Recently I was talking with a client about the idea of following your passion. This conversation stemmed from a TED Radio Hour podcast I listened to about success, which featured, among others, motivational guru Tony Robbins and Mike Rowe (host of the TV show Dirty Jobs). Paraphrasing, Tony Robbins advocated finding your “bliss” job or career and doing that for a living. Mike Rowe offered a different viewpoint: Find something you liked well enough, and bring your passion to it.
I was intrigued listening to Mike Rowe, as he challenged how society defines success, having spent eight years on the show Dirty Jobs showing that success comes in many different forms, which are not necessarily tied to “passion.” Here’s an exchange between Mike Rowe and the host of the podcast, Guy Raz.
Mike Rowe: People on Dirty Jobs, they say no, no, no, you don’t follow your passion. You always bring it with you. You never follow it.
Guy Raz: …People on this episode say passion… is what you’re supposed to pursue to find success.
Mike Rowe: Yeah, I know, whatever. Look, its great copy and I don’t mean to dismiss it, but I think of all the people I know in my industry (acting), who are around my age, who have still followed their passion and they’re struggling. They’re going to struggle all their life. That’s not really the question though; the question is are they happy? And if you’re happy following your passion, great. But if you’re unhappy and you’re just doing it because of inertia, then somebody needs to give you a little slap.
That to me is the intriguing part – the possibility that you could *not* be happy following your passion (even if you are successful at it). No one really talks about that, and yet I’ve personally experienced it at different points along my career trajectory, as have many of my clients.
Here’s an example: I had a client who taught music in elementary school. She loved kids, loved teaching, and loved music; she was truly passionate about each of those things. Yet, she did not love teaching music to elementary school children. Somehow the combination of those three things took the love out of the equation. She ultimately stepped down from her position and took some time off to recalibrate. When she re-entered the work force, she did so as a volunteer coordinator; not her passion, yet it met the criteria (listed below) of where her skills, interests, super powers and money met. She imported her passion for being with people into the position and made it her own.
There’s also another aspect to following your passion, which presumes you know what your passion is. This may trigger questions such as:
What does passion even mean? (setting aside romantic ardor, dictionary.com defines passion as, “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music”)
What is my passion?
How do I move toward it?
What if it’s too hard, or unrealistic?
What if I’m really bad at doing it even though I love it?
What happens if I can’t make a living at it?
What if it kills my love for it?
Back to the conversation with my client…as we discussed these ideas he started a slow mantra of, “yes, YES!” He is someone who has followed his passions—owning three different businesses, from jewelry design to house painter to general contractor—and he’s also done work just for the money (working for a friend using his general contracting skills and not loving what he was building). In his experience, the passion was always there, even in the lousiest of jobs, because he brought it with him; he tapped into his passion for a job well done; for treating others with respect; for allowing his integrity to be his guide; and for leaving clients in better shape than he found them. To use his words, it’s important to, “love the one you’re with.”
You can hear the TED Radio Hour podcast about Success, here: