Don’t just follow your passion

For many years, I believed that “following your passion” was the best way to discover where you excel. Thus, my career has included everything from circus to management consulting; restaurants to kids with autism.

One thing that has been consistent throughout my life is my love of movement. Where most people struggle to get to the gym, I can’t wait to practice every day.

I love movement, in no small part, because I practice every day.

When to change careers

I’ve raved before about David Epstein’s book Range, which argues for the benefits of skill transfer and not specializing in one discipline alone.

Epstein tells the story of a man who tried a variety of professions. He initially worked as an art dealer, a career which was truncated because he was too critical towards clients. He pivoted to become a teacher, teaching at a boarding school and working as a preacher’s assistant. He studied theology with the aim of becoming a pastor, but he struggled with the academic requirements.

After a decade of moving from one discipline to another, he began to paint.

That man was Van Gough. If Van Gough had not continued to change his career, again and again, he wouldn’t have created the art he’s known for today.

Skill transfer

Epstein’s argument in Range is that pivoting can be useful. That when you take on a new discipline – and bring what you’ve learned to the next endeavor – you may bring a fresh perspective or skills that can help in this new field.

Van Gough might not have been able to become a world-famous artist if he hadn’t applied what he learned working as an English teacher and failing to become a pastor. We learn best when we take what we’ve learned previously and apply it to a new challenge.

When to quit

In the short book The DipSeth Godin advises knowing when to persevere and when to quit. The wrong time to quit is just because things get hard.

Quit before things get challenging, so that you don’t waste effort or forgo the benefits that come on the other side of difficulty.

The grass will always look greener on the other side. You’ll be tempted to try something different. When things are challenging is the precise time to keep going.

The practice loop

Practice makes you better. Practice also creates opportunities to fall in love with the very thing that you are practicing.

The more you do, the greater the likelihood that you will enjoy the work.

Don’t just follow your passion. Find a practice that you enjoy, practice that, and allow that practice to become love.

Until next week,

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Share This Post