Everyone says that if you follow your passion, you’ll find your calling. I’m guilty of saying that or something like it myself. The problem is, it’s rarely true. What you’re truly passionate about is not likely to turn out to be something you’ll be successful at over the long haul, career-wise.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should slave away at a job that makes you miserable to make a buck. What I am saying is that, in a practical sense, you’re probably better off doing work you love that you can excel at and keep your more passionate endeavors as personal interests or hobbies.

Take me for example. I have a passion for music, movies, football and gardening, but not an ounce of talent for any of those things. I’m more or less tone deaf. I doubt if I could even play myself in a movie. I’m not exactly built for contact sports. And while I love plants, you know the old saying “You always hurt the ones you love?” Yup, that’s me.

Maybe the only thing I have a real passion for that I could possibly have chosen as a career is cooking and bartending. And while I love to make food and drinks and am pretty good at both, for whatever reason, I’ve never had much interest in doing either for a living.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a blast as a management consultant and one hell-of-a career in the tech industry, but I wouldn’t say I had a passion for either. Granted, it’s been fun and never just a job. I’ve always loved my work or I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. But passion, not really. As for my new venture, too soon to say.

Which brings us to writing. That could very well turn out to be both my calling and something I’m passionate about, but I started doing it so late in life, the jury’s still out. That said, I wouldn’t have had much life experience to write about if I’d started earlier, so I guess that’s as it should be, as well.

So folks, for all the times I said you should find your passion and pursue that as a career, you might want to take that advice with a big old lump of salt. The funny thing is, you can do what you love for a living – even have fun and be successful at it – and keep your passions for your personal life. As compromises go, not too shabby.

Image credit Ken Brynan via Flickr

  • LeviMeow

    Great article as always!!!! Could it be possible that we should do what we find easy doing and that other people don’t find easy? eg. I think Martina Navratnova said that she used to think everyone could play tennis like her… it came so easily and naturally for her.

    • Brad

      Interesting, I believe it could be because I have seen many people that were incredibly successful and happy doing what came naturally to them. Then there’s people like me, if it comes easy, I get bored. I fight to stay ahead of the curve, learn, shift, change, repeat because it doesn’t necessarily come naturally and I think it’s that constant challenge that keeps me engaged.

    • Steve Tobak

      Yup, that works. Natural talent seems to trump everything. Sometimes we find it by accident, as Brad did.

  • Brad

    Great observation. I love listening to/playing music, cooking/entertaining and also have a mean cocktail shaking hand….and zero interest in either as a career. I started in tech and while I am still keenly interested in it, I found my passion in the chocolate industry….by complete accident. Honestly it chose me. Along the way I learned that I was a natural salesperson bringing in 100s of millions so far, although I’ll still argue that I’m not that great at it. The path took me into my present role as CEO and I discovered that I am passionate about leading, I love being in charge. Not because of ego, more that I am probably a closet masochist because I love the pressure, the risk, making tough calls, big decisions having it turn out, it’s an extreme sport like rush. It’s weird, when the pressure is high, I go into “Alright, we got this, let’s go kick some glutes!” mode. Which leads me to the distillation that I love people and more so the ability to help them thrive. Who knew? Not me, it just evolved.

    • Steve Tobak

      Cool story, Brad. Sometimes things just work out. You’re a lucky guy … and I’m sure your company is lucky to have you.