Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ is Terrible Advice

Follow your passion!

We are constantly being told this is THE key to success. Of course, it’s just that simple, right?  “Gosh, why didn’t I think of that?”, you say, as you slap your forehead. As if you haven’t already been racking your brain, trying to figure out what the heck you could possibly be so passionate about that you’d be willing to spend years of your life creating a business around it.

Before you start yelling at me, know this: I absolutely believe passion is a major part of the equation when it comes to success in business. If you aren’t passionate about your business, it’s going to sink like a lead balloon. But I think people take the passion question too literally, and they try to think of that one thing they’re all fired up about, and then feel confused and stuck when they can’t decide on just one. Or worse, they get depressed because there’s nothing in particular they’d feel excited starting a business around.

Here are a few different ways of looking at the passion question:

  1. Who are you passionate about helping?
  2. What kinds of things do you enjoy doing?
  3. What concepts are you passionate about?
  4. What are your core values?
  5. What achievements would make you feel incredible?

When you have some answers for those questions, start looking at them all together and see if any ideas emerge that combine elements together. Say, if you’re passionate about helping disadvantaged kids, and you enjoy hiking, and environmental conservation is one of your core values, maybe you can develop a business that does eco-tours where a portion of the proceeds goes towards camping adventures for kids.

Combining elements this way creates a more meaningful business that will satisfy you on multiple levels, so if one of those passions falls away, you’re still having a blast because the business addresses your core values. In my case, I get so much fulfilment from developing my employees’ leadership skills and helping them set and achieve goals in their lives.

Remember: your passions will likely change as you get older, and this is totally OK. Don’t feel like you’re trapped by your business. If you suspect it may be a passing fancy but still want to try building a business around a passion you have, create it with the intention of selling it one day. You may not actually sell it, but if you’re mindful of the possibility when you’re creating the business, you will make it a more saleable, attractive entity for buyers.

So yes, follow your passion, but realize that it isn’t just one thing. You have multiple, ever-changing passions and this is part of what makes you a unique and beautiful snowflake. What won’t change, are your core values. You may add other values as you grow older, but it’s unlikely that you will lose any–so it’s always a safe bet to build a business based on your values.

What are you passionate about, that you want to build a business around? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

11 Responses to Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ is Terrible Advice
  1. A. Leigh Edwards
    August 12, 2011 | 7:11 pm

    Hi Natalie,

    What a beautiful approach to living your passion. I agree with your statement “Who are you passionate about helping.” When your combine your passions with the intention of serving, your raise the bar. Evolving your focus from “personal acquisition” and to “how to make a significant impact on the lives of others” helps you create a goal bigger than yourself. Your business is born by then finding every feasible way to meet that goal. Thank you for sharing this refreshing insight.
    A. Leigh Edwards recently posted..How to Combine the Vibrations of Gratitude, Allowing, and Desire | a 2-Step ProcessMy Profile

  2. Catarina
    August 13, 2011 | 5:07 am

    Great post Natalie. Agree with you about passions changing during out lifetime.

    There is also something we should learn from the Chinese and it is to really make a huge effort and almost work 24/7 to succeed. No passion in the world will be enough if you are not prepared to make a huge effort. Chinese work ethic is the reason they are frequently the best performers at Western universities.

  3. Hi Natalie,

    You make a number of good points, because if you are going to continue in anything, you need to be sure that that is what you want to do. Not many people have the opportunity to do what they want to do to make a living. For most, it’s a matter of finding something, anything that is available to make a paycheck. For people who are self employed, it should probably something they like, because their is noone to line up your tasks for you or to answer to. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

    Lou Barba@informationhighwaycardandgiftshop.com recently posted..Angel…Lady “Dowdy”…and DaddyMy Profile

  4. Rachael Slorach
    August 17, 2011 | 4:37 am

    Hi Natalie,

    This was a beautiful post. I agree that some people do not have a clear understanding of what their passion in life is, and thus build a business around. I know people who think like this. But, as you inferred, a passion does not have to be a ‘thing’, an ‘hobby’ or ‘activity’. It can simply be a value you hold dear.

