Why is follow your passion bad advice? I’ve seen just as much literature saying the exact opposite thing. So what’s the deal? Why is this so confusing?
Well, it seems that Mark Cuban (as well as other fellow famous billionaires) caused a stir when he straight up said that “follow your passion” is a bunch of BS.
He advocates to “follow your effort” instead of “follow your passion”.
So is he right? Have I and many other (aspiring) affiliate marketers got it wrong?
In this post, I’ll explain why this saying might be construed in a way so as to be bad advice, and I’ll propose an alternative advice that still adheres to the spirit of doing what you love as a career move.
Plus, I’ll also give you tips on what you can do to make this move to capitalize on engaging in the things you have a passion for instead of just letting it swirl in your head.
Why Is “Follow Your Passion” Bad Advice?
The main problem with the saying “follow your passion” is that it tends to be associated with a romantic notion that you can live off of your “calling in life” or your “sole purpose in life”.
Similar to other romantic notions like finding “the one true love” or searching for “paradise”, they’re pie-in-the-sky concepts that sound too good to be true.
Sure you might see examples of people who might have found their sole purpose in life (whatever that means) or their one true love, and you might even see them in the movies and shows that we watch.
However, the reality is that’s more of the exception rather than the rule; in fact, that’s very rare.
Why Did Mark Cuban Say “Follow Your Passion is BS”?
Mark Cuban mentioned how he had a passion to be a pro baseball player until he realized his fast ball maxed out at 70 miles per hour when pros throw well over 90 miles per hour.
Similarly, he cited how he wanted to be a pro basketball player until he realized that he had a 7-inch vertical leap while pros can have upwards of a 40-inch vertical leap.
Especially since he’s a Dallas Mavericks owner, he can certainly appreciate this latter point about being physically unable to compete with the pros to whom he pays their contracts.
Sure, we all have something we’d rather be doing, but sometimes reality gets in the way, and I believe that’s Mark’s point.
Instead, he advocates for you to follow your effort, which is usually where you spend your most time and is what you’re good at.
That’s also typically where you can provide value to a business owner, a hiring manager, or a customer or whatever other money-making endeavors you find yourself in.
What If You’re Good At Something You’re Not Passionate About?
On the flip side, in my personal experience, I’m pretty good at math and science, and it landed me an engineering job in the tech industry.
At one point, I thought I wanted to be an astronomer and even took elective courses towards it, but I never pursued it.
Even though my time and effort (years of it) have been invested in this job, there are so many other things I’d rather be doing, especially considering how much of my life is spent at my job and the schooling it took to get there.
So am I stuck trying to force myself to be passionate in this job and making certain rich and powerful people even more powerful (at the expense of the rest of the world)?
I know I’d much rather be spending my time being in my element traveling to waterfalls, sharing those experiences, and just talking about it, and I definitely know that this is one of the things I’m very passionate about.
While I agree with Mark in that effort trumps passion (though you can argue you put in more effort if you’re passionate about it) and you really want to focus on what you’re good at, but not everything you’re good at is what you want to be doing.
Why Can “Follow Your Passion” Be Dangerous Advice?
Now the “follow your passion” advice can be construed as counterproductive because it can be a dangerous, endless mental hamster wheel, where you’re constantly swirling in thoughts of a seemingly unattainable goal or idea.
And that can lead you to make irrational decisions and overspend on chasing red herrings (especially scams), or you just give up on doing the things you’d rather be doing altogether!
And what if you have more than one thing you’re passionate about?
If you blindly chase what you think is the ONE true calling in life, are you going to elbow out the other opportunities that might actually work out better for you in the long run?
Furthermore, what if your so-called one true passion is not profitable?
After all, you could convince yourself that underwater basket weaving is your one true passion, but it’s highly unlikely there’s enough of a demand for people wanting a basket made under water.
Indeed, the bottom line is that “follow your passion” is bad advice if you take the saying too literally.
However, based on my experiences, there is something to be said about doing what you love (and loving what you do) and earning a living from it.
That’s where the intent of that saying is still solid, and so we can refine the message or goal to better reflect how we should approach this puzzle, which we’ll get into next.
Refining The Advice
So if “follow your passion” is bad advice yet it still has the intent to thrive in life doing what you love doing, then what is the right advice?
Well, I’d much rather “do something or some things that I’m passionate about” instead of just pursuing one passion, and this is how I’d re-phrase “follow your passion”.
After all, we all can have more than one passion because we tend to have it when we’re good at something.
The question is whether what you’re good at is closer to your true self (what makes you feel most alive), and is it worth trying to earn a living from it?
By rephrasing the advice in this manner, the onus is now on you to take action and start doing, and then exploring to see if you’re into it and can get good at it (if you’re not already).
That way, you don’t have to let your notion of your passion sit and swirl in your head.
It’s really as simple as that.
How Do I Find Something I’m Passionate About?
So it’s one thing to refine and rephrase the “follow your passion” advice into “do something that I’m passionate about”.
However, there still remains the question about how to identify exactly what are the things that you’re passionate about.
Oprah Winfrey said that passion is something you feel from your heart so don’t overthink it.
This means that you really want to look into what you’ve been doing up to this point, and which of those activities have the most potential to bring you the most joy (if it hasn’t done so already).
In that vain, here are some specific things you can do to figure out what you’re into.
Look At Where You’re Spending Your Time & Money
First, you can look back at your life’s history and see how you’ve been spending your money or what you’ve been reading or learning about.
You can do this by looking at say your credit card bills as well as bank statements, which tell you how you’ve been spending your money (especially discretionary spending).
By doing this, you’re at least getting a data driven look at what you’re into whether consciously or subconsciously.
