How to Really Do What You Love
Despite being overly talked about, the concept of passion still hasn’t been covered appropriately. Only 40% of Americans find the work they do meaningful and only 25% believe they are following their passion.
The problem, as it turns out, is that we’ve just been told all the wrong things about passion. While ground-breaking approaches to passion have been described by the likes of Cal Newport, it’s still wrong.
Passion is something we are born with. The only difference is that we have more than one and it seems there is a strategic way to approach it.
A lot of it starts with expectations. We think everyone has this perfect linear shot to success, like the image below.
What We’ve Been Told
In the face of difficulty, we usually end up on the internet looking for the answers to our passion qualms. The internet is a good place to start except 9/10 people discussing passion limit the advice to the notorious ‘follow your passion.’
This sounds like great advice except at young ages, or any age really, nobody knows what the hell that means and more importantly, everybody likes lots of things, so this just gives us anxiety over all of the options of “maybe passions” that we have.
How do we know that something is our true passion vs. something we just really love?
This is a good question but it is also wrong. You won’t have one passion. You’ll have lots of explained things you love which may come to life in the form of an activity.
Why It's All Wrong
First things first, we don’t have just one ‘passion.’ The unfortunate reality is that quite like Disney’s ability to make the world believe in a single prince charming, armies of click-bait hungry bloggers have made us also believe there may only be one passion.
The second great error we all make about passion is that is a physical thing we can interact with. Passion is not a tangible activity you go and do. Passions are the mystical, unseen attributes woven into the activities we do and woven into our DNA.
In other words, passion is not baseball, passion is competition.
We’ll elaborate more below.
How Your Passion Really Works
To boil down what has been said above in tiny bite size pieces, I will present a metaphor.
Your passion is a pile of tinder. Since we have lots of passions, you have many piles of tinder. Your piles of tinder do nothing alone. You are given them at birth (DNA) and you carry them everywhere.
Each pile of tinder you have (passion), represents a behavior that exists in the world and is special to you. Examples of these behaviors are to compete, to learn and to love. These behaviors are your passions. You love to compete, learn and love. However, just simply having these passions (piles of tinder) doesn’t actually make you feel good. They need to burn and warm you up.
Your piles of tinder (passion) will only burn is if you put lighter fluid on it.
The lighter fluid is the activities we do every day. The thing is, our activities are not so simple either. Each activity has specific behaviors designed into it (think DNA for activities). So just like you have multiple piles of tinder, each activity has different types of lighter fluid.
It is only when a person with a passion for competing (tinder) engages in an activity that is based on competition (lighter fluid) that a flame is ignited.
An Example of Passion Explained
Your passion is going to be something much much more macro than a single activity like singing or baseball. So instead of thinking ‘baseball’ is a passion, think ‘competition’ is a passion. Competition is macro, competition is universal to life. Competition is a true passion. Competition is something that can be woven into us, into the world and into the activities of the world. If you are someone who is passionate about competition, you just love all things that have ‘competition’ woven into it.
This explains why you crazy sales people get so equally pumped up about making a huge deal as you do a friendly game of ping pong. You just love to compete.
This is how people who are trying to figure it out start to get confused.
For example; you could be working in sales loving your job, but if you go out one weekend and compete in a dance competition you might think;
“well... damn. that was awesome. Which one is my real passion?”
And this is where things get complicated.
This is how we get trapped. We think there is only one passion and we think it is just a thing. We need to remember it is much more macro than that. Your passion won’t be dancing or making a sale.
You can’t be born with that. But you can be born with a passion for competing.
Let’s fall back to the idea presented of tinder piles representing our passions. Remember that? Just imagine your chest as the home to these tinder piles.
Based on what we learned about passion being universal, we can now establish that the piles of tinder in our chest, representing passion, are then waiting to for the lighter fluid so you get the fire roaring.
To visually capture this, here is an image. It is a picture of a tinder pile labeled ‘competition’. Competition is a passion, it is unlit right now because you are sitting at home, a very noncompetitive activity.
Being a pile of competition, any activity (lighter fluid) in the world that has a hint of competition to it will turn this little pile of tinder into a fire as you ignite it by engaging in that activity.
Not All Passions & Activities are Created Equal
While playing in the Super Bowl and racing your friend in the shopping cart are both competitive activities, they just won’t give you the same type of joy.
The greater amount of competition in that activity, the stronger your little pile of tinder will burn.
That’s not the only thing that will affect what you love. You need to remember you have many passions, not just one.
You’re not just passionate about competition, but it’s going to go far beyond that. To better explain why we like some things and love some things a lot, it comes back to our tinder piles.
Determining what your one true love in life really depends on how many passions (tinder piles) are burning and how intense their flames are (amt. of lighter fluid from activities)
For example; Let’s say you are a person born with 6 true passions (6 tinder piles) and you are doing an activity one day that is pretty fun but doesn’t feel like a career. That activity might only be matching up with one of your tinder piles.
