. There will be difficulties. There will be stress. There will be 16 hour workdays.
The trade-off is fulfillment. The reason why passions should be cultivated and stalked is to provide your life with meaning. With purpose. You’ll free yourself from the dread of the easy, yet unfulfilling, cubicle life (unless you’re into that).
You’ll build something based on your cultivated passion that will support your life. While you might still have stress and long workdays – you’ll have created something that you can be proud of. You won’t simply be selling your time for a paycheck.
Release Your Inner Stalker
If Facebook has taught us anything, it’s that everyone has stalking tendencies. Everyone.
It’s time to tap into your innermost Stalker McCharlie and harness that power to cultivate your passion. Start exploring different hobbies and interests. Find something that excites you. Keep pursuing it until the excitement fades and passion starts emerging.
Then, explore how to turn your passion into a life supporting career. Do you need to switch industries or find another company? Should you forge a new business for yourself? Perhaps you can become a freelancer?
Keep stalking your passion until you know everything about it and love it to an unhealthy degree. Then, you’ll truly experience what all those bloggers and motivational Facebookers are talking about – the enjoyment of cultivating and rigorously stalking your passion.