Finding Your Passion
Follow your passion! Let it lead you to your life’s work. That’s the message. And it continues to be repeated by authors, bloggers, and career coaches. But in most cases, that advice comes without a warning – and it definitely needs one. Learn the truth about so-called “passion” and how to use it to your best advantage.
Episode 4 - Finding Your Passion
Follow your passion! Let it lead you to your life’s work.
That’s the message. And it continues to be repeated by authors, bloggers, and career coaches. But in most cases, that advice comes without a warning – and it definitely needs one!
Hey! Welcome back. This is Roger Reid, with another episode of SuccessPoint 360.
In 1987, Marsha Sinetar told us to “Do What You Love, And The Money Will Follow.”
At the time, I’d just ended a fourteen-year career with a large corporation and I was looking for my next challenge. Her book appeared to be a Godsend.
There was just one problem.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Not because I didn’t have an inclination for a particular activity. Just the opposite. I had too many interests. Too many passions.
But I had to make a choice. It was time to get serious. I was in my mid-thirties, and time was passing. I had to get it right. I couldn’t afford to waste more time with false starts and trial jobs that weren’t right for me.
There was something else adding to the pressure, something else bothering me—the consequences of making a wrong choice.
If I made a mistake, what price would I pay for ignoring my inner voice?
According to the career gurus of the time, intentionally disregarding my dream of doing inspiring, rewarding work, would resign me to another soul-sucking desk job—just another worker-drone destined to live a life without meaning, accomplishment, or hope.
So I read every page of Senitar’s book, deliberating over each thought, each point. I took notes. Like a loyal parishioner, I devoured every word originating from this new guru who dared preach the holy message of career liberation.
Because I wanted to believe.
I desperately wanted to learn the secret, the hidden code, the short-cut to finding exactly what I was supposed to do with my life.
Supposedly, following your passion is an act of independence, of liberating self-rule, of asserting your wants and needs over that of the enslaving employer. In a larger sense, pursuing a personal passion means striking out on your own, leaving the crowd behind, in deference to your own interests and aspirations.
And that’s where it gets tricky.
The word “Passion” is congruent with only the highest callings. You seldom hear anyone saying their passion is to work for the city as a water-meter reader. Or to ride on the back of a trash-collection truck.
Passion brings to mind a choice of vocation that is organic, originating from a soul-deep desire to do work that is more calling than obligation—with the implication that doing anything else would be to live a lesser life, plagued by frustration and quiet desperation.
We typically associate the idea of passion with those who know what they are meant to do from a very early age. These are the artists, photographers, dancers, singers, actors, musicians and writers, who would never consider doing anything else. Some are driven to live life on the edge, craving the competition inherent in professional sports. Others crave a career that places them in the limelight—opting for the stage, the silver screen, or a place of influence in shaping public opinion.
For them, there is no other option.
But what about the rest of us? Where do we look for clues? What options do we consider?
In my case, Sinetar’s advice was motivating but lacked specific direction. I needed a plan, a series of steps leading me to a career choice that would satisfy the majority of my objective needs—and when I looked back at my life in thirty years, leave me with the least number of regrets.
I read more books. Lots of them.
I listened to the recorded seminars and lectures of Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Nathanial Brandon, and Zig Ziglar.
Each had a slightly different message, said in a slightly different way. But like authors sharing a common genre, there were commonalities . . .
They suggested looking to the past for clues to what could become my passion, with the idea that I would likely discover an old interest that held the promise of a rewarding and satisfying career.
So, with their collective voices recommending an objective look backward, I began recalling the activities I enjoyed in my youth
I made a list.
What about a job in broadcasting? As I mentioned in the last episode, I’d worked as a weekend radio announcer during my sophomore year in college. But after a few months, I’d found the job boring. Sitting behind a microphone all day, playing records or reading the news now seemed like a waste of time.
I thought about a career in retail. Starting at age twelve, I’d worked in my father’s grocery store after school and on the weekends. I’d also spent lots of hours helping out in my uncle’s Western Auto franchise store. I knew the basics of retail and face-to-face customer service. But repeatedly selling a five-dollar gizmo to an often discourteous and sometimes surly public did not appeal to me.
I keep searching, hoping to find the core drivers from my youth that would merit a second look.
That’s when I remembered my interest in astronomy. As a fourteen-year-old, I’d marveled at the photographs of star-studded nebulas and distant galaxies. I’d built an eight-inch reflecting telescope, and after learning to identify the brightest benchmarks in the sky, I was able to navigate to the less visible objects.
My obsession with astronomy lasted for three years. Then I sold my telescope and moved on to other interests. I’d enjoyed the experience, but convinced there were no more celestial objects I could find with my relatively small scope—I was done with the hobby.
Ironically, I was dissuaded from pursuing a career in the field by an Arizona State University professor—who taught astronomy. “The field is over-crowed,” he said. “The job prospects are slim to none. And the money? You’ll barely make a living—if you can find a job.”
