(Don't) Follow Your Passion

This is what comes up when I search the word “passion” in my Gmail inbox:

So you know, when it says “many” it means there are too many emails for google to worry about calculating.

It’s basically saying “Aww hell. I give up. Listen. There’s a lot of these. But don’t worry. You’ve got this, buddy."

The idea of following your passion has become so pervasive that it’s seen as weird if you’re NOT doing your best to find out what it is.

Unfortunately, this has led a lot of people to become dabblers. 

You know the ones. The ones who get really excited to do something, tell all their friends about it, and then 2 months later, are doing shit-all with their lives.

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Many are still doing it. All in a vain attempt to discover what we are truly passionate about.

Well, I’m here to give you some good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) news:

None of us have any sort of pre-determined passion.

Simply put, we’re passionate about what we’re good at.

And if we don’t spend any time getting really good at something, going through the countless hours, the tears, and the extreme stress of it all, then we wind up as yet another dabbler.

Just another person who jumps from big idea to big idea, never accomplishing anything worthwhile.

We’re not born with chromosomes that dictate what we’re meant to do.

We don’t have DNA that says, without a doubt “Ah, now this one, she will be a great water polo player."

What a terrible system that would be.

That’s not one I want to be part of, and neither should you.

When you believe in the idea of "finding" your passion, you’re buying into a system so evil that it would make a James Bond villain question its morality.

“Okay, let’s implant these people with something they REALLY like doing, but not tell them. Most of them won’t even find out what it is before they die! HAHAHAHA!"

Directionless Passion

So, what if you have become a dabbler? Someone who gets really excited about something, but then discards it after deciding “it must not be for me?"

Well, it depends.

If you’ve spent your life building up some sort of skill, then it would be very wise of you to either A) Keep developing it, or B) Leverage it in some way in your new field.

If you’re a writer who wants to become a pilot, then write about your journey to become one.

If you’re a programmer wanting to become a game composer, then create apps and tools that will allow you to create new and unique music that no one else could.

Oh, and don’t quit your day job.

If you have no career capital (meaning real experience in your field of choice), then you’d be foolish to dive in head first like the rest of the courage-culture tells you to do.

Keep doing what you’re doing to make money, then hustle as hard as you can on the side to get your life going in the direction you want.

Do The Work

It’s time to put your head down and do the work.

Realize that whatever you want is going to take years, even decades, to get decently good at.

I get emails all the time from total beginners asking how long it will take for them to get on teams like Heart Machine or Bungie.

My response is often “10 years, and that’s 10 years of no one knowing your name, caring who you are, and your friends/family making fun of your life decisions."

It’s weird. They never get back to me after that.

It’s Not Just a Hobby

Stop treating your life’s work like a hobby.

Don’t wait until you're motivated.

Don’t write music only when you’re “inspired” Or when it “feels right."

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist said it best:

A successful day writing is the day that I suffer in the morning, and I have fun in the evening.
— Paulo Coelho

Practice, action, and focused work all feel like shit most of the time. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

When you feel like you’re pushing yourself and can’t go any further, when you hate your practice sessions, when you can’t imagine doing any more…

Those aren’t the signals to quit.

Those are the signals to keep going.

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