Don't Follow your Passion . . . Commit to your Passion!

I remember the moment I first saw my wife vividly.

We were both freshman in high school and I was completely in my awkward stage, it did not help that I was 115 pounds at 5’6”.  I was sitting in class waiting for the teacher to begin when Shelly walked by, stopped in the doorway, and made eye-contact.  The moment seemed to last forever as I was awestruck by her and then she spoke to me . . . she asked, “have you seen Nick?”  

That was a good lesson in disappointment as Nick was her boyfriend at the time.  However, I was not discouraged since in that moment something inside of me said she would be my future wife.  I know that sounds crazy and we did not even begin to date for another four years, yet that occasion changed my life and set me on a path of passion and commitment.

I became passionate about my wife and committed to eventually marry her, we have been happily married for over 12 years and it was that moment that led to us being together.

Maybe you have had a similar situation, not necessarily with a spouse, but in an instance your passions were raised and you decided to commit to a goal.  That is what this article is about, encouraging you to identify your professional passions and sacrifice to attain them through commitment.  

This is also an exciting article because it will be written from two perspectives in a question and answer format.  Alejandro Sanoja is a an amazing second year MBA student at Bauer College of Business and has committed himself to working towards his passions by moving from Venezuela to the United States in the pursuit of his professional goals.  I, Matt Avery, recently graduated from Bauer and am building my company, Elisha Consulting, where I help companies reach their goals through modern marketing.

Below are three questions that we routinely hear about passion and commitment along with our answers on how you can identify your passion and techniques to commit yourself to reaching your professional goals.

Question: How can you discover and identify your professional passions?

Alejandro:

Follow your passion! We hear this advice over and over but what does it really mean? Passion is defined as “strong and barely controllable emotion”. A professional passion will then be the activities that energize us when we are working. Ideally we would always be doing work that produces uncontrollable emotion, but this is not always the case. Why? 

Recently I was reading a book, RESET: How to Get Paid and Love What You Do, that helped me find an answer to this question. The book describes talents as the specific activities that ignite our passions, it helps you break down the components of your passions to really understand them and your talents. You should ask yourself the question: In what moments do I feel more energized or “alive”? What activities was I doing during those moments? And then break down the components of those activities. I’ll give you an example:

In my case, I thought basketball was my passion because it caused a lot of emotion in me. But after reading the book I understood that the actual component that energized me was the competition and the capacity that I had to have an impact on a specific result. Which is why nowadays I feel the same energy when I am representing Bauer in a case competition or when I am doing a presentation about a project.  In those moments I can have an impact on the results, thus some of my talents are thriving in competitive environments and being goal oriented.

Take the time to find your talents and then see in which environment those talents are key for success. That is where you should be!

Matt:

This is a difficult question because on one hand we all know our passions, yet on the other hand many people will deny them as foolish, childish, or something that other people do while the majority of people work a “normal” job.  According to Forbes only 47.7% of people enjoy their jobs in the United States.  That means a majority of people do not like their jobs, i.e. they are not passionate about what they do professionally.

What is even more interesting is that “A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.”  Therefore, it should be obvious that we should strive to be passionate and fulfilled about our jobs as it is a win-win for everyone involved - workers enjoy their tasks and companies are more productive.

I know what you are thinking, “yea those are people with fun jobs.”  My response would be that you cannot define fun and passion for someone else.  I have a good friend who talks at length about how much she enjoys her consulting job with travel, long hours, and high stress.  Where I have an entrepreneurial spirit and would not last in a traditional office building for more than a day.  

Then there is the TSA agent I met years ago who loved his job, seriously he loved it.  He had a rhyme that he would sing to people in the security line to empty their pockets before entering the metal detector and made sure everyone knew how many awards he had won for service, honestly, he let us all know about his TSA awards.  

The key is to realize your passions are obvious yet you might not think they will make you money.  Here is an exercise to try.

Find a nice place where you can write, perhaps a coffee shop, the park, or anywhere that is not distracting.  Write out things you enjoy and be broad.  For example, I would write, “I like to help people, travel with my family, and eat great local food.”  

Now I become more focused, what could I do that would allow me to live my passions?  I have realized that it is to work remotely allowing me to travel around the world while eating fantastic meals.  That has led me to building a company that focuses on digital marketing where I can work from anywhere that has internet connectivity.  Further, I look for non-profit organizations and small businesses as clients to fulfill my passions of helping others.

Sincerely and honestly take time to write out what drives you and then connect the dots to how you can make money fulfilling what you enjoy.  

What are the main things that prevent people from pursuing their professional passions?

Alejandro:

Without a doubt fear of failure and ridicule is what prevents most people from finding and pursuing their professional passions. Fear and avoidance of discomfort. And that it just doesn’t make sense.

