The case for following your talent over passion. Love what you do, by doing what you’re good at.
Now, this might not be a popular opinion. But I’m here to make a case for simply and boringly following your talent instead of your passion!
Simply doing what you’re good at, has gotten a bad reputation.
“Follow your passion” is the much sexier sounding mantra. It’s the one-stop-shop for to all our problems. When you find your passion, all obstacles will part like the red sea. You deserve to do work you love. And only by doing what you love, you’ll have all the motivation you need to become really good at it, is the reasoning.
It’s your job, no, your responsibility, to find it. If you don’t, it’s your fault for not succeeding. Pff…
Now, I wish everyone to be passionate about the thing they do. But to help them get there, I’m here to fill some holes in the logic.
I want to remedy that. Here are 11 reasons why it’s much smarter, more joyful and sexier to do what you’re good at, instead of what you’re passionate about.
Talent leads to Mastery
One of the needs we humans have is the need for growth. Getting better at a skill is something we get a lot of joy and fulfillment out of. The most efficient way to get on that track to fulfillment is picking the skills you have an aptitude for.
You’ll enjoy the process of getting better. This will then give you extra motivation to continue getting better. A killer combination.
In the book Drive by Dan Pink, he writes that one of the three things that create drive and motivation in work is mastery. Continually getting better and striving for mastery leads to fulfillment. And we need people who enjoy their work!
The other two? Purpose and Autonomy. I’ll get back to the latter in point 7.
Mastery leads to quality and depth
We need quality work in this world. He who does what he does well creates quality. Which in turn helps people, creates trust and progress. An upwards cycle towards more and more happiness.
Bad work leads to depreciation of the craft, a sense of scarcity and a rut. A downwards cycle. Choose upwards.
Passion is fickle
When there is a need, it’s because it’s scarce. It’s scarce because it’s hard to do. If it wasn’t, someone would have done it already. Most people who’ve tried quit in the dip. The dip is the moment when learning plateaus, improvement gets hard and it’s no longer fun.
Sure, when you’re passionate about something & enjoy doing it, you’ll have the motivation to learn more, get better and practice. But, passion is not a plan but a feeling. And feelings change!
If your motivation was mainly based on passion and the fun you experience, the dip is a terrible place to be in and you’ll no doubt bail. If however, your focus was on mastery, on the other hand, doing the hard work and continual progress, you can make it through and be successful.
Allure of the job
Can you get enjoyment out of doing something while having only little talent for it? Maybe. But in that case, maybe the motivation doesn’t lie in the skill itself, but in side-elements of doing it. The prestige it gives. The paycheck. Being involved in the project. The people you get to work with or get to work for.
All tempting reasons you’d want to do it. Except, someone might be more fit to take on that role.
I’m not saying you should quit and walk away from it. But looking at the situation honestly is the first step to actually getting a role that works better for you!
Quality is sexy!
Yes, I said it! Someone who is at the top of his or her game is sexy. Quality work is sexy. And someone who accepts his/her gift and rocks it is sexy!
Success fuels passion
More than passion fuels success. Passion might get you in the door. But if you’re not able to deliver, it’s going to be a quick visit.
When you do something well and combine it with something people need, you’ll never be out of business. Even when you don’t consider it your passion, when you embrace the talent, you’ve got a good chance to be successful.
Doing something well will create agency
Cal Newport wrote a book “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. The better you get, the more you’ll be in demand. The more people want to work with you, the more option you have and the more you can pick based on your terms. That’s agency. That’s autonomy (what Daniel Pink wrote about).
From this place you can create the projects you like and bring your work more and more in line with your interests, passion, and mission.
Passion makes blind
Having to enjoy what you do, and being super passionate about a solution you have in mind, leads you to only look for options that lead to that.
What happens when there are no good options they way you’re looking? Or what about the better options for more long-term fulfillment that might be available if you’d be able to zoom out for a moment? Being flexible in your need for passion allows you to be more strategic.
Or, you’ll always follow your passion and jump from project to project. Because every time a project gets hard (they always do), the other projects seem way more fun. In the long run this will keep you busy while not accomplishing much.
It’s the humble approach
And, my god, do we need humble people. People that don’t make it about their enjoyment but about their craft, their mission to contribute or the value they have for quality.
I’m not saying that you don’t deserve to do something you’re passionate about. But thinking you’re entitled to it is your ego talking. It’s unproductive. Notice the discrepancy between what you love and what you do, and get to work to improve the situation!
When everyone zigs, zag
If everybody is busy following their passion, the ones following their talent are a rare breed. You might be in extra high demand.
Aren’t they the same?
In the end, you want to do something well and like doing it. Talent and passion are two sides of the same coin. The starting ingredients are talent, interests, and enjoyment. They lead to skill, knowledge, and experience. Which will lead to mastery, passion, and success.
What I’m saying is that taking the starting point of your talents can often be a wise choice.
So when to follow passion?
Of course, there are times to take a leap of faith and simply choose passion. To choose what you must instead of all the should-signs pointing the other way.
Passion is always a great starting point for side-projects and hobbies. These, in turn, can enrich your main work.
When it’s an inkling or idea you can’t shake. When it keeps coming back, you might need to act on it.
When the activity puts you on fire. Makes you feel so alive That’s definitely a sign that you need to be doing something with that.
Having a passion for something is always information where you want to move towards with your dispassionate work that you’re simply skilled at. But instead of jumping ship radically, consider the option to slowly move your asset-filled container ship into a better direction!
All I ask is that when you want to jump and start something you’re passionate about, that you ask yourself: “What am I willing to do to become very good at it too?”.
Thanks for reading!
I hope it helped you. If so, hitting that heart button or sharing really helps others find this piece too. Both would be much appreciated!
I write about purposeful work, entrepreneurship and the games your mind plays with you. Subscribe to me on Medium if you want to follow what I write.
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