Rule #11: Find and Work Toward Your True Passions.

14 money rulesA reader asked me if I could break down my ideas into a handful of principles. After some careful thought, I came up with a list of fourteen basic “rules” that summarize my money and life philosophy. I’ll be presenting these as a weekly series.

I’ve watched it over and over again: the people that succeed in a particular career path are the people who are able to tap into their natural passions and aim that fire hose into their professional life. They know what they love and they find ways to translate that into a way to make a living. Sometimes they make a nice income – and that’s awesome. At other times, they earn just enough to get by – and that’s awesome, too.

What matters is that, in both cases, it’s a joy to get out of bed in the morning and get started on your day. Your work itself fills you with joy and excitement. When you reach that point, the line between work and play disappears – you’re happy doing whatever your day throws at you. That has a value that can’t be measured in dollars and cents. It transforms your life.

I hear from many people who claim this is impossible. It’s not. Every single day, I get out of bed, excited to write. If anything, I write more each day than I did when my passion for writing was still new. I know others who feel the same way about what they do. It makes them want to get out of bed in the morning and get started. When you feel that passion surging through you, it makes a lot of the little difficulties of life not matter too much.

If this seems completely alien to you, you simply haven’t discovered your passion yet. I discussed this a while ago, but here are seven ways to figure out your passions.

Figure Out Your Passions

1. Maximize your health.

Eat well. Get some exercise. Get away from any and all situations that are emotionally holding you back. Get plenty of sleep. Without these pieces in place, it will be hard for you to open up to new opportunities and directions.

2. Ask lots of questions.

If you come across something of interest to you, ask. Follow up with more questions until you’re satisfied – at least for the moment. Research interesting topics online. Do things like a “Wikipedia stumble” – start at a general topic you’re thinking about, then click on whatever article in Wikipedia that’s most interesting to you – and keep reading and following links.

3. Ignore what’s “cool.”

Remember the idea that you should stop trying to impress other people? It comes through big time here. If you enjoy it, it doesn’t matter what others think. Don’t be afraid to dive into something that seems exciting to you over a fear that others might find it “dorky.” Their label says more about them than it does about the activity.

4. Dabble in everything.

If something seems interesting, try it. You might not find it enjoyable or you might find it fascinating. It’s often hard to tell the difference until you dive in. For example, having a garden might seem interesting, but until you try it, it’s hard to tell whether it’s just conceptually interesting to you (but not necessarily in practice) or something that you truly enjoy.

5. When something piques your interest, dig in.

You try it. You like it. So try it again. And again. There are many things that seem quite fun on the first shot, but grow boring quickly as you hit “the dip” (where the newness wears off but you’re not very good at it). If you’re passionate about something, you won’t mind that dip.

6. Associate with others that share this growing passion of yours.

Look for events in your area where people might be involved with this interest. Look for groups online where people are talking about this activity. Join in, share your thoughts, and ask questions. Nothing’s better for fostering a growing interest than a group of like-minded people.

7. If it dries up, don’t push it.

True passions are sustaining – you’ll keep coming back to them because you want to. If you no longer want to engage in it, don’t make yourself. Just back away and find another path. You may find yourself returning in the future, or you may find yourself on a completely different path.

You’ll know your passion when you find it.

It’ll ring inside of you like a hammer hitting a church bell. It’ll consume your thoughts and your activities, even if you’re not very good at it yet. You’ll get up each morning excited to do more. This is how I feel about writing, for one.

What do you do if you discover your passion, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to translate that into income? After all, you have to pay the bills, and even though you’ve found something you love so much you’d be happy to do it every day, it doesn’t put food on the table.

There are countless avenues for channeling that passion into income. However, almost all of these paths require you to start doing it on a part-time basis. Give up the frivolous things you were spending your evenings on and devote some of that time to a new path. Here are ten suggestions for transforming that passion into cash.

Profit from Your Passion


Start a blog on the topic you’re passionate about. Share something new every day on there. Put a few ads on the site to earn a bit of revenue.

Teach / tutor

If you have patience, hang out your shingle and volunteer to teach your passion to others. This is a great avenue for a passionate musician.

Provide services

Maybe you’ve found that you’re passionate about a particular task that others find to be drudgery – scooping snow or repairing computers. Sell these services directly to others.

Create videos

If you want to teach how to do the things you love, consider making videos and sharing them online. Put them on YouTube and make a simple blog to share the videos. If you start gathering followers, sign up for their rewards program and you can translate this into solid income.

Sell at farmers markets

If you make things, from soap to bread to wicker baskets, you can likely do well selling the items at farmers markets. It’s a great way to make some sales and meet people interested in what you’re doing.

Write freelance articles / books

If you simply enjoy writing, practice and attempt to sell some of your best work as a freelancer. Expect plenty of rejections, but also expect feedback and suggestions, especially as you improve.

Develop projects through work

Take what you’re passionate about and see how it can connect to your workplace. If you’re into catering, volunteer to spend some work time getting catering set up for a work event. If you’re into art, look for ways to incorporate your art into work projects.

Take classes

Work towards a degree in the area of your passion. It’s a great way to get yourself into the marketplace and to connect with lots of like-minded folks.

Volunteer / apprentice

Don’t be afraid to spend your spare time volunteering to share your passion with others. Time and time again, people who share their talents freely and build their skills find themselves in other opportunities to earn an income from it.

Sell by consignment

If you have a product to sell, talk to local sellers and see if they sell by consignment. They provide the space and the sales work for a cut of the revenue, while you get to focus on what you love.

Finding your passion is a life-changing event. It pushes you in new directions that fulfill you in ways you’d never expect. If you’ve never found your passion, you’re missing out on life by not seeking it out.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.