Passion can be a really tricky thing.
For some people, a lifelong passion is something they discover at a young age. I know talented musicians, writers, and scientists who knew what they wanted to be from early childhood.
For others, passions are fleeting. They’ll discover something they’re passionate about, but then in a few years, they burn through that passion like the K Foundation burnt through a million quid.
For still others, they never find that passion at all. They work at a job, but it doesn’t excite them to their core, and they doubt they’ll ever find that passion.
For a long time, I was a huge believer in following your passions. I believed that a day was empty if you had a passion in your belly and you didn’t do anything to chase that passion. I still feel that way, in fact.
The problem is that passion alone isn’t enough to ensure financial security or success. Passion is often a vital ingredient in that recipe, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be present, either.
Instead, I’ve come around to the idea that success at anything comes primarily from hard work, though passion can be a powerful fuel for that hard work.
If you stay up all night writing a vital report or polishing a vital presentation, it’s your hard work that’s going to make that report or that presentation successful, not your passion. However, your passion might have been the reason that you were able to stay up all night and focus on what you needed to do.
My advice for someone who has found a passion is simple. You should study that passion and hone that passion, but you should also expect that you’re going to have to work hard and you should also learn the skills needed to channel that passion into something successful.
My advice for someone who has never found a lasting passion is also simple. The most valuable thing you can do in life is to build a great work ethic along with the skills needed to work well in any position you wind up in.
What do these two statements have in common?
Everyone needs some work ethic. Whether or not you have a passion fueling you or not, the person who can focus in deep on a project and carry it through is going to come out on top, no matter what. The ability to buckle down and get a job done is worth a lot, and as you become more accomplished and can fill up a resume with the things you’ve built or helped to build, the better off you’ll be, passion or not.
Everyone needs a strong selection of transferable skills. Communication skills. Information management skills. Time management skills. These are the tools you’ll need to succeed no matter where you’re at in life and regardless of whether you have a passion for something or not.
A final tip: you’re likely to find that your passion, even if paired up with work ethic and transferable skills, isn’t enough to take you to the top. I’m passionate about basketball and I’m also quite tall, but I’m fully aware that I don’t belong anywhere near basketball players that are actually skilled. There’s also an issue of natural talent because, like it or not, we’re not all born with the same innate abilities.
If you find yourself in that position, my advice is to spend your spare time finding angles where you can still follow your passion, whether it’s in an indirect fashion by using your other skills or in a direct but amateur fashion, and focus on your career as what you do to support your passion and apply your work ethic there.
A passion is a wonderful thing. It’s something you should never, ever let go of, and it can sometimes be a fuel to push you further than you imagined. However, passion alone isn’t a ticket to your dreams. You need more.