Passion, Without Apology

A lot of people have been saying that the idea of doing what you love, following your passion, is actually a negative thing. It sets you up for failure. Of course, a select few in the world are the rare exception, but most likely you’ll end up disappointed, working a job that does what it needs to, slogging through life until you die. This is what they are saying that following your passion will do to you.

I’m writing this to tell you that there is no rare exception. Either a person becomes successful doing what they are passionate about or they fail, and chances are, the majority who fail weren’t all that passionate about it to begin with. The reason this idea that following your passion will leave you broken is, in my opinion, because passion is being confused with interest. 

An interest is defined as a few different things, but in this context, it means “a subject about which one is concerned or enthusiastic”. To be enthusiastic is to find intense enjoyment, interest, or approval in something. From childhood, we develop interests. We either pursue them or let them die. The ones we pursue grow. As we mature and move into adulthood, they either dictate our path and come into full bloom, or they don’t, and they either diminish or die like the rest. This is interest. An interest pursued can lead to personal and professional reward when nurtured, and yes, this is a good thing. 

But passion… 

Passion means: 1) strong and barely controllable emotion

    2) the suffering and death of Jesus

Passion is something that requires everything you’ve got to contain it. Passion is something you willingly walk twenty miles, barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways for and don’t complain. Passion is something that, for better or for worse, you just can’t live without. It’s getting-nailed-to-the-cross-for-it serious. Now, whether you believe in Jesus doesn’t matter. The point is made. This is something that transcends a career, a job, a hobby, a favorite pastime, or even an addiction. 

The reason that passion gets so confused with interest is because it is misunderstood to be the pursuit of a thing or a vocation. Consider this, however:

If the only thing Billy wants to do is be a film director as great as Spielberg, it’s not because he is passionate about directing. It’s because he’s passionate about creating something that impacts other people in the way Spielberg’s films impacted him. In that sense, he doesn’t have to be a director to succeed and find fulfillment. He just needs to be involved in making films. 

If all Jane wants is to be a neurosurgeon, she won’t become one if it’s just for the title or the salary. She will become a neurosurgeon because she is passionate about understanding neurology; how different things affect the nervous system, the human body, and everyday life; and in turn how she herself might contribute to the field. She doesn’t have to be a neurosurgeon to find fulfillment, however. All she needs to do is be involved in that field of study and work. 

Have you ever wondered how some people work in what are equated to menial jobs yet are still so happy? Because they are following their passion of service and humility, of being that person who is taking care of the little things that make other people’s lives easier, of maybe bringing a smile to someone else’s face. 

It must be understood that passion can manifest itself in different ways. It has nothing to do with jobs, with salaries, promotions, titles, degrees, or anything else. There are many people out there who would like you  to believe otherwise and will tell you their horror stories of following their passion and how it didn’t work out for them. Unfortunately, many people believe them and choose to not pursue what they’re passionate about. “It’s not going to happen, so why even try?” “It’s not working for other people, so why should I think I’m special?” 

It’s a sad story to walk away from passion, and it’s unlikely that most people know when they’re doing it. They’re probably only doing what’s expected of them. But convention is the death of passion. If you want a life that’s different, you must live it differently. There is a reason why people who pursue their passions tell you to do the same. There is a reason why the naysayers of passion will tell you to forget it.

The bottom line is that passion is something that exists within each person. It is not the byproduct of developing a skill or simply doing what you’re good at. At the same rate, you don’t have to pursue it to find happiness. However, if you want something that makes you excited to get out of bed each morning, if you want something that inspires you to improve yourself, if you want something that assures you of your purpose by its sheer existence, if you want fulfillment, without apology and without compromise follow your passion. 

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