How to Find Passion – Part I: The Myth about Passion

So many people have raved about this thing called PASSION. The sayings go something like “find something you are passionate about, do that for a living, and you will never have to have to work a day in your life.” It’s very Disney of them to say so.

Recently, modern thinkers have expressed their discontent in this idea of a ‘one true passion’. It might have been started by Cal Newport (one of my favorite authors). He outright dismissed the ‘true passion’ hypothesis and said that the more you focus on searching for what you love, the more you are unhappy you are with what you have.

Another party of anti-passion camp are Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, the brilliant authors of Designing Your Life (one of my most favorite books). They pointed out that a study shows that only 1 in 5 young adults have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish in life and why. People rarely have single passion to go after, so does a person have to belly dance AND race sport cars for a living if they love both? Their point was, if you don’t have a passion, it’s really not a big deal. Your lack of clearly defined passion should not prevent you from living a meaningful and engaged life. These mounting movements make the idea of passion sound so cheesy and outdated. Oh, now I can’t even stand the cliché when people say they are searching for their “true calling”.

Well, before we go bashing passion any further, let me try to make a case for how passion can still be useful. First, what do I mean by passion? I love the slightly unconventional definition of passion given by MJ DeMarco in The Millionaire Fastlane. Here I’m paraphrasing what he said.

Passion is the thing that drives individuals to take massive actions towards a specific goal. Passion is the reason why you choose to do something rather than other things that might satisfy your instinctive needs better. For example, your child is missing and you love him dearly. The love for your child is the passion that gets you jump into the car and drive like a mad person through the streets to find him. It doesn’t matter if you have not eaten or slept in days, you are going to do every possible thing to find him. While you engage in those actions, your immediate needs are completely dismissed.

Have you ever experienced such passion? Can you remember the last time you feel such a love, a drive, a selfless pursuit of a purpose?

Now in a less extreme case of building a business or a career, passion is the thing that drives you to do things you usually do not want to do to achieve a goal. A passionate scientist can work up to 90 hours a week sleeping in the lab towards his next discovery. A passionate business owner, who desperately needs to feed his family, will pick up the phone to sell to his customers despite being rejected for the hundredth time and feeling scared to death. The passion zone is when your comfort matters much less than the thing you are passionate about. So when it comes time to decide what you want to do, your comfort is left out of the equation.

With this definition, you see that passion is not about roses and unicorns. Passion can be a blessing or a curse. Passion can be a very shitty thing to have sometimes. Indeed the root of the word: passio (latin), “to suffer”.

Passion doesn’t guarantee that the difficult thing you do will be easier. And passion is definitely neither a prerequisite nor a consequence of success. We all have friends with chillax-or-die attitude who seem to have no passion whatsoever, but manage through life pretty successfully. We all have friends who are very passionate about “not quite the right thing” and get nowhere in life. Passion factors in a lot in your decisions and actions, but it takes much more than passion to achieve goals.

But one thing that I have experienced is that passion can erase suffering from taking actions. At the times of my life when I have no passion, everything is a chore. Getting out of bed is difficult, getting off Reddit is impossible, working on that report I need to do is horrifying. This is because, although my conscious brain knows that I should get of Reddit and go to work, my unconscious brain takes immediate gratification, short-term discomfort, irrational fears into the equation, with lots of weights on them. But passion gives me a strong “WHY”, and a strong push towards the goal. Passion calls me to immediately answer to it and makes me forget everything else. That’s why I think passion is a very useful tool to have.

So I would stay right in the middle of the passion debate and say that “if you have ways to find passion, by all means, search for it”. I had to dig really deep to find mine, and it really makes all the difference. I’m glad I didn’t ignore it.

Now onto the question of how do you find passion? That’s something I will share with you in future posts.

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