We hear it all the time:
"Do what you love!"
"Follow your passion!"
Everyone from Confucius and Joseph Campbell to Steve Jobs and Richard Branson have been quoted as giving some form of this advice. Usually it’s in relation to how we make a living.
The problem is that we are seldom given concrete instructions for how to actually go about doing what we love.
As a result, this message often comes across as abstract, impractical, or worse, unachievable, leading many people to dismiss the advice and even go so far as to call it unintelligent or irresponsible.
This is due to some simple but crucial misunderstandings and misconceptions that have turned into full blown myths surrounding this topic.
I want to clear up some of these myths now.
MYTH #1: Doing What You Love Won't Make You Money
This myth partially stems from the misunderstanding of what “love” means in this context. I hear people ask questions like:
“I love to eat...but how in the world can that be a career?”
“I love listening to music...but who’s going to pay me to do that?”
“I’d love to travel around the world...but how is that going to pay the bills?”
Let’s ignore for a moment that there are, in fact, people who actually do make a good living from these things (think: food channel, bloggers, photographers). Rather, I’ll address the real underlying objection here, which is:
“I can’t see how what I love doing is a marketable skill.”
The truth is, you probably “love” to do a lot of things...but most of them are irrelevant to your bigger life goals.
It’s important to distinguish between what you say you “love” and what is just an amusing activity that serves as a distraction or break from unfulfilling work.
Your ideal work will be found at the intersection of what you love doing and what holds true meaning for you.
Doing something that just amuses you might be fun for a while, but it's an empty pursuit.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what you love doing right now. Most people don’t and it’s usually not something you can figure out by simply thinking about it. You arrive at it by taking consistent, inspired action. I talk more about my experience with this in a previous blog post, you can find it HERE.
The basic concept is this:
Don’t try to figure out what you love doing by thinking about it. Instead, take action on what excites you each day and the things you are truly passionate about will eventually reveal themselves.
I could list every every actor, entrepreneur, musician or author who has made a living doing what excites them...but I won’t. I’m sure you can probably think of a dozen off the top of your head.
But even with all the real life examples out there, I know there will still be objections:
“Sure, these people may have done it but they are the exceptions and not the rule.”
To which I would say: Even if just one person has done it, it is possible for you, too.
There is absolutely no rule that says you have to suffer through life doing work you don’t like to do, especially in today’s world.
Here's something I'd like you to consider:
If you've been able to support yourself by doing things that don't excite you, why wouldn't you be able to support yourself by doing things that do excite you—or at least things you enjoy?
With the Internet and social media, this is more possible today than at any point in history.
Finally, let’s look at this myth from a different angle:
Who says you have to rely solely on what you love for financial gain?
You can do the things you love just for the sake of doing them. They don’t have to turn into a new career path, especially if you like where you’re at right now.
It is absolutely possible to follow your excitement while still holding down your normal job. In fact, that’s how I recommend you start! After all, Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity while working as a clerk in a Swiss patent office (seriously).
Your excitement may turn into a full-time endeavor, but even if it doesn’t, wouldn’t your life still be that much richer for having taken inspired action on something that mattered to you?
MYTH #2: You Have to Find Your Passion When You’re Super Young
I used to be downright envious of people who seemed to find a clear purpose for themselves early on life. I noticed this a lot in the entertainment industry and with creative types, but also in the business world.
People ranging from Justin Bieber and Drake to Warren Buffett and Bill Gates all seemed to be unquestionably certain about what they were supposed to do with their lives since they were very young and pursued it passionately and without hesitation.
But the truth is...that’s just not how it works in real life for most people.
Consider the fact that, at age 30:
Harrison Ford was building kitchen cabinets.
Oprah Winfrey was between jobs.
J.K. Rowling was still trying to finish her first book.
Julia Child was working as a copywriter in advertising.
But these stories aren’t as exciting as child phenoms who we hear about much more often.
I now realize that, for the vast majority of people, what they’re “meant to do” isn’t as obvious or as easily defined as it’s often portrayed in mass media.
And it doesn’t usually just magically hit you like a lightning bolt out of nowhere.
BUT...it is closer than you think.