Imagine if babies would think that “they are just not made for walking” just because after a couple of time of trying to do it they fall. They would probably think that they will just crawl for their rest of their lives or have someone carry them right? It just doesn’t make sense! It takes them 9 to 12 months to reach that milestone, and they don’t give up until they do it. Why do we change our mindsets then?

I was recently listening to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast in which they talked about grit and how it precedes passion. It couldn’t be more on point. Most people think that finding a passion means that right away you will feel great and energized without realizing that there is a process, a learning curve, that is filled with obstacles and uncomfortable situations. After going through that process is when we find our passion, so we must hang tight and be committed so that you can actually get there. And even so, after we find our professional passion there will be some activities related to it that we will not like.

Be gritty, commit and know that the higher the mountain the bigger the treasure will be on the other side. That treasure is finding your passion!

Matt:

Of course there are some people who simply have to keep a job they do not like in order to pay rent, take care of their family, etc.  Yet, most of the people I meet encourage me about my business and many say they wish they were doing something they enjoyed.  The problem is normally the first step.  

So many people are paralyzed by the first step because it is new and removes security.

I completely understand.  Some days I wake up ready to conquer the world and other days I feel sick with the amount of stress and the constant fear that I will not reach my goals.  

During these moments I think on my purpose which is fueled by my passion.  I genuinely enjoy helping people.  I completely believe I was put on this earth to help others and provide for my family.  When I think about my family, our goals, and helping others I can instantly become motivated to continue forward.

The reason I recommended writing your passions down in the previous question is that when we write something out it becomes more permanent instead of just being a thought.  Place what you write in front of you on a daily basis to overcome discouragement.

It might take weeks, months, or years to finally reach your goals, yet we are all on a path of change.  The people who are most satisfied are the ones who grow with the change and adapt constantly to overcome fear and pursue their professional passions.

How do you keep moving forward when things become challenging?

Alejandro:

If grit comes before passion, then purpose comes before grit. 

Sometimes the biggest challenge to finding our passions and keep moving forward is that we don’t have big enough challenges.

There is a story about a boxer that early in his career was always relying on the money that he was going to make if he won the fight, so that he could feed his family. Nothing would stop this boxer, he always had that fire inside him. He just wouldn’t give up, no matter what. That boxer is Manny Pacquiao.

Psychological studies, like the ones D. Kahneman mentions in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, have proven that we do more “to not lose” than to win. Which is why situations like the one Pacquiao was in are so powerful. He was afraid that if he lost, his family would not eat, and that made him unstoppable. That fear was more motivating that the desire to win a be the #1 boxer in the world.  

We often see this stories in which the people with the biggest challenges are the ones that have the biggest successes. I have been fortunate enough to be born in a country in which the same president ruled for more than 15 years, and the same party has been in power for almost 20 years. They have destroyed almost everything from social capital to the production capacity of the country. I mean no disrespect to all the people that have lost their lives because of the violence that was created by that government or to the families that have lost everything in those years.

I say I am grateful because that situation is very uncomfortable, it made me leave my country in search for better opportunities and to find ways to help my family.

Just like Bruce Lee said, “Pray not for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Matt:

Simply put, I think about my desire to help others.  I have been blessed to work in Haiti side-by-side with some of the poorest people (financially) in the entire world.

I want to help them and others as much as I can.  

My fear disappears when I think about them.  For me, it is a responsibility to help others and I am fortunate that my job is setting me on a path to travel with my family, work remotely, help individuals reach their goals, assist non-profit organizations in their marketing, and of course eat street food around the world.

Thinking about the past of where I have been and where I want to be fuels my passion.  Life is difficult and in those challenging times it is necessary to think of what you want to do with your life.  Knowing what you want to do guides you through tough times by committing to long-term goals.

Summary

Whether you are a professional wanting to take your career to the next level, a business owner developing a plan that will lead to growth, or a student looking to make the most out of your education, there are some steps you can take now to start traveling in the road of success.

  • If money was no obstacle, what would you do every day?

After answering that question, and be as detailed as possible, then answer why you would do that? Answer that “why” questions 3 times, differently each time, and you will find your purpose.

  • Break the activity that you would do every day into its components.

What are the specific tasks that you would be doing? What are the skills needed to perform at a high level when doing those tasks? By answering these questions you will be able to identify your talents that will allow you to find your passion.

  • Reverse engineer your path to your goals.

Do some research and find out about the benchmarks and best practices related to the goal that you want to achieve. Find out how long does it usually takes to achieve it and what are the key steps in that path, understand what are the sacrifices you have to make to succeed. Are you willing to travel that path and make the sacrifices? Is your why strong enough to keep you going when challenges arise? These steps will help you tie your goal to your why so that you can find and develop your grit muscle to fully commit.

If you are ready to find your purpose and develop the grit needed to commit to your passions feel free to reach out to me, Alejandro, by connecting and messaging me on LinkedIn and Matt.