Beyond Your Passion

How do people end up loving what they do?

The answer is simply. They find out what they are good at and do it for money. It is, in this so critical to see the importance of ability.

What it means to do what you love, is to be good at something before you can expect a good job in that work.

But mastery by itself is not enough to guarantee happiness: The many examples of well-respected but miserable workaholics demonstrate this. What is needed is an investment in the career capital that generates the right types of traits in your working life.

Many people believe that the key to happiness is identifying your true calling and then chasing after it with all the courage you can muster.

But, the path to fulfillment and enjoyment – at least as it concerns what you do for a living – is more complicated than simply answering the classic question “What should I do with my life?”

When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful nor healthy, advice.

The conventional wisdom on career success – follow your passion – is seriously flawed. It not only fails to describe how most people actually end up with compelling careers, but for many people it can actually make things worse: leading to chronic job shifting and unrelenting angst.

“Follow your passion” might just be the worst advice you could ever take.

If “follow your passion” is bad advice, what should I do instead?

Passion is an epiphenomenon of a working life well lived. Don’t follow your passion; rather, let it follow you in your quest to become exceptional at what you do.

Move your focus away from finding the right work, toward working right, and eventually build a love for what you do.

If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, he would probably have been one of the Los Altos Zen Center’s most popular teachers. But he didn’t follow this simple advice. Apple Computer was decidedly not born out of passion, but instead was the result of a lucky break – a “small-time” scheme that unexpectedly took off.

Ira Glass: “In the movies there’s this idea that you should just go for your dream, but I don’t believe that. Things happen in stages. It takes time to get good at anything” – the many years it took him to master radio to the point where he had interesting options. “The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.”

There are many complex reasons for workplace satisfaction, but the reductive notion of matching your job to a pre-existing passion is not among them.

The strongest predictor of someone seeing their work as a calling is the number of years spent on the job. The more experience they have, the more likely they are to love their work.

The happiest, most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do.

Motivation requires that you fulfill three basic psychological needs:
– Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your day, and that your actions are important
– Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do
– Relatedness: the feeling of connection to other people

Notice, scientists did not find “matching work to pre-existing ability, interests, passions, or personality” as being important for motivation.

The passion hypothesis convinces people that somewhere there’s a magic “right” job waiting for them, and that if they find it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the work they were meant to do. The problem, of course, is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt.


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