I recently spoke at TEDx Jamesville (Hamilton, ON) about advice young people receive when they are wondering about their future. Too often, we give and receive one-size-fits-all advice, and the majority of my talk focused on finding the nuggets of wisdom in otherwise meaningless phrases like ‘follow your passion’.
Have you ever been told to “follow your passion” before? Perhaps you were deciding on a subject to study in post-secondary, or choosing a new hobby, or talking to pretty much any adult about your future.
On the surface, this advice seems helpful; you’d never want to spend the rest of your life doing something you hate. But have you ever thought about what this advice actually means? For example…
What defines a ‘passion’? How do you know if you’re passionate about something? What if you have more than one passion? What if you don’t have a passion yet? What if your passions change over time? How do you actually follow your passion?
Here are a few things that you should know about following your passion.
Passion has Purpose
Passion for an activity is a lot like love for another human being. Vegas notwithstanding, you don’t decide to marry someone ‘just because’; you have reasons that you can articulate to them (and hopefully your/their parents).
People who are truly passionate about something are able to explain what the field/hobby/activity means to them, and how they benefit from partaking in this passion. It might be a deeper personal conviction, or a desire to change something about the world, but without one, your passion is just an interest.
Passion is Contagious
Do you find yourself talking to everyone about your passion? Do people know you as the ‘_________ person’? If so, that’s a good sign. But what then?
Find the others. They will keep you on track, and help you become better at your chosen craft. Peer groups may already exist in your city, or reside on internet forums, where you can all teach and learn together.
Passion is Incremental
It’s often said that ‘love’ is a verb, not a noun, the implication being that it needs to be practiced every day. I would suggest that the same is true for passion. True passion expresses itself in the consumption of relevant books, articles, lectures, podcasts, and interviews. It also manifests as consistent practice (perhaps even 10,000 hours of practice as Malcom Gladwell suggests).
Passion is Relentless
Are you someone who is ‘passionate’ about something, but gets solid value from your Netflix subscription instead of practicing or otherwise improving yourself? If so, your passion is probably just an interest.
If you are one of these people, and are wondering what to do with all the free time you’ll have once you unsubscribe from Netflix, here are some ideas of how to be passionate.
- Read a book.
- Watch a documentary.
- Listen to a podcast.
- Start a blog and write one post a week.
- Find a group of like-minded people who will challenge you to be better.
- Become a teacher or mentor to someone else.
- Find a mentor or teacher.
- Write an article and submit it to a magazine.
- Enter a contest.
- Exhibit at a convention.
- Become a contributor to an online forum.
- Subscribe to a magazine.
- Figure out how to make money from your passion (it doesn’t have to be a full-time job!).
- Give a TEDx Talk or public lecture.
- Make sacrifices for your passion. Skip parties and unsubscribe from Netflix.
- Attend a lecture, concert, or masterclass from a subject expert.
- Travel to a city known for its excellence in your field.
- Take a class or course online.