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I hear a lot about passion these days. Not the NSFW naughty pictures kind of passion, but passion for work.
It seems EVERY college student I talk to tells me (or puts on their resume) they must have a job they are passionate about. Interestingly, they often don’t know what they’re passionate about, they are just convinced there must be passion.
Similarly, I see a lot of discussion around people who want to become entrepreneurs – often by people selling the entrepreneur dream of a flexible work schedule, doing something you love, while customers line up to pour buckets of money into your bank account.
Then there are those who feel there is something wrong because they aren’t passionate about every single part of their job. Some see it as a personal shortcoming, others see it as a problem with their job description. Either way, it’s an issue.
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Everyone wants to live the dream, but few discuss the realities of the dream.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be passionate about our work, but consider for a moment what that means. When people talk about wanting passion for their jobs, it usually sounds almost like being in perpetual euphoria where everything is great all the time. However, the dictionary tells us the first use of the word “passion” was in the 13th century and the root of the word means “suffering” or “to suffer.” Combine that with a more modern definition and we can define passion as Dan John does: to suffer for love.
Sure, we all want a job we love, but when we say we want a job we’re passionate about, how many of us mean we want a job we love so much we’d eagerly suffer for it?
For example, how many of us would:
- Work for significantly less money than our classmates or peers at other companies? Even if that meant seeing our family struggle?
- Work outside in the elements? Not just those three beautiful days in Spring, but regardless of physical discomfort through the sunburn and frostbite seasons?
- Take on very unpleasant tasks and responsibilities without hesitation simply because it’s part of the job and the work needs to be done?
- Adopt a work schedule out of sync with the world, because that’s the best time to do the job?
- Give up our hobbies and other interests to give total focus to work?
- Have work which placed strict demands on personal life including sleep, diet, and exercise?
- Eagerly do work with an enormous learning curve where we felt inadequate every day?
- Keep doing a job where there was very little feedback and it was difficult to tell if our actions were building the business or hurting it.
- Enthusiastically build a career in a field with low status, has a stigma attached, or our friends and family ridicule?
- Be willing to risk it all, fail epically, and still be inspired to try more.
Sure, many people may have these things as part of their daily jobs already. But remember, we’re not talking about the things we’re forced to do for a paycheck; these are possible examples of what we’d happily endure and embrace out of our love for the work.
Passion has costs. It brings self-inflicted difficulties. There is a difference between suffering through a bad job because we have to and suffering for the love of the work because we choose to. I think we do ourselves a disservice by painting a one-sided ideal when we overlook that.
The question isn’t whether or not we should have passion for our jobs. It’s whether or not we’re willing to suffer the costs of that passion.
And that’s a question each of us has to answer ourselves.