The catch is that it requires some action on your part. A great place to start is by acting on the small, everyday things that excite you. I wrote a blog post about this process here: "3 Steps to Finding Your 'Passion'."
MYTH #3: You Can Only Have One True Passion
As the saying goes, the only constant is change. So it's only natural that what interests you and excites you will evolve as you evolve.
It is perfectly okay for you to have more than one path, passion or purpose in life.
The way you stay connected with what is meaningful to you at the various stages in your life is by consistently acting on the things you are excited about and that interest you.
The truth is, even the most accomplished people in the world are still finding new things they are excited about and taking action in that direction.
It’s why entrepreneurs like Richard Branson start multiple businesses in different industries.
It’s why entertainers like Jamie Foxx are multi-talented artists.
It’s why great minds like Leonardo da Vinci have contributed so much to so many different fields of study.
So expect your “passions” to change over time and remember that having a variety of interests is a good thing. Even if they don’t turn into full-on careers.
MYTH #4: Following Your Heart Is Not Practical
It’s important to understand that this is the only time in human history when we have actually been able to choose what we want to do with our lives. Up until very recently, it was already decided for you.
For example, if you were born before 10,000 BC, you were a hunter-gatherer and your work was to find food.
If you were born during the Agricultural Revolution, there was a solid chance you’d be helping your family labor in the fields.
Even in more recent times, you pretty much had a path carved out for you: finish school, go to college, choose a job out of a handful of fields and stay there until you retire.
This concept of choosing work you love is extremely new and I admit that it wouldn’t have been practical advice for the average person anytime before the last 50 years or so (although it could still be done and often was).
Only in the past 10 years or so has this advice become extremely practical, if not necessary for the average individual. This is thanks to a little invention called the Internet, which has revolutionized the way we think about what we do for a living.
It has made resources available to the masses that would have otherwise been inaccessible. It’s now quite feasible, for example, to start a profitable home-based business with little to no capital in almost any niche you are interested in.
The challenge today is not a lack of options, but rather that people are often paralyzed by the abundance of options available to them and end up doing nothing.
In my upcoming workshop, we’ll talk about how to narrow down your options so you don’t feel so overwhelmed and take inspired action in the direction of what excites you.
MYTH #5: You Have to “Risk It All” To Pursue What You Love
This often comes from the misconception that your “passion” or “purpose” has to be some grandiose dream or huge adventure that has absolutely nothing to do with your current life.
Examples might be things like giving up everything and moving to a foreign country, jumping out of airplanes, or owning a 20 room mansion.
I’m not saying you can’t have these dreams. And I’m not saying that they’re not genuine. There’s nothing wrong with thinking big—in fact, I encourage it!
But it’s important to recognize when these dreams are actually fantasies that are paralyzing you rather than motivating you.
More often than not, these kind of fantasies are just a way to mentally escape your displeasure with your current circumstances. But they are usually not, in and of themselves, what you truly desire.
More importantly, they are so big and seemingly unrelated to the current version of your life, that they can keep you from ever even starting. You might feel overwhelmed that you can’t see how you could possibly get from point A to point B.
The antidote to this is paying attention to the small things that excite you each day and acting on them. These things DO NOT have be big career choices, all-consuming projects or grand adventures. In fact, they usually won’t be.
What you are genuinely excited about will be unique to you and may not be worthy of a blockbuster movie screenplay. But what matters is that they are important to YOU.
So my message to you is this: START SMALL.
Acting on the small, seemingly random things that excite you is the easiest way to get you going in the right direction.
But more importantly, this process will lead you to the “bigger” things that are more obviously connected to your larger life goals and interests. So get in the habit of recognizing and acting on the small things that you feel drawn to.
This might be something as simple as scheduling a lunch date you’ve been putting off with a friend or going on a walk or a hike.
This process works because excitement is an organizing and unifying energy. All excitement is connected and leads to all other excitement. In other words, the “small” things that excite you in the moment are connected to the bigger desires you have, even if you can’t see how.
So even if they seem mundane, trivial or unrelated to your “larger” goals—even if they don’t seem connected to anything else, the excitement tells you that they are connected.
I talk more about my personal experience with this process in my previous blog post HERE.
I hope this clears up some points about this topic. Let me know what you think in the comments below!