Do You Deserve Passion?
“I just don’t feel passionate about my job.”
This is one of the common complaints I hear when people talk to me about their work.
My first thought is, Yeah I don’t always feel passionate about my job either.
Then again, I don’t think of feeling passion as the most important measurement or criteria for whether I should keep doing my job or not.
I didn’t choose painting because I was “following my passion.” I tried it out when the opportunity arose, discovered that I was good at it, and then realized I could turn it into a business. The more I invested in mastering the craft of commercial painting and building a successful enterprise, the more passionate I became about what I got up to do every morning.
Interestingly enough, my passion for my career and business grew as much through periods of struggle and crisis as it did through the breakthroughs and wins. The most stressful and excruciating situations we faced as a business ended up leading to our greatest solutions, partnerships, growth, and favor. So many of the days when I felt least passionate and excited about what I was doing ended up leading to days where I felt the most thrilled and fulfilled.
This process of suffering and reward is how passion actually works. When I was researching this topic for my book Shortcuts, I learned that the word “passion” comes from the Latin word that originally referred to the suffering of Christ on the cross––The Passion. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him.” So passion is not something we feel, it is something we do. We work, struggle, and endure discomfort for the sake of something we deeply value.
Instead of “following your passion,” I think a far better guiding principle for anyone trying to build a great career is to find out what you are good at, and then get really good at it.
This is exactly what Cal Newport recommends in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. He argues that instead of having what he calls a “passion mindset” where you’re focused on what the world can do for you, you’re much more likely to build a career you love by embracing a “craftsman mindset” that focuses on what you have to offer the world. The craftsman’s goal is not first to enjoy work, but to master a skill or set of skills that have real value in the marketplace. Mastery and success produce enjoyment in our work.
Mark Cuban agrees:
“A lot of people talk about passion, but that’s really not what you need to focus on. You really need to evaluate and say, ‘Okay, where am I putting in my time?’ . . . Because when you look at where you put in your time, where you put in your effort, that tends to be the things that you are good at. And if you put in enough time, you tend to get really good at it. If you put in enough time, and you get really good, I will give you a little secret: Nobody quits anything they are good at because it is fun to be good. It is fun to be one of the best. But in order to be one of the best, you have to put in effort. So don’t follow your passions, follow your effort . . . The one thing in life that you can control is your effort.”
One of the questions I have started asking people to provoke their thinking along these lines is this: “Do you deserve passion?”
I don’t think any of us should be required to stay doing a job we hate. On the other hand, we also need to understand that feeling passionate about what we do every day is a result that comes as we put in the blood, sweat, and tears to build mastery in a skill that brings real value and impact to the world. Secondarily, it comes from the relationships and connections we build with our bosses, coworkers, clients, and customers as we serve and partner with them. Both of these things don’t happen overnight.
And even then, every job is going to have parts of it that will never be our favorite thing to do. If you like 75% of your job, you have a great job!
So if you’re not feeling the passion in what you do, ask yourself if you’re really putting in the effort required to be excellent and competitive at a skill you are uniquely good at. If your answer is “no,” then that’s the first thing that needs to adjust in your professional life. And only if you can say “yes” to that question should you consider whether you need to change something else about your current job, position, company, or career path.