Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Horrible Advice (What To Do Instead)

You’ve probably seen this advice somewhere while surfing the internet, watching a TV show, or reading a book.

Or perhaps, at some point in time, you’ve asked someone you considered an expert – someone you highly look up to – for advice on how to build your own business so you can escape the Rat Race.

They undoubtedly gave you the same misguided advice:

  • Follow your passion.

I’m here to tell you that this is the worst advice you’ll ever get, and therefore, you need to stop paying attention to it.

Unfortunately, this mantra has become one of the most popular pieces of career advice in recent times.

Follow your passion
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This cliché suggests that the key to discovering a good career is figuring out what you’re most interested in (your passion) and creating a career around that interest.

It’s a very sexy piece of advice – just follow your passion, and you will have an enviable career.

This advice undoubtedly comes from a good place– a place where people can feel permission to do the things that bring them joy and fulfillment.

And if you look at all of the successful people in the world, they’re always passionate about their jobs and businesses.

But the “passion” thing is misleading for several reasons.

Don’t “Follow Your Passion”

1. Passion Alone Cannot Guarantee Satisfaction

Passion Alone Cannot Guarantee Satisfaction
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Let’s face it.

The truth is that even if you’re interested in a particular thing but you lack the necessary disciplines required to build a career in that interest, you will still be left unsatisfied.

You may be really passionate about baking cakes, but you’re terrible in the kitchen.

Similarly, let’s say you have a passion (and the skillset) that can make you money, but you work with people you dislike, you will still hate the lifestyle you’ve created.

In a nutshell, “following your passion” could mean leading you into situations which are much less than ideal, and therefore, deeply unfulfilling.

Even if your work is your passion, you will still need to be disciplined, focused, and balanced. These are not easy things to do and can cause you a severe amount of discomfort, even though you’re doing what you’re most passionate about.

2. We Often Have More Than One Passion

We Often Have More Than One Passion
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Let me ask you a question: What is the only thing you’re passionate about?

Having trouble picking just one thing?

Exactly the point!

We’re often passionate about many things, and a lot of the time, we’re passionate about those things with the same level of intensity. So how do we decide which of these passions to follow?

Unfortunately, most people who go with this advice usually get confused choosing between two passions and end up not doing anything.

Sometimes, different ideas may appear to be so far apart that it becomes hard to combine them into one passion. This leads to “indecision paralysis”. They are unable to make a decision, so the decision they make is to do nothing.

Let’s say you spent a really long time pursuing one passion, but then because of #1, #3, and/or #4 you realize that you don’t want to be doing that anymore, you will spend the next little while steeping in regret over not picking another one of your other passions.

This is a serious demotivator.

3. You May Not Have A Profitable Passion

You May Not Have A Profitable Passion
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The fact that you love a particular thing does not mean you can make money with it. What if you’re the only one who likes the thing that you do?

Let me tell you, for you to be able to carve out a good career from your passion, it must be something that already has an audience; it must be something that people are ready and willing to spend their money on.

But unfortunately, some passions lack this quality.

Let’s say your passion is bicycle repair, but there is no one riding a bicycle in your neighborhood…

What are you going to do? Don’t tell me you will manufacture bicycle riders!

If you have a passion that does not readily have an audience that will benefit from it, then the idea of building a career with your passion is a dead one.

Note: A bicycle repair blog could be a very profitable niche…

The simple fact remains: Passion does not always equal profit.

4. Passions Change With Time

Passions Change With Time
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Like every other thing in life, passions evolve — what you liked doing as a teenager has probably changed as you got older.

Sometimes you just don’t find these things fun anymore (at least, not as much as you used to), and you would rather do something that you know will be more fulfilling and will ultimately add value to other people’s lives.

It’s always advisable to be open-minded and not focused on just chasing a self-interested passion, because in the future, you might discover something else that brings you unquantifiable joy.

In one of his posts in the Huffington Post (Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bizarre Advice), Cal Newport carried out an experiment where he met many people who all claimed to love what they do for a living.

