Based on my experience so far, most of the entrepreneurial personal development books are about “finding your passion” – or defining your biggest interest in life, and then focus on how to turn that passion into a source of income. The goal, of course, is that you could do the thing you love and in the process earn a living. It’s a splendid goal to have, don’t get me wrong, but is it realistic?
The books usually offer you questions and techniques to find that passion, such as:
- What activity would you do for free, just because you are passionate about it?
- What activity would you pay to do, just because you enjoy it so much?
- If you would win in a lottery and never had to work again, what would you do?
- What would you be willing to do for the rest of your life?
- Who are the people you admire and most want to be like? What interests do they have?
- What specifics do you enjoy? It could be people, computers, working with your hands, teaching, inventing or any kind of combination of multiple things.
The answers that stem from asking these questions would then indicate what your deepest interests and passions are. I actually do believe, that for some people these questions can be helpful and provide valid answers, but then again I also believe that you need to be rather passionate by nature – or able to feel more deeply about things – to really gain some insight from these questions.
You see, I wouldn’t call myself a passionate person and that is a problem with exercises like this. I like riding motorcycles, I like snowboarding, I enjoy doing works of art and I am interested in reading and learning. But is any of these activities something I would consider a passion and could not imagine living without? Not really. In some cases it’s almost the opposite. I don’t believe I would enjoy life that much if most of my time was spent tinkering with Photoshop or reading books.
Another problem is that people change. It’s a cliché but it’s true. As a teenager being a snowboarder was my identity. It wasn’t just something I wanted to do, it was me! It was not only about doing the actual activity, it was the music I listened to, the clothes I wore, the friends I kept, the magazines I read. It was a complete lifestyle and I enjoyed it. Fast forward 6-7 years and I hardly hit the slopes during winter. Not that I wouldn’t want to, but there are now other things in my life and snowboarding has lost its importance.
Would you be willing to make a commitment to some passion of yours for the next 5-10 years? Are you sure that your interests won’t change in that time?
I have been struggling with these questions since I first became aware of them. I can only identify things I like, but not really things that I’m truly and deeply passionate about. There are also quite a few things I imagine I would have a deep interest in, such as architecture, industrial design and medicine, but the realist in me does not see any options to even verify if that actually is the case; I don’t have talent at drawing, and even if I’d get in a medical school it would take six full years before I’d be able to find out whether or not being a doctor is what I want.
The best advice I’ve come across is to simply be open-minded and try anything that appears interesting. You think gardening might be fun? Go to the library and read a bit more about it. Does it appear even more exciting as your knowledge increases? How about setting a small garden to your yard or balcony or getting a summer job taking care of a public park? Still enjoying it, or is it starting to lose its appeal?
With this approach, passions are seen more as temporary – although quite likely very strong and all-encompassing – interests, and the idea is to pursue whatever excites you at the time while also accepting the fact, that at some point the interest might start to lose its appeal. When that happens, it’s not a fault in your character and you shouldn’t blame yourself for “not knowing who you are anymore”, but instead start the process from the beginning and perhaps find something else that captures your interest.
I would love to hear from people about how they have found their passions, and not just the fleeting ones, but the ones that have stuck for years and are still going strong. How did you discover them, and how do you feel about them? Have your feelings changed over time? Have you thought about ways to turn your passion into a source of income?