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Career Advice

Why "Follow Your Gut And Work For What You Love" Is Terrible Career Advice

Follow you passion and everything will fall in place!

You’ve heard this kind of career advice many times now –  follow your passion, follow your dream, follow your gut, follow your purpose. They are all variations of the same idea. Thousands of people have followed this advice and have been burnt in the process. However, there are thousands others who have done it and have been successful as well!

What is the right thing to do? Should one quit their current boring job to follow their passion instead? Or not? After all if actors, world famous artists, Olympic athletes, and others have been successful in following their passion, why can’t you and me do the same?

Passion in this context is a word that is used loosely to represent interests, likes, talents, dreams, hobbies, and sometimes even strengths. The end idea is if you are doing work that you love and are passionate about, it is the perceived ultimate career bliss! You will be fulfilled, satisfied, and happy. What else could one ask for? That said, passion is truly an emotional state. Wikipedia defines it as “an intense emotion” or “desire for something.” Is this deep emotional state sufficient to keep you fulfilled and happy especially in your career?

I hate to burst the fantasy bubble, but passion alone is NOT sufficient to attain that state of Zen in your career.

Your passions change over time

Yes, they do! What you are passionate about today, could lose your interest a few years from now. When I was in my early twenties, I had never cooked a day in my life and couldn’t care less about cooking (eating was a different story of course!). However, over the past few years, I have become deeply interested in cooking. I spend a lot of time cooking for my family. Now I love to cook, but things could change. I have picked up so many new interests over the years, but also lost interest in many other subjects too. I couldn’t drop it all and try to create a career each time I picked a new interest! I have spent time to explore those interests and seen which have persisted over time. Very few of these interests can be referred to as my passions.

Your passion doesn’t have to be the one thing that you do all day

Although I am passionate about cooking, pursuing a career in cooking is not for me! I use cooking as an outlet. It is a way to calm myself and to recenter myself by doing something that I enjoy. Your interest in music or sports doesn’t have to translate to having a career in music or sports. Indulge in that activity a few times a day or week as a way to reenergize yourself. You could volunteer as a sports coach, be a music teacher on the side, or sing at events once in a while. There are tons of ways to indulge in that passion. Learn what about that impassioned activity draws you to it. Is it what it does for you? Or is it what it can do for others?

Your passion could be competitive

If your passion is to win the next season of American Idol, it goes without saying that it will be competitive. Or if you want to be a Hollywood star, realize that it is a tough ambition to fulfill. The top spots are few. This warrants an important question: are you passionate about the act of singing, acting, or are you passionate about the movie industry? If you are passionate about the act of singing or dancing or acting; for example, there are different venues to pursue this passion. If you are passionate about the industry or a particular show, there are other ways to be involved in that industry itself. The possibilities are endless. This leads us to the next thought.

Your passion is possibly a verb

If you dig deep, with “Why” questions, you will arrive at what aspect of the passion draws someone. To help others, to lead, to make a difference, to take care, to give someone joy, to solve problems – these may be the true aspects of your passion that motivate you. When you look at your passion from the point of view of these verbs, it could open up other possibilities. If my true passion is to solve problems, I could do that in numerous ways, and in numerous settings. I could it achieve this at my current occupation with the skill set I already have honed. If my true passion is to help others, I could do it in a myriad ways: at my workplace, outside my workplace, in numerous settings, with numerous vehicles. Sometimes we get attached to the vehicle itself and call that our passion. Passion can be any permutation of these 3 elements:

To _________ (fill in the verb that drives you – teach, solve, lead etc)

in/to ____________ ( where and who do u want to impact – workplace, volunteer organization, specific industry….etc)

with _________________ (your vehicle – singing, cooking, acting, problem solving etc)


To lead with my public speaking abilities in a youth organization

To bring joy with my singing abilities to senior citizens

You could be living your passion with just a few tweaks

Job dissatisfaction has many factors attributed to it. For example, in my previous job, I loved my workplace and the work I did, but I did not enjoy the 1.5 commute each way! If that factor was removed, I could possibly have been living my passion. I love to plan, organize, and manage tasks. I also love all things people development related, and love to get things done. I had it all in my previous role and I was good at it. However, the commute was the killer. If I could have telecommuted, I could have been living my passion! Identify the aspects of your job situation that irk you. Identify the aspects of your job situation that you love. See if there are ways you can eliminate the aspects on your irk list to spend more time doing things you love. Research has proven that when you love what you are doing, the impact on success is significantly higher.

Your passion could be staring you in the face at your current work

The reality of our jobs today is that we graduate from college and take the job that we get. Some of us are lucky to have experienced some aspect of our future job through internships, co-ops, volunteering, or simply asking people questions. We may have an idea of what the job may entail. Others land a job that they may have not studied for or dreamed of, but over time they hone their skills and grow in their careers. These jobs could then turn into their passion. You don’t necessarily have to go look for your passion. Your current work could be your passion!


Passion alone is not the key to finding and staying at a job, or for finding that state of career bliss. Our passions change over time and so do our career trajectories. A combination of skills, interests/passions, commitment, hard work, social needs, and impact, govern our career bliss by combining all together!

That’s the end goal, right?

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