However, after listening to their stories, Newport discovered that, “Very few of these happy workers knew in advance what they wanted to do with their life — their path was more haphazard.”

Why Follow Your Passion Is Bizarre Advice HuffPost
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Simply following the string of your desires is not going to mean anything if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Your passions will change, so instead of following them, you need to figure out how to do something else that will lead to fulfillment.

Don’t Follow Your Passion (Do This Instead)

The first thing to do is to identify some general lifestyle traits that resonate with you. Some people seek power, energy, and respect, while others want freedom, comfort, and autonomy.

Whichever traits resonate with you, remember that you’re not identifying a job or even an industry. Rather, you’re defining a lifestyle.

After that, the next step is to discover a good position that will lead you to your target lifestyle…

Under one condition….

You must become insanely valuable to the organization.

This is where most people fumble. The traits that develop these types of lifestyles are often precious and hard to come by. Sadly, if you lack the valuable skills to offer in exchange for these traits, you’ll end up not getting them at all.

Now, here’s an important thing:

Most of the jobs out there will lead you to your desired lifestyle if you satisfy this value condition.

In fact, your current job might be a good fit.

Now, I’m guessing you know what your desired lifestyle should look like. Now, you just need to go and find a career that will lead you to that lifestyle. But remember, the prerequisite in this hunt is becoming an exceptional resource for your employer.

I’m not talking about being punctual and meeting deadlines. Instead, I’m talking about you being so good that your employer will do whatever it takes to retain you.

This goal is easy to understand, but it’s difficult to accomplish. Many people who desire excellence usually end up reading a lot and not doing anything. They fill their heads up with knowledge, but they don’t know how to execute that knowledge into something tangible.

True experts start by identifying a small number of specific skills that are most valuable to their industry, and then they practice these skills like how a professional musician practices their instrument. Daily practice is essential.

When you’ve succeeded at developing rare and valuable skills, you should leverage those skills to acquire the lifestyle traits you initially identified that you wanted to achieve.

When you start to maneuver through the business world with this mindset, you will start to accept that “follow your passion” is really silly advice.

The better advice is:

Don’t follow your passion.

Harsh Agrawal

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

38 thoughts on “Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Horrible Advice (What To Do Instead)”

  1. I am disagree with this. You should follow your passion if you mentally anf financially happy with it. You as a blogger as digital nomad follow your passion and become successful. We should not think about what will happen in future if we will follow our passion. Work hard on it and you will be successful.

  2. sandeep singh

    Boldly written advice, this thing was always hitting my mind “Follow your passion” I always think that “People says to follow your passion” but they don’t realize that passion is not always going to pay your bills.

    And once you say “people read a lot and don’t know how to execute their knowledge” happens with many and they end up in frustration.
    An eye opener post, thank you, Harsh!

  3. Yes Harsh I agree with you here.
    Passions do change with time.
    When I was in engineering I hated marketing but now I got an enough interest on internet marketing that I pursue it with much passion

  4. Jitendra Mahato

    Really an inspirable article it is. Thank you Harsh for this mind blowing article. One thing I must tell you, your way of writing is very nice. I am a regular reader of yours. And always I lost myself while reading your blog. You have achieved excellence on expressing your views through blogs. I am also trying to follow you. Thank you again.

  5. After a long time I read something that shows a very different perspective on a very common element. Liked it. Thanks Harsh.

  6. You definitely cannot get satisfied with your passion alone, but you can turn your passion into profit and that my friend, you have done it.
    Loved reading your article Harsh. Good work.

  7. At this time, I disagree with you sir. Passion is something that give us pleasure, that give us happiness. Let’s imagine you were not a blogger but work in a company at 9 to 5 job without any interest. You were just working because of need of money. Will you be happy as you are now (as a blogger)? You too quit your high paid job, just because you have interest in blogging, because you are passionate about it. So how can you give others advice to not to follow your passion?
    I respect you sir, but at this time I disagree with you. Sorry if I said something wrong, or disrespect you.

