"Follow Your Passion" Is Terrible Advice
Most anything can be taught: how to fly a plane, become a chef, learn a new language, run a company, be a lawyer, accounting, and more. The world goes ‘round by teaching others the skills they need to get important work done. You can become best at your skills the more time you spend with them. You gain expertise and experience the more you learn and apply the knowledge you’ve received. That’s where the 10,000-hour rule comes in. Obviously, if you’re looking to become the absolute best at something you don’t want to just stop at 10,000 hours, you should want to go further. This is the difference between becoming extremely good at something, mastering something or becoming the world’s best at something.
However, there’s been this upward trend of chasing your passions to gain success. I don’t believe that’s the best path to attaining success for most of us. Often, our passions aren’t things we’re necessarily good at (such as playing the guitar, the arts, being an entrepreneur, fashion, etc.). Granted, the definition of success can be different for each person but if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, the most popular definition of success is tied to money, power, and the accumulation of material things.
Therefore, you should focus on becoming successful in what you’re good at instead of what you’re passionate about.
So, what does that look like?
Make a list: one for your passions and the other for the things you’re good at. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you’re good at, ask colleagues for their unbiased advice based on their observations of you. Revisit what you’ve been awarded for and the things that come easy to you. Just because something comes easy to you doesn’t mean that it comes easy for everyone else. After you’ve made your list, look for what that allows you the opportunity to use the skills you’re good at.
Don’t forget that you can live two simultaneous realities: becoming successful at the things you’re good at and pursuing your passions. Take Michelangelo for example. He was best at sculpting (and became one of, if not, the best over a 70-year career) but he was passionate about writing. Oftentimes, while sculpting, he was known to use his breaks to jot down lines of poetry. None of his writings were published during his lifetime but what made him very successful was being diligent in his work as sculptor.
Technology guru, Steve Jobs, is another great example. At the beginning of his career, he was not passionate about technology at all. He was actually most interested in “Western history, dance, spiritual enlightenment and dabbled in electronics only when it promised to earn him quick cash.” To make a long story short, Jobs became successful because he stumbled upon an opportunity to make more money and this opportunity unexpectedly took off soaring. Jobs ultimately loved the work that he was doing at Apple but it didn’t start that way because he “followed his passion.”