*The Bullshit Series started on an older blog but I wanted to bring these articles back here, as I have new installments for the series that I want to release over time. The series focuses on things that I think are bullshit… like filet mignon, Zubaz pants, the Pro Bowl and diets.
*Written in 2015.
We’ve all heard it before, probably while in a rut too. Some famous know-it-all enlightened asshole with a platinum album at an awards show says it about two dozen times in a two-hour span. In fact, it is one of the trendiest things to say nowadays. People who haven’t even accomplished anything all that great like to espouse this nonsense as well. If everyone is saying it and it is found in endless memes, it must be true.
The nonsense I am talking about is the mantra “follow your passion.”
For starters, don’t tell me what the fuck to do. Also, shut the fuck up because you don’t know me or really what’s inside of anyone else and what they have been through and what they are currently going through. “Follow your passion” isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems and in fact, it can be horrible fucking advice. People are suckers for horrible fucking advice.
This marketing slogan for life resonates with people because it is simple and daring and thus, perceived as profound. It doesn’t matter that this seemingly profound enlightenment has become so common place that I have to scroll through it a half dozen times in my Instagram feed every morning.
Sure, following your passion can lead to great things and you may end up happy, successful and with everything you want. It may also leave you broke, confused, worse off than you were if you had just kept your job and pissed off at the universe because you followed pop culture’s sagely advice and aren’t a billionaire zen Buddhist with a house full of angeldust and passed out prostitutes.
I’m all for doing what makes you happy. That is kind of the point of life. In fact, people often try to figure out what the meaning of life is. I don’t know why that is so difficult. The meaning of life is pretty simple. The meaning of life is to LIVE IT. That’s it.
You have a life, now fill it with what makes you happy. But you also need to be realistic. So, here comes the part no one wants to hear, especially when “follow your passion” sounds so fucking cool.
There has to be a balance. Most of us aren’t talented like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was talented. We can follow our passion but that doesn’t mean that we will have success. And the thing is, not everyone’s passion is a money maker. My passion is eating ribeye, drinking bourbon, having as much sex as possible and telling people to fuck off. What exactly can I do with that to make some serious money?
Additionally, many people, and I would say most, don’t have a real passion. And by real passion, I mean something that calls them to the point that it burns in their belly. We aren’t all singers and actors and great writers. Hell, most of us suck at arts, crafts, building things and pretty much a whole lot of other cool shit.
My passions are about eating good meat and putting my penis in something and that’s probably because I don’t have a real burning desire to do anything else. And again, this is most people. The vast majority of Earth’s population weren’t born for some mystical purpose with a Frodo Baggins destiny to fulfill. The world isn’t Middle Earth or a galaxy full of Jedi. We aren’t meant to drink from the Holy Grail, we are meant to live our lives and to try and enjoy it as much as we can in the limited time we’re given.
For most people, a passion is a hobby they like doing. For many, doing a hobby as a job is a horrible idea. Let me give a few personal examples.
A friend of mine loved cooking amazing food, as a paid chef in a fine restaurant, he hates it. He told me that he regretted that big life decision because it ruined what he once loved.
In my case, I went to school for computer programming because I enjoyed fucking around with code in high school. A semester and a half into college, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to write code for the next thirty years of my life.
Moving forward, I have always been creative and artistic and found myself working in that field. I now do graphic design and other artistic stuff for a living but I am not happy doing it – I am just really good at it. And maybe I am naturally an artist but it isn’t my passion. I just happen to have a high skill level, the talent and at the end of the day, it pays me well enough. And I’m not sure what I could do better.
That brings me to the other old adage that often accompanies “follow your passion” and that is “do what you love.” Both mean the same thing but the point is, doing what you love isn’t a key to happiness. Sometimes, doing what you love makes you love it less.
My friend is a chef because he needs to pay bills. I am a professional artist for the same reason. In both cases, what we love to do has become a curse of sorts.
When my friend cooks for himself and his family and friends, he is happy. When I am creative for myself, I am happy. But doing these things as a job is a totally different scenario. And if they were pretty hardcore passions, they have certainly lost their luster.
Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t have preexisting passions. Additionally, happiness in the workplace is quantified by many factors other than personal interests and passion. I like that I get three weeks off every year, to use that time to focus on whatever I want to without interruption. I also like that my job allows plenty of free time so I can dabble in more things that actually interest me. Plus there is a lot of freedom at my place of employment that I wouldn’t have elsewhere. These are happiness factors that work for me.
Also, sometimes a passion happens later. We may not know what we love because we haven’t experienced it yet. I often times joke that I could be the best golfer in the world but I’ll never know because I don’t have much interest in golfing. But if I golfed and found out that I had that skill, a new passion could flourish. This is why I always like trying new things outside of my comfort zone. But really, I have no interest in golfing despite my amazing putt-putt skills.
Elaborating on that, passion doesn’t necessarily exist naturally and often times it takes hard work and cultivation. And sometimes, passion can be born from cultivating a skill set that you initially didn’t have much interest in until you had to do it.
A personal example of this, is that I recently had to confront an engineering issue with a product in my company. Everyone was baffled at how to make the product function properly. I took it apart, analyzed it and figured out how to modify it mechanically. I found out that I really liked solving this problem and discovered a passion for mechanical engineering that I never knew I had because I had never been confronted with it. Now I love taking on these sorts of tasks and if I had a time machine, I might go back and tell my younger self to follow that path. Not that I can’t follow it now.
But there is no guarantee that I would enjoy mechanical engineering as my actual primary job.
As time moves on, people change and grow and with that, their passions may alter. I was passionate about a lot of different things in the past that I am not passionate about now. At first I wanted to be a firefighter, then a G.I. Joe, then a mad scientist, then a comic book artist, then a rapper, then a computer programmer, then an MMA fighter, then a gigolo, then a paid artist. Point is, shit changes.
So lets be adults here. “Follow your passion” all you want but you have to make money to survive. If you are a special breed that can do what you love for a living and find happiness in that, good for you. But for the rest of us, we have to take care of living expenses, families and other things.
Does that mean you ignore your passions?
No, not at all. Unless you are chained to your desk for 168 hours per week, you have free time to spend however you want. If you don’t have free time, maybe you need to find a job that allows you to have a life away from work. The secret isn’t following your passion, it is work/life balance. With proper balance, your passions can flourish.
Now if your passions start to make you money, enjoy it. But keep your damned job until you know you’re alright financially. Quitting tomorrow because you have a burning desire to paint trees is probably a bad life decision.
I’m all about passion but I am about setting goals, preparing and having a plan of attack. I’m not telling you not to take risks but just like “follow your passion” is mostly bullshit, so is “risk equals reward.” While great reward can be born from taking a risk, there is no guarantee. It is called risk for a reason and it is better to be prepared and to know what you are walking into than to just leap off of a cliff into the fog below.
“Follow your passion.” Sorry, life is too complex for that.
Go ahead and make your life meaningful, we all should strive for that. Just don’t be an idiot.