Recently I read an article that fired me up just from the title: The Many, Many Problems With “Follow Your Passions.” I truly believe people should follow their passions, however, the author made a decent point saying if your passion lies in the arts or sports, the limited number of careers in those fields makes it unlikely that you will be able to find a job that will satisfy your passion and wallet. He followed by saying it is better to find a somewhat satisfying career over the ideal one since many people’s passions will evolve over time anyway.
I know this from personal experience. It was only a couple of years ago I found my love for writing. In school, I never pursued this now passion because my English papers often resulted in average marks and comments such as “missed the point”. I was notorious for writing too much and then having to condense down. My passion in school was drama because I loved to create something from nothing. I thrived off the idea of making a vision become reality and having people emotionally drawn into my creation. Although I did enrol in university as a drama major by the second year I corrected that career path by following the path of least resistance. With minimal effort, I excelled at math and, therefore, opted for a degree in finance and a subsequent career in business.
I think I overcame every single one of my personal shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work. If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you–like a fever. – Sam Walton
Now is that to say I did take the recommended approach by the author? Perhaps. But by telling the reader to find a career that they can do well as long as they feel engaged feels trite. How can one actually become more engaged in their work, especially if over time the slight passion they did have at the beginning is now completely gone? How do you bring variety and contribution into your work while feeling like your passions are being met? Better yet, how do you find new passions in an old career?
In School But Not The Classroom
For many people, areas of passion started to develop while we were in school. Often it wasn’t the core subjects that people were passionate about, it was the optional classes, and activities outside of the classroom. We would join activities that we already were interested in, but more often than not, we joined because we thought we could be. School was the institution that supported this expansion of passion. In the same way that school housed activities outside of its core mandate, the workplace is evolving in the same way.
Work Hard Play Hard
Many companies already understand the need to include physical well-being into their corporate culture and many now include fitness facilities, gym passes or on-site yoga classes. In Calgary, companies take fitness encouragement a step further with the annual Calgary Corporate Challenge where over 2 weeks companies will compete against each other in a variety of different sporting events. It gives employees the opportunity to use their passion for a sport inside the corporate life and sometimes the opportunity to try out a new sport or activity.
Passion Outside of Sport
More companies are seeing the value of providing other classes as a way of encouraging creativity and talent. Business Insider summarized a variety of perks from various companies: Evernote has macaroon baking and Asana gives their employees access to Life Coaching. Many companies encourage giving back in the form of using paid time to volunteer as a group. Companies are even starting the trend of offering mindfulness and meditation training as a way for employees to cope with stress.
Classes Create Community
Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, wrote in Harvard Business Review about his company’s sculpting classes offered. “Pixar University helps reinforce the mindset that we’re all learning and it’s fun to learn together.” The idea that creating a space of learning puts people that would normally not associate with each other in the same environment and levels the playing field. It opens up the channels of communication and makes the culture fun.
But I’m Just One Person
Companies are always looking for unique ways to appreciate employees outside of recognition. With limited budgets to spend on these wonderful perks, it is up to the individual to suggest, and offer skills available. Do you love to read? Suggest a bi-weekly book club meet up for employees over the lunch break. Are you interested in learning meditation? Speak to your manager about creating a 30-minute class before official work hours and find someone that could teach their skills.
For many people the career they’re in is not something they would have chosen, but instead fell into. They became good at it, developed a passion for it, and over the years that passion started to wane. You are not alone in this. Be the person that brings passion back, and perhaps finds a new one. As Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs, wrote back to a reader that was questioning whether he should follow his passion: “Don’t Follow Your Passion, But Always Bring it With You.”