Following your passion is a great way to live. It’s a lousy way to make a living. For most people, anyway.

Why’s that? Because not all passions can be made profitable. And, for those that can, not all passion followers have the right knowledge and skills to be successful in their endeavors. Not to mention the patience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that following your passion is a bad thing, even as a career. It’s worked for a few people. You know. You’ve read their stories on the internet. The headlines that proclaim “I gave up a [successful career/six-figure salary/dead-end job], moved to a [foreign country/tropical paradise/treehouse in the jungle] to pursue my dream of [scooping ice cream/opening a yoga studio/becoming a modern-day Robinson Crusoe] and never looked back.”

Well, I’m calling it bullsh*t.

Because let me let you in on a little secret. It. Almost. Never. Happens. That’s why those unlikely stories are so intriguing. They’re aberrations. Anomalies. Completely out of reach of the average person.

There’s More to the Story

Now that I’ve successfully dashed your hopes of realizing your dream, here’s the good news. It is entirely possible to follow your passion and still be successful doing so.

But in order to succeed, you must avoid these five mistakes that make people who follow their passions fail. It’s only by dodging these pitfalls that I’ve been able to get to where I am today.

1. They think they can follow their passions all the way to the bank.

Some passions translate well into careers or business endeavors. Others do not. Take me, for example. Sure, I’m passionate about real estate. But I’m also passionate about nature, travel, fishing, and lots of other stuff that’s never made me a dime.

What if, instead of real estate, I’d chosen fishing as a career? Spoiler alert: I would never have made much, if any, money as a professional fisherman. Yeah, maybe I could have moved to the tropics and opened an operation that offered deep sea fishing charters. But that’s not exactly the most lucrative profession out there.

Instead, I focused my efforts on something I knew I could make money doing. I worked hard to be successful at that and, as a result, I now get to enjoy all those other interests as much as I want!

Bottom line: If you can’t make money doing what you love, then make money doing something else. Then put that money towards pursuing your passion.

2. They may love it, but they don’t understand it.

When I was getting my start in the real estate world, I had a heck of a lot to learn. And when I moved my family down to Central America to start investing in property down here, I had to learn way more. Property valuations and real estate transactions just don’t work the same as they do in the U.S.

I had to do a ton of research just to learn about the process, before I could even consider making any investments. I talked to realtors, attorneys, and other professionals. I talked to local farmers and land owners, the ones who would ultimately be the people I would be buying property from.

It was more work that I’d ever dreamed I’d have to put in. But it paid off. My business partner and I could never have experienced the success we’ve found if we’d approached the Latin market with only the knowledge we had when we left the U.S.

In other words, being passionate about something isn’t enough. You’ve got to know it backwards and forwards. Eat, sleep, and breathe it. And, most importantly, be willing to keep working hard at it even when it isn’t easy.

3. They don’t have an exit plan.

One important thing to note about my success in the U.S. real estate market was that it happened during the biggest boom the business has ever seen. Practically everybody was developing projects and flipping houses. Any idiot could have made money in that market.

That was one of the reasons my partner and I started looking toward the tropics. We saw what was happening in the U.S., and we knew it wasn’t sustainable. We suspected a crash was coming, although we thought it would be specific to real estate; we just didn’t know when.

We could never have imagined the magnitude of the global economic crisis that ensued. But thankfully we had already devised a plan to not only stay afloat, but to build a thriving business in spite of the unfavorable conditions.

In short, if the pursuit of your passion is all that you have on your radar, then you will be devastated if–no WHEN–the unthinkable happens. And you will lie awake at night in fear that it will.

4. They rush in with guns blazing.

When my partner and I decided Latin America was the place to be, we didn’t turn in a two weeks’ notice, sell everything we had, and buy a one-way ticket. We took our time, and we did our due diligence.

We spent every day for months scouting properties. We traveled the entire Pacific Coast from the El Salvadorian border, through Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and down to Panama. That’s when a lightbulb came on, and we knew we’d found the right place to focus our efforts.

Even then we had many more weeks of searching before we settled on what ultimately became our first project. Meanwhile, we still had work going on back in the States to help sustain us until we could get things off the ground in the tropics.

We spent many days puttering around in a beat-up truck with a crude map, trying to reach some remote destination. We’d drive until we ran out of road. Then we’d find a guy with a horse or a canoe and keep going til we got to where we were headed.

My advice to you? Don’t buy into the hype. Getting to a place where you can live a life you’re passionate about is not an overnight process. It takes work. But, more importantly, it takes time.

What’s Really Going on Behind the Scenes

The climax of most true “following your passion” success stories isn’t a mystical epiphany, an impulsive decision, or a rare stroke of luck. Instead it’s a mixture of many far less glamorous elements. Like patience, prudence, and a lot of hard work.

Sure your success story may not go viral on social media. But when you read the ones that do, you can laugh, like I do, knowing they just got lucky. Things may work out for them; they may not. But, at the end of the day, you and I can sleep a helluva lot better at night.

Featured photo credit: woman-1006100_1920/Counselling via pixabay.com

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