The Follow-Your-Passion Myth

Posted by on October 21, 2013

Beagle_PassionMythOne of the books I’ll write someday is a collection of true stories gathered from extremely successful people.

My business as an advertising consultant and seminar speaker has put me face-to-face with many of the brightest stars in the entrepreneurial sky. And rarely do I miss the opportunity to ask them,

“Can you recall that fateful moment when you chose the fork in the road that led you to where you are today? How did you first get into this business?”

Never – not once – has a successful person said to me, “I followed my passion.”

But this is the answer you will hear again and again from people who are serving time in prison.

The world is full of rich people who are not, and never were, successful. People who stole the money, inherited the money, married the money, won the money in the stock market or in the lottery, cheated others out of the money or were awarded the money in court, do not qualify as “successful” in my admittedly subjective opinion.

The “Follow-Your-Passion” myth is pervasive because successful people are usually passionate. But those people would have been passionate about whatever they chose to do.

Their jobs don’t give them passion.
They give passion to their jobs.
The same is true in successful marriages.

Moon-eyed dreamers who say, “I just can’t find my passion” always act like I kicked their puppy when I tell them that passion is not a magical ether that can be located and tapped into. Passion is the shrapnel that flies from a three-way collision of determination, commitment and action.

While we’re at it, let’s pull the mask off a couple of other myths:
(1.) Passion doesn’t always manifest itself as happiness. Passion is also behind deep grief. (2.) Passion isn’t always confident. Worry is misguided passion, fearful passion, but it is passion nonetheless.

Don’t do what you’re passionate about.
Be passionate about what you do.
Don’t follow your passion.
Let your passion follow you.

Passion is created when determination and commitment are joined by the nitroglycerin of action. Leonardo da Vinci said it 480 years ago and he said it in Italian. Here is the clearest translation:

“People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.”

Listen to Leonardo.
Go out and happen to something.
When we hear the laughter and the dancing,
the crying and the grief, we will know the shrapnel is flying.

Roy H. Williams

Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be normal but no one wants to be average? Is there a difference?
“We want to encourage greatness in men. We want to encourage ambition. We believe that nobody wants to be sort of gray-normal. We live, it seems to us, in an age under the curse of normalcy, characterized by the elevation of the mediocre.” – Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

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