9 reasons “follow your passion” is bad advice

Jun 03, 2019    /    most popular posts, my location-independent career, philosophy

Do what you love and the money will follow! Pick the right career and you’ll never work a day in your life! Find your passion! Change your life! 

Is it just me, or does this cliched advice come with a lot of pressure

Find my passion? Find the one thing I love so much that when I work at it for a gazillion years it’ll never feel like work?

And if it does feel like work, does that mean it’s not my passion? And what happens if my passion changes? Or what if I like plenty of things but don’t feel passionate about any of them?

So yeah, pressure.

But here’s the question:

Does your passion really need to be the thing that supports you? 

What if, instead, you could find something you like, are good at, and supports the life you want? What if it didn’t have to be the One True Thing and it could just be any old thing that meets those three criteria? 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to make a living doing something you feel strongly about. What I am saying is that all this pressure to find The One True Thing and force it to support you financially is a whole lotta bullshit.

Here are 9 reasons why.

1. That attitude creates a lot of misery.

If your passion has to support you, it’s hard not to feel resentful when it simply doesn’t. 

2. You don’t have to monetize your joy.

You just don’t. Do things because you like them. You don’t have to commoditize them. 

3. Your passion might not be a thing people want to pay for.

AND THAT IS OKAY. Don’t break yourself in half trying to make it be something it isn’t. 

4. Passions aren’t a fixed thing.

They’ll change over time. And that’s fine too. You don’t need to change careers when you find your next big interest. (God, if someone could please go back in time and tell 22-year-old Gigi this, I’d be grateful.)

5. The cliche puts work at the center of happiness.

And work just isn’t. Ask anyone who’s dying. They regret working so damn much. They regret not traveling more. They regret not spending more time with family and friends. Not living more. Work is the means to the end. Not the end itself. 

6. Making your passion your career also means changing your passion.

I love writing. But writing when I was a teen and just passionately exploring everything from poetry to choose-your-own-adventure stories to how-to articles is very different from writing for a living. 

Am I still glad to be a writer? You betcha. It’s a career that supports the kind of life I want. It lets me travel. It lets me work remotely. It lets me do work that interests me. It lets me constantly learn new things. And it lets me work for myself and work part-time hours. 

But writing for work is different than writing for love. And that’s okay.

7. The world needs people who do things they don’t love.

I’m sorry, but does anyone love collecting garbage? What about driving a bus? Or doing gynecological or prostate exams? There are lots of very important jobs that need to be done that probably aren’t at the top of people’s passion lists.

We need more farmers than astronauts, though I bet a poll would show that more people felt passionate about space travel than carrots. We need more carpenters than Olympic swimmers, though I’m guessing Olympian is higher up the passion list as well.   

8. Pursuing passion often comes with a cost.

87% of former NFL players have brain injuries.

Ballet dancers have a high chance of eating disorders.

Book authors have a hard time supporting themselves.

And most startups fail within the first four years

There are good reasons to do things you love. But there are also trade-offs and sometimes those trade-offs are significant. Writing a book in your free time? Probably mostly fun. Writing a book and then sweating and stressing about how it will support you for years while you shop for an agent and publisher and then find out the average book advance is now $10,000, and how are you supposed to pay yourself back for the last two years of your life with $10,000? Probably less fun. 

9. Girl’s gotta eat.

Take care of yourself. More money actually does make people happier, up to a certain level. 

 

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6 Comments
  • Paula Elliott
    June 3, 2019

    I love this article. Number 7 especially. Thanks GiGi!

    • gigigriffis
      June 3, 2019

      Thanks!

  • Valeria Vincent Sancisi
    June 3, 2019

    Amen! I also wished that someone would go back and address the 19 yr old me…. though I have to say even though the “searching” was not for naught… My live is rich from my circuitous route …there is a case for honing and training what you are good at early enough to support the said search and joys of.. balancing the work /life toggle, with the culture of work work work, frustration of feeling like a round peg in a square hole…….

    • gigigriffis
      June 3, 2019

      For sure.

  • Ali
    June 3, 2019

    I totally agree with this! I love certain aspects of my job, but I hate others. When I was a VA, I liked that it was mostly easy, routine work. Not super exciting, not something I was passionate about, but something that almost never stressed me out and it made me money.

    I’m actually finding travel to be less and less fun…because it’s so closely tied to my blogging career. And that’s so sad! It’s something I’m really just realizing recently, so I have to start working on that so I don’t kill my passion for travel.

    In general, I love the idea of a job/career being the thing that earns you money to fund your life and allow you to do the things you enjoy, and not forcing a joyful thing into being your money-maker. I’m not sure how good I am at doing this in practice, but I love it as a theory!
    Ali recently posted…The Best Southwest USA Road Trip ItineraryMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      June 3, 2019

      Yes!

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