“You get out what you put in.” How many times have we heard this mantra? In school, in business advice columns and motivational speeches, it’s the buzz term of our age. Typically, we take this to mean that the amount of hard work, of blood, sweat and/or tears that we put into something is the exact measure of what we will get back in return. If you work hard enough at whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, then you are guaranteed success at the same rate.
Since the most common follow up to this mantra typically incorporates passion—and our measurable levels of it—we can then infer that if our passion drives our effort, and our effort is directly related to our level of success, then the amount of passion that we put into our endeavors is an indirect predictor of the amount of success that we will consequently reap.
This idea is both flawed and dangerous.
These days, it seems like having passion is akin to having a pulse. If you don’t have a passion for something, you must not be trying hard enough. It is so tempting to think, “If I just work hard enough and want it badly enough, I can achieve anything,” and it’s not really our fault. This line of thought has been passed down through generations and preached to us since we were children. Hell, that’s basically the American Dream, the foundational philosophy of a major world power, in a nutshell. But, passion alone is not enough. Even the combination of passion and hard work won’t get the job all the way done.
Success—at least at its most basic and widely-held interpretation—is more elusive than we are lead to believe. Passion and hard work will get you far, and are certainly the foundation on which success is built, but it takes skill, talent, ingenuity, creativity, good networking skills and good timing to take you all the way. Even if all of these little stars aren’t perfectly aligned, we will likely still get far. And, if it’s not exactly where we wanted to be, it isn’t necessarily because we didn’t want it bad enough or try hard enough.
We’ve all felt passion. Whether it’s been for a profession, hobby or person, we’ve all felt that electric crackling somewhere to the bottom left of our stomachs. The feeling that if we didn’t do something, anything, right then…we were going to implode. It’s so seductive, that feeling. It catapults us into relationships, identities, hobbies and round-the-clock work sessions with reckless abandon. The very nature of passion makes it impossible to sustain. A passion that goes on past its prime turns into obsession. True passion, when it subsides, gives way to love.
So maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about our “passions.” Those will find us—striking at the least convenient times and in an entirely unforeseen circumstance. Perhaps, what we should focus on, is being open to discovery and cultivating that discovery into a life-long love. Passion burns white-hot and out quickly, but a true love—in life or work—will give back as much as we feed it.
If you need a little help finding a passion that you can cultivate into a fulfilling and productive aspect of your life/career, take our Find Your Passion e-mail course. It’s 10-days long and 100% free. Sign up below!