    Also, I think people can thrive in a conventional business if it is contributing financially to their passion (eg a bakery owner who sponsors the local little league).

    Thanks for the good read.
    Rachael Slorach recently posted..Stressed? Find the Sweet Spot between Eustress and DistressMy Profile

  5. Rowena Bolo
    August 18, 2011 | 4:02 am

    Hi Natalie,

    What a lovely post, and one which so beautifully shared your heart with us. I completely agree that we have to look at our inner selves, and our values when identifying what it is really we’re truly passionate about. When you mentioned that people do have lots of things they’re passionate about, I can’t help but think of the multi-passionate woman leader, Marie Forleo. She has successfully built a brand (and huge business) around her many passions, because she also allowed herself the self-expression of her inner core. That’s when work doesn’t feel like work at all :-) Thanks for sharing this from your heart, Natalie.

    - Rowena
    Rowena Bolo recently posted..What’s Inside Your Closet Can Actually Explain the ‘Vacuum Law of Prosperity’My Profile

  6. Jayne Kopp
    August 19, 2011 | 8:18 pm

    Hi Natalie, I really enjoyed this post. You really did nail the different ways of looking at our passions.

    Passions can be sub categorized as well, it doesn’t have to be one particular aspect.

    Like you, my passion is empowerment and leadership, but there are many ways to empower people and many types of leadership!

    I do firmly believe that when you put the needs of others ahead of your own, yet do it passionately, the rewards are ten-fold.

    Thanks for the great advice.

    Jayne Kopp recently posted..Sometimes You Have to Let Your Hair Down & Have Some Fun !My Profile

    • admin
      August 21, 2011 | 8:11 am

      So true Jayne, passions can be drilled down to find much more specific aspects of them. And putting the needs of others will definitely make you more successful, in countless ways!

  7. Ian Belanger | Network Marketing Success
    August 25, 2011 | 7:57 am

    Hi Natalie,

    Following your passions is just a part of creating a successful online business. If your passions is not marketable, then following your passion will lead you down the road to failure.

    I believe that helping others first is the way to go. Helping others become successful will show you where your passions lie and will give you a much better idea of how to market them.

    Thanks for sharing Natalie and have a great day!
    Ian Belanger | Network Marketing Success recently posted..Back and Better Than Ever, With Some of My Favorite ToolsMy Profile

  8. georgia
    October 13, 2011 | 4:42 pm

    Hello Natalie,

    I like very much your style. Very particular. Compliments for the website and for your work.

    I think many people make a confusion between “follow your passion” and “follow your heart” – maybe this is one reason why it is indeed terible advice.

    To answer your question from the end of your article: I am passionate about doing at daytime what dreaming at nightime – meaning following my visions and my instincts, not necesarily my passions.

    Yesterday it meant my business, today it means solving global and local social and business problems and challenges.

    Overall, I don’t know what it means (temporarily), what is next and how – because as I have a unique set of core skills, the same way I also experience(d) a unique set of stories and situations.

    I loved your article and just wanted to introduce myself, say hello and share a few thoughts.

    Take care.
    georgia recently posted..I’m a SolverMy Profile

  9. Lesa
    November 10, 2011 | 4:04 pm

    I agree that following your passion is horrible advice, but for a different reason. I’ve built two different businesses based on my passions — first photography, then quilting. For me, the result was that I no longer enjoy either activity!

    I think it is much better advice to build a business based on what you do naturally and subconsciously well. These are the things that you just do as part of who you are. For instance, you might be someone that others seek for relationship advice or someone who can always fix a computer problem. The only problem is that these are skills that WE take for granted and generally believe that everyone else shares. Finding these skills often requires the help of an impartial outside observer (someone not your mother!).
    Lesa recently posted..7 Ways to Sign More Clients Without SellingMy Profile

  10. Shallie Bey (Smarter Small Business Blog)
    January 7, 2012 | 2:07 pm

    You are absolutely brilliant. You have put words to a thought that has been haunting me for years. Good advice used wrongly can be terrible. The example you provide is outstanding.
    Shallie Bey (Smarter Small Business Blog) recently posted..What The Mint Taught Me About MarketingMy Profile

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