How To ACTUALLY Find Your Passion

Mar 02

How To ACTUALLY Find Your Passion

Passion.

It’s a word we hear all the time.

But what is it?

How can we use it?

And most importantly – how the HELL do we find it?

Today we’re going to go deep with this topic.

Because passion is something I’ve pretty much avoided talking about in the 20+ month history of this blog.

Why? Because I had no idea what I was talking about. But now I’ve figured this beast out.

Join me and we’ll decode this mythical word together.

The Lonely Abyss Of The Passion Trap

People oftentimes come into personal development confused and depressed. They seek to rid themselves of their negative ways and change their lives for the better.

But then they start reading blog posts by people that say “All you have to do is follow your passion and your life will be all sunshine and rainbows.”

The readers of this blog know that’s bad advice, but let’s back up.

Most people reading these articles feel lost. They don’t KNOW what their passion is so how the hell can they follow it?

These people go from idea to idea desperate to figure out what their passion is so they can reach the promised land. But 99% of the time they never get there.

Why? Because they’ve fallen into the abyss of the passion trap.

The passion trap is the idea that we must discover our passion and follow it like a mofo and if we don’t we’re shit out of luck.

But unfortunately this leads to a bunch of people who are already confused and depressed becoming even more confused and depressed. It’s a vicious cycle with harsh results.

How do I know this? Because I was one of them.

I fell deep into the passion trap. My life felt incomplete for an entire year because of it.

I had so many other things figured out but passion seemed like it was always just out of my reach.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you know precisely what I’m talking about.

If you do, I’ve got you covered.

I figured out the solution to this problem.

I’m going to share with you a way that will strip apart this idea of finding your passion and replace it with something more tangible.

Something that ACTUALLY leads to finding work you love.

Let’s get to it.

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

This post is loosely based on Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. If you haven’t read it, buy it directly after this post. It’s one of my top 3 favorite books.

Within the book, Cal Newport argues that anything can become your passion. All you need to do is work at it for a long enough time to get there.

By building up your skill set, you can leverage yourself into a career that lights you up.

Of course there is some work in front of you, but the beauty of this method is it’s simplicity.

It’s complete, tangible, and practical.

That’s the base of this concept but there’s much more to it. Let’s dig deeper.

Do Pre-Existing Passions Exist?

Think back to something you felt passionate about. You know that feeling.

You wake up with thoughts of your passion. You go to bed with more thoughts of your passion.

In some ways, it is an obsession. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

In fact, sometimes you feel stress, worried or anxious.

But at the end of the day, you love it because it’s deeply fulfilling. It becomes a part of who you are.

Do you remember how that happened? Really think about it.

I’ve worked with coaching clients on this and a lot of them struggle to clearly remember how that seemingly meaningless activity lit a fire under their ass and became an obsession.

Very few get this right.

The answer is to take something you’re already interested in and pursue that.

How To Identify Your Interest

Do you know what you’re interested in?

If so, you can skip this part.

If not, stick around and we’ll do an exercise to get you some clarity.

Before you get started on this exercise, remember to be gentle with this. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to get this right. Just listen to your gut and wing it if you have to.

Step 1: Take the next 10 minutes and write down everything you’re interested in. List out as many things as you possibly can. Stretch your brain and don’t worry if it’s something big or small. Just write it.

Step 2: Take 10 minutes and narrow that list down to 10 things you find REALLY interesting. This is going to be tough, but take it one interest at a time.

Step 3: Take that list of 10 and take 5 more minutes to narrow it down to 3.

Step 4: Then take 5 more minutes and narrow it down to 1.

Now you’ve got your one interest. With this interest you now have something to spend your time with.

So what’s the next step?

Now it’s time to get to work. Here’s where the real meat lies.

Here’s how you ACTUALLY find your passion.

Do The Work

“Do the thing, and you will have the power.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Schedule the work into your day.

Don’t feel like there’s time to do it? I get that. I’ve been there.

A lot of people say “We make time for what’s important to us.” But I disagree. I think we make time for what’s most convenient to us.

Taking the time to morph an interest into a passion isn’t very convenient, but amazing lives aren’t convenient. They’re generally achieved with a healthy dose of inconvenience.

But to ensure you hit your goals, let’s start small with this scheduling.

Take 2 hours this week devoted to your interest.

From writing, to yoga, to design, to surfing, to geometry – you can spare 2 hours of your life for something you’re interested in.

After your first week see how you feel. Was 2 hours too much? Was it too little? Remember to take baby steps here.

Set yourself up for the following week and start to develop a schedule. Stay consistent and put in the time with your interest.

After your first month of doing this, you’ll have a pretty firm grasp on your time.

You’ll have spent at least a few hours pursuing your interest.

Now it’s time to up the stakes and introduce deliberate practice into the mix.

Deliberate practice is when you work on something past the point of resistance. It’s when you want to stop working, but keep going anyway. It’s when you stretch your will power to new limits by making a hard, concious effort at something.

Instead of just spending time with your interest, you’ll be spending quality time with your interest.

Your results will come faster and you’ll know whether or not this interest will become a passion in no time at all.

So do exactly what you did for the first month. Schedule in time and stick with it. But ask yourself: “How can I stretch my limits? How can I make the most of this time devoted to my interest?”

