Sometimes your passion and your career don’t match up. You need both, but they don’t have to be the same thing.
A few years ago, Mike Rowe did a great video and it was covered in some articles and on his social media. The tagline was “Don’t Follow Your Passion.” My favorite line from the whole thing was this one though:
Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.
There is a tendency is American culture to ask a complete stranger, first thing, what they do for a living. In some cultures, it’s considered impolite, and akin to asking “how much money do you make?” This could be something worth re-evaluating about how we converse, even in the marketplace.
The reason for this is that one of the most challenging aspects of adulthood is coming to terms with what you’re good at it, versus what you’re “passionate” about, and then what is going to support you and a family and make you money.
But deciding whether your passion should be a career is tricky. Sometimes it simply has to do with where the money is on the bell curve. A “really good” mechanic — in, say… the 85th percentile — can make very good money, especially if they know quite well how to run a business and deal well with people. However, a baseball player in the 95th percentile of all high school baseball players…will likely make basically zero money as a professional baseball player. (Just take the total number of high school baseball players this year — about half a million — and divide by the number of college baseball players this year — about fifty thousand — then realize that the number of professional baseball players: about 750. There have only been about 20,000 MLB players… EVER.)
If your passion is in the arts, it’s even trickier. Real talent is not as easily recognized. Sometimes it’s timing, or connections, or blind luck, and mediocre musicians and artists get discovered and make good money because they’ve hit on something there is a commercial demand for and the right people recognize it and promote it. Other extremely talented artists remain in the shadows forever and never take off.
So beyond Mike Rowe’s point… at some things you don’t even have to “suck” at it… they’re just the types of careers that you just have to be the absolute best at to stand out and make a good living. No, this does NOT mean you should not pursue your passion for poetry, or food, or book-binding, just be acutely aware of what the demand is for the products or services your passions can produce… Be GREAT at, and find JOY in the things that you’re passionate about, and develop concrete and duplicable, predictable skills, in the things that make you money. Sometimes they can match up as the same thing. Sometimes they won’t. It’s in the making them the same thing that you don’t want to apply too much pressure.
And lastly, don’t forget that work and play can mix in unpredictable ways. For every one person that has had the “Do something you LOVE for a living and you’ll never work a day in your life” experience, there are quite a few that have had the “Do something you love for a living and what you love becomes a JOB, and you’ll grow to hate it” experience.
OH, and the next time you meet someone new, instead of starting with “What do you do?” or ask them, “What are you reading these days?” or, “What do you do for fun?” Regardless of what people do to pay the bills, they like to talk about what they are passionate about. So… as Mike would say, “Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”