I wondered if the ratio between supply and demand had changed. I looked up the current salary range of a professional astronomer. In today’s wages, the average annual income was $105,000. I could live with that.
But there was a problem. I couldn’t compete with graduate-level degreed candidates—I lacked the advanced classes in cosmology and physics. I’d have to consider a related job in the same industry.
My first thought was to research the possibility of being a factory rep for an optics manufacturer. Celestron and Meade were respected manufacturers of amateur and professional telescopes. Surely, one of those companies could use someone with an engineering background, coupled with fourteen years of technical sales experience.
I began fantasizing about using new, state of the art digital imaging equipment. I remembered all those nights I’d spent outside, and how much I enjoyed finding the deep-sky objects by using the brighter stars as compass points on a huge, velvet-black canvas.
One night in particular kept coming back to me—the night my ninth-grade science teacher had invited the class to view the heavens through the school’s new fourteen-inch telescope. About fifteen of us took our place in line, waiting for our turn at the eyepiece. Each student was allotted half a minute to peer at the object, then return to the back of the line to wait for the teacher to point the scope to a new position.
Who was standing next to me?
Joyce Newburg—one of the prettiest girls in the entire school.
And understand it’s just past twilight, and there’s just enough of a breeze to keep the temperature perfect. It’s the stuff of poets and romantics, the kind of night that carries a touch of magic.
Too shy to say anything, I managed a few stolen glances, but conversation was out of the question. Standing in silence, shuffling a few inches at the time, we moved closer to taking a turn at the telescope.
Upon reaching the head of the line, I took my place at the controls and re-focused the image.
As I looked down into the eyepiece, Joyce touched my arm and asked, “What do you see?”
Her voice came from just inches away. She was hovering, right next to me. Her shoulder brushed against mine. Loose strands of her long, perfectly straight blond hair found their way across my face.
The magnified cluster of stars I’d been observing became a blur, the dim image of an impossibly distant object unable to compete with the overwhelming presence of Joyce.
My mind was racing. She was so perfect. So close.
Suddenly, the reality of that night—the truth—became much too clear: I didn’t want to sell telescopes. I wanted Joyce Newburg!
I wanted to smell that intoxicating combination of Ivory soap, Breck Shampoo, and Shalimar. I wanted to re-experience that warm spring night, when Joyce’s forehead found mine as she suggested we share the eyepiece.
My search for meaningful activities from my past had sent me time traveling. I’d gone back to a moment of adolescence, when at fourteen, a one-minute exchange had left an indelible impression on my young, inexperienced mind. And that vivid, sensory-filled memory—and the emotion attached to it—had influenced the circumstances surrounding it, including the use of a telescope to look at the heavens.
In short, I’d confused a nostalgic pull from the past with my renewed interest in astronomy. But it could have been any topic or subject from the same time period—because that time in my life is when I was most impressionable. It’s not an uncommon situation. But when it subconsciously influences our search for untapped interests from our youth, the conclusions we draw can be less than accurate.
Yes, our earlier interests may leave clues about the activities we enjoyed as children and adolescents, but the reasons we remember them as positive may have more to do with the time, place, and circumstances surrounding the experience than the activity itself.
Consider any possible options that emerge from a search of your childhood and teen years with a healthy dose of suspicion. Instead of regarding a positive pull from the past as irrefutable indication of new job possibilities, look closely at the circumstances surrounding the event. Who was present? What were you doing immediately before and after? Try objectifying new career options and opportunities by stripping away the emotion.
What did I learn from the experience?
Passion results from perspiration, not inspiration. Passion is an acquired state of mind. It’s work first, then passion. Feeling positive about a job or career results from doing the work, otherwise, the desire to do a specific job is often based on fictional media representations, third-party suggestions, and projected assumptions—influences that are unrelated to the day-to-day work. Unless you’ve spent time involved with the more trivial and repetitive aspects of the profession, your “passion” is little more than a constructed fantasy.
Here’s the second thing I learned:
Having a singular passion is an invitation to failure. Instead of trying to discover our one true passion in life, we should look for a trend. For example, do you like working with your hands? Or are you more cerebral, with a talent for math or science? Putting all our attention and concentration on a singular profession creates a make or break situation—if we fail, we’re done. But knowing we have multiple paths to success increases the odds of achieving our goals and objectives, and gives us far more flexibility in how we arrive at our destination.
I’ll leave you with this:
Don’t wait for passion to strike. There’s opportunity in every industry and profession. Passion comes from doing the work. It comes from dealing with the challenges, making the sacrifices, and achieving desired outcomes. Passion is a result, not a guide or motivational incentive. Don’t let the initial absence of so-called passion keep you from finding a sense of satisfaction and achievement in whatever job or career you ultimately choose.
That’s it for this episode.
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Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
© 2020, Roger A. Reid