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10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Follow Your Passion

10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Follow Your Passion

It’s tough to follow a passion and make it your life. A lot of people will tell you to forget following your passion and try to find something that makes money that you don’t mind doing. In fact, telling people that following your passion is bad advice seems to be the new trend. Why? Because a lot of people either fail at making their passion into a viable living or they simply don’t know what their passion is.

Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, says that “The problem is that we don’t have much evidence that this is how passion works. ‘Follow your passion’ assumes: a) you have preexisting passion; and b) if you match this passion to your job then you’ll enjoy that job.

“When I studied the issue, it was more complex. Most people don’t have preexisting passions. And research on workplace satisfaction tells that people like their jobs for more nuanced reasons than simply it matches some innate interest.”

How can you follow a passion, then, if you don’t have one? Well, you can’t. But if you have a passion — even if it’s skiing or surfing, you can follow it or let it lead you to new and exciting possibilities.

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I’m a dog musher and a writer. I don’t make a living as a dog musher, yet, although I hope to one day. However, I do make a living as a writer and editor. I use the money I make from one passion to pay for the other. And I hope that one day I will be able to gain enough sponsorship and race winnings to let dog mushing pay for itself.

1. Talk up your passion

If you let others know what your passion is, you will have a hard time hiding from it. Find occasions to make presentations about your passion. Are you a nature photographer? Maybe you could hold a class at the local library. Do you love to write? Start a writers’ group. Getting involved with other people who also love your passion is important for making us feel like it’s a worthwhile pursuit. I never feel better about the hours and days I spend alone on the trail with my dogs than when I’m at a symposium or race with other crazy dog mushing people who understand my obsession.

2. Be obsessed

I’ve been obsessed with dogsledding for about 20 years now. I read about it, think about it and do it all the time. In the summer when we can’t run sleds, I run my dogs on a bike. In the fall, we train on a four-wheeler. When I’m not writing fun articles like this one, I am usually writing or reading about dogsledding. Since my first ride in 1994, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it…even during the times when I didn’t have a team and pursued other goals. Likewise, when I decided to become a writer, I was obsessed with publishing books. Accomplishing that goal and being published by a ‘big’ publisher was a dream come true. Following these passions and being obsessed with them has helped me accomplish the things I want to accomplish. Obsessions can be good — as long as you don’t ignore your kids or partner along the way.

3. Do it for love

You might not be able to support yourself with your passion, at least not in the beginning. And that’s OK. Do what you love for the love of it. Don’t worry about the money. While it’s true that the money will often follow, you will need to do something to pay the bills in the meantime. Try and find a job doing something close to what you love. I’ve worked in veterinarian’s offices, walked dogs and done other things just to make a living doing something ‘doggy.’ In fact, I’ve even baked dog treats for farmers markets and made collars and that sort of thing, just so I could talk dogs and make some money at the same time.

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4. Keep hope alive

OK, this sounds cheesy, I know. But even during my darkest, non-dog-owning days, I always had a glimmer of hope that I could run dogs again one day. This helped me get through some really long days and even helped me sleep at night. If you can’t follow your passion right now, for whatever reason, don’t give up hope. Do the little things — visit related websites of people who are doing it, keep learning by reading books or taking classes in your passion’s field.

5. Easy doesn’t do it

Easy is getting a job at the ice cream shop in town. Becoming a professional golfer is hard. Really hard. If your passion — your true passion — is how you want to spend your days, then that’s how you need to spend your days. There is an old saying, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” If you truly love something, then doing the hard work — even the little tedious things — doesn’t really seem that hard.

6. Face the odds

I have many people in my life who are fond of telling me that the odds that I’ll win a sled dog race someday are pretty small. These are usually the same people who told me that the odds I could get my first book published by a ‘big’ publisher were pretty small. I smiled pretty big when my first book was published by Viking and had many reviews, including one in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the odds are against you — or if you’re like me, if they do, you’ll just want to make it even more.

7. Make it profitable

If you really want to make a living from your passion, then you need to find a way to make it profitable. More people than you think actually do this. Bakers, cake decorators, writers, photographers, all make a living doing something about which they are passionate. Or, maybe, you can support one passion for another, as I do. If you’re true passion is expedition kayaking, you might not be able to make that pay — but writing books and blogging about expedition kayaking might just work.

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8. Cultivate passion

Maybe you don’t have a passion. Or maybe you really enjoy reading anime. Being passionate about something doesn’t mean it has to fall to you from the sky. You can seize opportunity and cultivate a passion too. Maybe you’ve noticed a need for a certain app in your life. Cultivate that passion by learning how to create the app and promote it. Sometimes hobbies should stay hobbies, but you can take a passion for something and let it lead you to something great.

According to Newport, “Steve Jobs, in his famous Stanford Commencement address, told the students (and I’m paraphrasing here): You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle.

“If you read the press and social media that surrounded the event, it’s clear that many people interpreted this as him saying, ‘follow your passion.’ If you go back into the details of his biography, however, you discover this is not what he did. He stumbled into Apple computer (it was a scheme to make a quick $1,000) at a time when he was ‘passionate’ mainly about eastern mysticism.

But Jobs was open to opportunity. When he sensed that his scheme was bigger than he imagined, he pivoted and poured a lot of energy into building a company around selling computers. He cultivated passion. He didn’t follow it.”

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9. Don’t lose steam

It happens. You start out really enthusiastic for a project and then, over time, you lose interest or excitement. Sometimes this is an indication that it’s not really what you’re meant to do. On the other hand, sometimes, you just have to keep plowing forward, even through the tedious times. Even the most exciting jobs and passions, like dog mushing or writing, have tedious times. I know when I’m writing that if I start to bore myself with what I’m writing, then it’s time to take a break. I also know that there are some mornings when the sheer effort involved in hooking up 12 or 14 dogs and going for a 40 mile run just seems exhausting. I have to, in those moments, put one foot in front of the other and get things done. Usually, after all of the tedium of hooking up and packing up is done and we are on our way, I find my joy again.

10. Get to work

It almost seems counterintuitive, but your passion or the thing that you love doing, should drive you to work hard for it. No one is going to pay you to sit on your couch and watch TV. If that’s your passion, you might need to cultivate a new one. Sometimes, finding a passion is not the same as finding passion — or joy — in our work. No job is perfect. But if you ask most people who enter one field or another, you’ll likely find that there are aspects of a job that they enjoy. A plumber might enjoy working alone, solving problems and working with his or her hands. It is doubtful that your plumber will say they have a passion for plumbing. But it’s likely there are things in the job that bring joy. Sometimes, that can be good enough.

More by this author

Michelle Kennedy Hogan

Michelle is an explorer, editor, author of 15 books, and mom of eight.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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