After all, the numbers don’t lie, and this is an easy way for you to see what the numbers (i.e. your spending habits) are telling you.
Similarly, you can look at your browser history (since we’re all on the internet these days) as well as the books you’re reading.
Then, you can try to identify which of the things you’re reading have caught your attention or have intrigued you.
And ask why did you spend money and time on these things?
Is there something there that resonates with who you are and what you like to do?
Finding the answer here could very well allow you to find the kind of activities you really do want to engage in, and therefore might be a possible career choice if not a side hustle.
Try To Be Passionate About Everything You Do
Second, you’ll want to try to be passionate about everything you do.
Granted, this is not easy because how can you be passionate about something as menial as say brushing and flossing your teeth?
Nevertheless, the main point of this advice is to improve your outlook instead of dreading, complaining, procrastinating, despairing, etc.
By changing your attitude towards the stuff you’re already doing in life, it could very well unlock your imagination in ways that were previously blocked when you had a more negative outlook.
Who knows? Maybe you might end up discovering (or re-discovering) something you had been suppressing all this time without this more positive outlook!
In my day job situation, it may be hard to throw my passion into it (especially if I don’t believe in the big picture cause of providing technology for the uber rich and powerful), but I can make my local situation better.
I can do this by honing in on particular tasks that I know I can do while keeping myself engaged with my peers (so work doesn’t feel as lonely).
I’ve found that putting passion into my activities in this small way certainly makes the time at work go by so much faster while also adding to the camaraderie as other people are likely in the same boat as me!
As a matter of fact, if you genuinely demonstrate passion in even the menial things you do, you may find that it’s infectious.
Therefore, you might pay it forward to yourself to be passionate about other things you’re typically engaged in.
More importantly, other people will pick up on your positivity and may even want to be around you more!
Identify What You’re Good At Or Love To Talk About & Teach Others
All of us have a talent or skill in one thing or another.
Granted, some people have such skills in things that make more money.
But the key point here is that you know you best, and you’ll want to identify exactly what you you’re good at or at least have skillsets in?
Your loved ones and/or your friends can tell you that objectively, and you might want to pick their brains about what they think you’re good at if you’re struggling with coming up with this yourself.
You might also want to lean into exactly what topics or subjects that you can casually talk endlessly about to other people.
That’s usually a tell tale sign that you have a passion about those topics. (not being passionate about your side hustle is one reason it fails)
Even if you can go on and on about celebrity gossip or sports talk or something else seemingly superfluous, there still might be something indirectly about yourself that you might resonate with.
For example, I know at work, I can go on and on with my coworkers about our next trips or reveling in a past trip.
It’s a great icebreaker, but it also helps me confirm that I am really into travel so I should somehow lean on that more.
Heck, I am even eager to teach or advise people about the lessons learned from my travels as well as my hikes.
It just comes naturally to me because I’m into it.
So dig into your recent experiences and see what activities and/or topics make you “nerd out”!
Who knows? Those could very well be the things that could change your life for the better!
Taking Action (Stop Talking and Just Do)
All of the stuff we’ve discussed so far have to do with identifying the things you’re interested in or are good at (each of which has the potential to become a passion of yours).
However, none of it matters if you don’t engage in these activities where you can actually take the steps to not only get really good at what you’re doing, but you can also earn a living off of them!
In fact, even when you’re trying to figure things out for yourself, you don’t really know if you’re up for one topic or activity or another unless you immerse yourself and actually engage in these things.
So take training or courses, practice, and do – it’s how you get better at it and ultimately build up skills so you have more options on what you want in life.
For example, when I started chasing waterfalls, I didn’t even know I was into that until my wife and I just started doing it and then started leaning into it the more we were doing it.
Only then, did we expand that common interest into incorporating it into travel (Julie’s passion) and Nature (my passion).
These days, we have something that blends all these wonderful things into a lifelong endeavor.
We’ve also turned it into a side hustle that one day I hope can be leveraged into something that allows me to leave the rat race, but I didn’t mind learning how to run an online business as a result of leaning into this activity.
This just goes to show you that you don’t find your passion(s) by thinking about it (them), but by doing and leaning into your activities with a positive mental attitude.
Then, things fall into place and you’ll be in a much better position to find out the things that truly resonate with your life so that you can live your best life going forward.
That said, you may want to keep your day job and hang on to your wins while you’re still figuring things out.
It’s what I’m doing even though it keeps me from living out my passions 24/7.
Nevertheless, that day job does pay for the ability to get into these activities without as much worry about funds (time is more of the essence).
So regardless of whether your exploration of finding your passions is successful or not, either way, you’ll gain greater clarity of who you are as a person and what you’ll want to be doing going forward.
With such information, you can then determine whether you can leave such endeavors as hobbies, or leverage into a side hustle, or even double-down into a full-time income in the best case scenario.
The bottom line is that as long as you keep staying curious and keep leaning into everything you do, you’ll inevitably improve the odds of finding and engaging in something that’s more your true self.
So while there’s a lot of swirl about whether “follow your passion” is bad advice or not, its intent is still solid in that you really want to “do something you’re passionate about”.
The latter statement is more action oriented and it doesn’t lock you into some elusive pie-in-the-sky concept that only lives in your head like finding the one true love, or finding paradise, or even finding the elusive success (what does that mean anyways?).
Only by doing and throwing your passion into it, can you then put yourself in better position to find and do the very things you care most about.
Who knows? You could leverage your activities into making money in a side hustling or even full-time income.
That’s how you take control and live your best life possible!
Leverage your efforts and your passion to run a side hustle business. (Click here for 4 free steps to get started).