Brainstorm some ideas and implement.

One example is from Cal Newport himself.

He is a computer science PHD so he decided to utilize deliberate practice by attempting to review, learn and even solve tough problems within his field. He’d schedule out time and keep track of how much deliberate practice he was doing per month.

It wasn’t always fun, but it didn’t take long before he saw the results.

Now that you understand the basic concept of turning an interest into a passion and you’re armed with practical steps, it’s time move onto essential ideas that will make this process of finding work you love run smoothly.

Avoid The Dabbler’s Mentality

One of the harshest side effects of the passion trap is the dabblers mentality.

There is nothing worse than dabbling. It kills success.

If you’re constantly moving from one interest to the next you’re never going to reach a decent level of skill.

And if you can’t do that, you’ll never know if that interest could become a passion.

These two articles helped me get over this…

Is It Time For You To Stop Dabbling And Get Serious?

5-Year Commitments

Let’s explore the passion scale to see why this is so essential.

The Passion Scale

Every idea has it’s flaws and this one is no exception. That’s why I created the passion scale to make this easier.

The passion scale runs from 0 to 1000.

If you’re at zero that means you feel nothing for a specific interest.

If you’re at 1000, you are on fire. You feel tremendous passion for your interest and obsess over it. You’re well on your way to mastery if you’re not already there.

I invented this scale because I DON’T think every interest can turn into a passion. I think we can only know which ones will turn into a passion once we see the fruits of our labor.

For example, I have done two major things in the past year and a half.

1. Writing: With over 120,000 words written in 2013 I’ve built up a really strong skill set.

But am I passionate about writing? Not really. I just use it as a medium of communication.

I don’t light up when I think about writing even though I’ve made a living from it, built up a community on here, and had a post go viral.

2. Coaching: In the beginning I sucked pretty hard at coaching. My clients at that time don’t even realize it because they were getting results but I was subpar.

It took me many months of hard work to get to a solid level with coaching.

But once I hit that level, I started to love it.

Getting on calls and staying totally present with the person in front of me is awesome. I love facilitating major breakthroughs.

The passion is strong here.

So what’s the difference between the two? Nothing really.

You could head to another blog and they’ll tell you they fell in love with writing instead of coaching.

I just happened to find the rewards of coaching more compelling than the rewards of writing.

Every interest is different. But you will never know how you will react to something until you’ve reached a base level of skill with it.

At that point you come to a fork in the road.

On one side is dropping your interest and the other side is pursuing your interest.

Only you can decide which way to go.

But to make this simpler – here’s a general rule of thumb when pursuing your interests.

You should spend 3 months with your interest actively pursuing it. If you don’t feel like you’re at a 100 on the passion scale by the end of the 3 months you can most likely drop it.

One Final Invitation

I invite you to test out these ideas. Cal Newport’s books is based off of case studies from people all around the world who genuinely love what they do.

So give it a shot and actually commit to this.

You don’t have to feel lost on your journey ever again. Just start today and get going.

Fall in love with the process and your result will come.

Find that you’re struggling with this? Fill this out and I’ll personally help you get through it. Seriously.

Photo Credit: Lυвαιв

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5 comments

  1. Good post, Kevin.

    “And most importantly – how the HELL do we find it?”

    –In my opinion, we don’t. We need to BUILD it over time.

    Someone smart once said that you’re already doing what you’re interested in/passionate about. You just don’t think about it… The key is, as you say, to step it up big and make it an obsession and focus on mastery. Until it becomes a profession.

    From skimming his blog, Cal Newport seems like a smart guy.

    • Cal Newport is all about dat passion building. I also like how he has this approach of “writing a book about something to become good at it.”

      I think you should determine what to pursue based on various merits evaluated through your core values. Passion is more like a symptom that what you are doing is well aligned with your desires and values I think. In the starting phases it can be hard to tell, and it’s easy to get bogged down by doubts. But when you’re seeing positive results it’s hard not to be passionate, haha.

      Not that I have any business talking about passion as of yet! But I have faith that I will soon enough.

  2. Passion is an important ingredient to success. What makes the content of this post valuable is that it points out how futile passion is if it isn’t accompanied by discipline. The willingness to work like a lunatic at that thing.

    Great post, Kevin. And thanks for the book recommendation too. I haven’t read Cal Newport’s work but will check it out.

  3. Interesting thoughts, Kevin. Passion is such an elusive concept sometimes. For instance, I’m passionate about writing, but there are many days when it just feels like a chore. I don’t know where I’d fit on your scale then. Some days I’m completely into it and love every minute, but it’s not like that all the time. The same goes for other things I do too. I love going to the gym, but some days I’d rather just do other things.

    It seems like passion is fluid. I always have a certain amount, but it ebbs and flows based upon mood and other factors going on.

  4. Hey Kevin, I was one of those people who gave everyone else advice on following their passion without having one of my own. I mean, I had things I liked doing… but no idea if I wanted to make a career out of them.

    It took years to discover that my hobbies are my hobbies, and that my passion is freedom. Hobbies and writing are a means to achieve that, hopefully in the near future.

    Like you say, effort + time = reward. Put in those hours and good stuff will inevitably happen.

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