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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 December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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