Advertising
Advertising

4 Reasons People Who Follow Their Passions Fail (and How to Avoid Them)

4 Reasons People Who Follow Their Passions Fail (and How to Avoid Them)

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.

Advertising

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!

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

20 Health Benefits of Coffee (And How to Get the Maximum Benefits of It) 5 Simple Steps To Owning Your Own Overseas Paradise 4 Reasons People Who Follow Their Passions Fail (and How to Avoid Them) 4 Tips for Overcoming Fear from a Surfer Who Nearly Drowned 5 Tropical Islands You Could Actually Afford

Trending in Career Advice

1 Clueless On Your Career? Sabbatical vs. Career Break 2 9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career 3 10 Essential Career Change Questions To Ask Yourself This Year 4 10 Job Search Tools Every Jobseekers Need To Know About 5 If You Have This Key Behavior, You’ll Be More Successful Than 90% Of People

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

Advertising

  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

Advertising

  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

Advertising

What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

Advertising

Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

More Tips on Advancing Your Career

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next