We are living in the post-follow-your-dreams era where most career advice has a dark cloud of the 2008 economic collapse, escalating student debt, and low graduate employment rates. “Push forward, with caution” is the anxious whispers from academic halls, and even career consultants meant to inspire feel the need to temper their motivation: “Do what you are passionate about so long as it is valuable and you are good at it.” The message is clear your passion is no currency for success and happiness, don’t risk it all on a dream.
The problem with this advice is it fails to take into consideration that no one has ever started out “good at” something. Passion is what carries you through those long hours of practice makes perfect, and keeps you up late at night solving for x when the average person would have given up and gone to bed. It’s creativity’s high voltage elixir . Without it you get xerox scanned clip art and slapped-together, good-enough solutions.
It’s likely that this advice is well intentioned, as the road to passion is long and arduous. It often will seem to move so slowly that everything appears at a standstill, and then suddenly darts ahead at lightening speed so that you struggle to keep pace with it. You will make mistakes. At first you might stumble or get turned around, and the path forward will not always be clear. You may even believe that these mistakes are because you are mistaken to follow this fool’s passion, but if you are committed to learning from the path your passion leads you on then you will begin to learn the patterns of it’s behavior, to track it like a wild beast, and perhaps even to lead the hunt to discover new opportunities that ignite your passion.
You are the keeper of your passion you must take good care of it so that it will take good care of you. Passion must have room to stretch it’s legs, to make a mess occasionally, to sing from the rafters at all hours of the night. It can be part jealous lover, part needy child, and part stern master. You must wholly invest in your mental and physical health, and your emotional and spiritual well-being in order to become the tool your passion uses to reach the world.
Often those that are committed followers of their passion say that they would not wish this life upon anyone, there are easier ways to make a buck, but if it is calling you then you know that it is not about making a buck. It is no small task to commit to living a passionate life. This is what those weary eyed career councilors are trying to warn you. It may never, and probably won’t, pay off in wild success and a steady pay cheque. The fastest way to unhappiness is to follow fool’s gold into the belief that you will earn your way into passion for your life. If you just work a little harder, wait a little longer. If you wait to put your passion first it will shrivel up and die before it is given a chance to prove valuable.
Too many people run away from their passion out of fear of what it will ask of them, but it is not healthy to suppress a force so powerful. It will wear you down into the dirt until there is barely anything left. It is then that sparkle of passion shines the most brightly in order to lead us back to ourselves.