A Word of Caution About “Following Your Passion”

I often hear phrases like “follow your passion” and “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  While these are great pieces of advice, they are hard to actually implement. We have many passions that don’t always lead to making money.

I had a friend recently decide to quit his job and pursue acting full time. I knew he had been thinking about it for a while, so I asked what caused him to finally take the leap. He said he just had a moment of clarity and knew it was time.

I’m pretty fascinated by people who do what my friend did. I’m naturally risk-averse so leaving a safety net of a steady paycheck for the unknown seems extremely daunting. Yet in my blog and twitter reading, I see all the time how people have “turned their passion into profit.” So why isn’t everyone doing it?

As with most things that I’m curious about, I went to Google and found some opinions on the topic. Surprisingly, my search found that many people suggest not following your passion.

Here are some of the ones that stood out to me:

Fastcompany: Don’t follow your passion, be content with what you do and hone your skills to build value.

Business Insider:  Don’t follow your passion, do what contributes:

Get Rich Slowly: Passion + Usefulness = value

Forbes: Follow Your Passion, but do it in the Right Way:

As you can see the common theme among all of these posts is that you can’t just blindly “follow your passion.” You have to put thought and effort into cultivating what you’re passionate about and finding how it can provide value to other people.

I think my friend got it right. He took some time to cultivate his passion, despite wanting to follow it fully for years, and through hard work and effort he has developed a network where he can use his skills to provide value to other people and still support himself.

And in the end, it just felt right to him. I think you have to trust your gut in this type of situation.

I’m all for finding what you love and doing it for a living. Just make sure you’ve prepared enough to make the calculated risk worth it.