Oversharing Professional

The Case Against Passion

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’ve heard that cliché for longer than I can remember, and it has always rubbed me the wrong way. To me — in fact, I’d bet, to a lot of people in the workforce — this saying sounds bullshit wrapped in banality. 

Not just that. It’s the worst kind of bullshit. It sounds inspirational, but it’s not. It just makes me feel bad about my career. It says that if only I had enough passion and used it to guide my choices, I wouldn’t be unhappy at work.

Now that I’m trying to reinvent my career, this objectionable advice comes up over and over again. Figure out your passion, the career gurus say, and the right path will emerge.

And if it doesn’t, I infer, it’s all my fault. 

You can imagine my relief, then, when I discovered that I’m right to think this advice is bullshit. I started reading Designing Your Life a short while ago, and the authors have this to say:

Many people operate under the dysfunctional belief that they just need to find out what they are passionate about. Once they know their passion, everything else will magically fall into place. We hate this idea for one very good reason: most people don’t know their passion.

Passion only comes after we try things, the authors explain. That’s why it’s important to explore several different career ideas, with a methodological process they call prototyping, instead of barreling forward with a single assumption that is most likely faulty. “Passion is the result of good life design, not the cause,” they write.

As I’ve written about before, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Trying to identify a singular passion was an obstacle I could never conquer, and I’ve spent too many years being hard on myself because of it. It’s a relief to know I don’t have to jump over this hurdle. I just have to go around it. 

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