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      @Manish
      Your point on Passion is 100% right & that’s the same thing that I said above. Read what I wrote carefully & you will understand the essence of this timeless article. Or, I will wait for someone to answer your question in their words. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Vikas Temgire

      @ manish kumar,

      If I am not taking it wrong Harsh is simply want to say make your passion earn for you. Do not make your passion lead by monetary needs you can simply build up your passion in a much better way that can turn into a source of income along with pleasure.

      Harsh please correct me if I am saying something wrong.

  8. Ashutosh Singh

    I disagree with that “follow your desired passion” is horrible advice. If you passionate about your work then you surely become a successful one day, it doesn’t matter whatever you do.

    If you are starting a new work by seeing or influencing by someone successful person and say it’s my passion to do this work then chances of failure become more.
    I agree with that follow your lifestyle instead of passion.
    Thanks for sharing this nice article, it’s amazing to read your post.

  9. Amazing.

    Never thought about following passion this way. I like the idea of being able to work in the field I’m passionate about but at the same time, I want it to make a decent amount of money.

    Thanks for this article Harsh.

  10. Ryan Biddulph

    I say Harsh, follow 1 core passion you love more than anything else then get practical. Learn the in’s and out’s of your niche. Tie that passion to some pressing problem. Do so from an intelligent, calm space. I felt passionate about prospering online many years ago but did so from an excitable, out of control, quite fearful energy. For many years. Then I let go my old blog, picked a new niche I felt passionate about and I took a practical approach to creating, connecting, to solving specific blogging problems, and to also publishing helpful products and services.

    I see it like passion being the fuel that drives my engine, but I also need to buy a car to get me to where I want to be. The car is the blog. I need to learn how to drive the car, or build the blog. This takes learning from pros, practicing my skills, networking with fellow bloggers. I do these practical things but back it all with passion, since that energy pulls me through, and has me writing comments on your blog at 10:35 PM on a Sunday night ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good points all around Harsh.

    1. Thank you for this. I am so screwed up around this topic and it’s easily the thing that’s frustrating me no end. To try to fix up a blog to suit what’s in my head, is so hard because I am no techno geek though I would love to learn. So finding a new niche and moving with a new project- this gives me ideas. thank you so much for this comment. Excellent post, Harsh, as always

  11. It doesn’t require to follow your passion. But it is required to “find your passion”. That’s the point @Manish disagreed with @Harsh.

    @Harsh wasn’t passionate about blogging. But he found his passion in blogging after learning that.

    So, in conclusion, we can say that “don’t follow your passion, but try to find your passion.

    1. Nekraj Bhartiya

      +1 to you and -1 to the writer of this post.

      #1. Passion Alone Cannot Guarantee Satisfaction
      Nothing Alone can guarantee a “Success” but passion increases chances of being a success.

      #2. We Often Have More Than One Passion
      We have many good friends but one is very close to us. Same applies here.
      Follow your best passion. If you can not find one then follow one.

      #3. You May Not Have A Profitable Passion
      In today world, You can make money with any skills/passion you have If you are passionate about “Planting” then Yes you can make your living with it.

      #4. Passions Change With Time
      Everything change with time, Nothing special here.

      So take 2 minutes from your busy life and reply this comment.

  12. I’m a business student but my passion is blogging. The funny fact is I can’t focus on both. I wish I could make my parents convinced. ๐Ÿ™

  13. Definitely this is not a bad message,Before disagreeing the message everybody please read it carefully. Harsh’s message is very simple Passions do change with time,Thanks for sharing harsh i will support you in this one.

  14. disagree !! Passion is something that give us pleasure, that give us happiness
    If you passionate about your work then you surely become a successful one day

  15. umm gotta say its a must read
    love ur motto harsh
    Life motto: Live while you can! Teach & inspire while you could & Smile while you have the teeth.

  16. Yes its true, sometimes your passion may hurt you even makes you disappointed but at the end of the day only your passion gives you motivation and happiness. So, according to me go for your passion always . ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. Yes, it is good to have an passion but followings other passion is not good and i’m disagree with him . We have to make our own passion and workhard to complete that passion . Everybody is unique and their passion is also different .According to me nobody is following others passion .

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