So even though you are engaging with one of your true passions, your chamber is not burning anywhere near its full strength. You still have five passions, five dynamics to life that just are not being fulfilled.
Just imagine a huge room with 6 fire pits in it and only one is lit, things will feel a bit lackluster, right?
And that’s it!
This is where things will start to make sense for us. The reason we can love so many things is that we have lots of tinder piles. And all of these tinder piles are universal and are going to be a different passion, ignited by an entirely different set of activities in life.
But before you get all sad and think we will never find an activity that fulfills all of our passions, remember, they are universally applicable, so they overlap!
How You Can Get All of Your Passions Burning
If someone has a passion for baseball, it will fulfill their passion for competition. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot also fulfill that same person’s passion for adventure. This is especially true for the professional players who travel the country to compete on the field.
A professional ball player who was born with three passions woven into his genetic makeup which are competition, adventure and say... entertainment is going to thrive in baseball. He competes for every day (competition), he travels (adventure) and gets to be put on the big stage, all eyes on him (entertainment).
His three passions are fulfilled. Those tinder piles are full blown forest fires now burning at full force. Everyday! This guy is living it! Just look at him.
But if this guy has been playing baseball since age 5, of course, he is going to think his passion is actually baseball. And there’s nothing wrong with him thinking that to be true. If that sport is supporting all of his passions and his flames are burning away, screw it! You have what you need.
It all comes down to realizing that a quality career and life relies on your ability to identify what your multiple passions are and then find a career that supports that.
Using the example above, someone who is passionate about entertainment, adventure and competition could become a baseball player as shown… or they could also become a TV Show Host.
There is no one job, there is no one career. Just fulfill your passions.
Applying This to Your Life
First, let’s summarize what we covered.
- We do not have just one passion
- Passion is not a tangible activity
- Your passion is just a pile of tinder waiting to be lit up by things
- You have lots of passions, and therefore, lots of little piles of tinder within you waiting to be lit up
- When lots of tinder piles are burning, we enjoy what we are doing
- When all of our tinder piles are burning, we are doing what we love
But, how do we figure this all out?
What we need to do to discover our passions is to write down activities we have always loved and studied them to understand what they all have in common.
Two basic steps
- Look at various points in your life, from all ages, and identify any activities or things that you were really into. Make this list really thorough and write down anything that comes to mind.
- Start to reflect on these items and identify similar macro characteristics about them until you start to see a few core principles some of those activities have in common.
If throughout your life you’ve loved video games, sports and startups you might think none of them have anything in common. I recommend peeling back a layer. Something like video games might look like nothing, but how did you behave in that game. Did you create? Did you compete? Did you explore?
As a startup gamer who played sports, you might have a passion for competition, if in the video game you built a clan or a guild, you might have a passion for creating things.
Immediately Actionable Tips
So first thing’s first, doing this for yourself you need to collect a list of things you have done in your life and things you do now that you love.
See examples and tips below:
- Keep a little Moleskine journal on you at all times
- Throughout your day catch yourself in a moment of pure joy and happiness. Write down what you were doing/caused you to feel that way.
- The second way to collect past events from your life to reflect upon.
- Run through your childhood up to high school and beyond. Remember how excited you got about those plays in 3rd grade? Write it down.
- Write down the things that get you excited to wake up in the morning.
Once you have your list, it is time to reflect on all of this and to start finding the overarching trends to all of the things you have ever loved.
Applying This to a Career
This is the most important step. Once you are able to identify these macro level passions, you need to review careers that might have these items within it.
How to identify trends in a career;
Let’s say you discovered your passions were people, attention, and humor. Start to brainstorm career paths that include these things. In the early stages, don’t overthink it, if a career path doesn’t include every single one of your passions don’t cross it off, there are going to be hidden aspects to a career that you don’t know about.
Reviewing the passions we listed (people, attention, and humor) we find a few good leads:
- Talk show host
- Radio host
- Youtube star
Once you know this, sit on it and let it marinate in your mind. Maybe go get involved with a side project. When you learn these things, nothing is making you immediately quit and disrupt your whole life.
It’s not foolproof but I like to think this gives a lot of meaningful direction to what we do in life.
To get the creative juices flowing, I've included some sample “passions” that might help you understand you.
Proven passions to pull inspiration from
- To compete
- To build
- To understand
- To help
- To explore
- To love
- To entertain
- To fix
- To grow
- To lead
If this article truly did drive change in your life to a new direction in your career, I am giving you homework that will help you launch the next step of your life with incredible success.
It is absolutely required reading for you -> The Ultimate Guide to Getting Any Job You Want.
This is a guide I wrote that has helped hundreds of people and could make a new leap in your life majorly effective.
So if you are going for a new shift in life. Check it out.
Lastly, I must sign off with this final message.
I wish you all the best of luck.