Don’t Not Follow Your Passion! Or Not? No.

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Folks, earlier this week, a friend of mine pointed me to this article entitled, cleverly, “Don’t Follow Your Passion.”

“It’s really good advice,” my friend told me.

Now, I took a gander at this article and it took me a few moments to figure out that it was really bad advice posing as really good advice.  Let me give you a tidbit:

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.

At first glance, the author, a Ms. Hoy, seems to be pointing you in a good direction: which is to realize that the implementation of your passion must be grounded in reality.  Except that there’s one major flaw; can you see what it is?  Fine, I’ll tell you.  The flaw is that the bounds of your reality is largely defined by you.  Yes, you.

Our passions are designed to bring us growth, growth that expands our reality, and that growth is often created by stepping out of our comfort zone (the comfort zone being the “zone” of our previous reality).  Obviously, stepping out of our comfort zone means the obvious: if you follow your passion, you are about to become uncomfortable. Now, the discomfort may be major, it may be emotional, or it may be a moment of nakedness, either figuratively or literally.

But, look, folks, discomfort does not mean your premise was flawed, that passion is not a legitimate force, or that you need to slap a layer of reasonableness and logic on top of your passion and walk around sipping tea with your pinky in the air and clench your butt to keep a fart from embarrassing you.

Ms. Hoy’s premise seems to be that a great deal of discomfort, or hitting a roadblock in your passion means that something about your vision was flawed and you can just chuck this experience into the failure column, and next time, don’t be so damned motivated without a 20-point checklist.

I’m not saying checklists are bad; I’m just saying that Ms. Hoy’s premise is stupid.  Discomfort and roadblocks do not mean that the original driving force of passion was not a correct one.  Yes, your passion could turn into lots and lots of poop, but once you get past your discomfort, your passion may end up thanking you in their Oscar speech.  Or your passion may turn to a life of drugs and crime, but it still doesn’t mean that your passion was wrong.  How dumb is that?

Because we’re so results-driven, it makes sense that we would measure passion by some kind of point system of the results it produced.  If it produces good results, then it was good to follow that passion.  If it was bad results, then it was bad to follow that passion.  But that kind of approach has in it a lack of self-awareness that is astounding.  The reason to follow your passion has nothing more to do with the external end results than having a child has to do with making sure someone is around when you die and that they say nice things to you.

A passion is an expression of a deep internal desire, and if your first attempt at following your passion slaps you on the face on your first date, well, try the redhead next time.  And then continue to do your passion like nobody’s business.

Sure, take the time to try to make your passion a reality.  But don’t choose your passion based solely on the reality you already know.  And don’t diminish your passion in hopes that you won’t fail big or be emotionally crushed by your experiences.  Sure, opening a coffee shop may destroy your life.  But what is not opening the coffee shop going to do instead, make you immortal?

“Whew, at least I didn’t follow my passion and open that coffee shop,” you’ll say.  “Fortunately, now I know exactly the same about myself and the world that I did 6 months ago, and I’m not uncomfortable at all.  Yippee skippee.”

Don’t be an idiot.  The world is not run amok by people who follow their true passions.  The world is run amok by people who became uncomfortable about their passions, who experienced pain, who have denied who they are and what they want and used excuses like “reasonableness” to find a nice comfortable place of “light miserableness”.

Or I could be wrong.  But this is a subject I’m passionate about, so if I’m wrong, then I couldn’t be doing it any more right.

Just My Thoughts,
Dr. Matt*

* Dr. Matt is not a real doctor.

Dr. Matt

Dr. Matt* gives advice on relationships, life, death, half-life, pet ownership, sexuality, asexuality, proto-sexuality, and mustache growing. * Dr. Matt is not a real doctor.

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  • Arthur Hung

    Fucking Fantastic post 😀

    Needed to hear this, I was on the fence on this topic (rare for me) I’m usually just pure passion… or so I thought. 

    Keep up the goodness.