Passion Can Be Fickle

From Mike’s Mud Room on

Q: It was suggested to me that I make a new thread on this subject.

I was puzzled by the first “habit” of never following your passion. Why not?

Would you do me the favor of expounding on that and the other six?

Thank you. -FruityNut


Regarding work, careers, and happiness – I think the pat advice to “Follow Your Passion,” has led to more disappointment than virtually any other platitude I’ve seen. We hear it from our youth – “Follow your passion, and you’ll be rewarded.” Well, I’m not so sure. Passion can be fickle.

I’ve met a lot of people over the last few years who appear happy, well-balanced, and financially comfortable. Some of them spend their days covered in other peoples crap. Others haul our garbage, sell recycled golf balls, pick up road kill, and make flower pots out of cow poo, or just work in the dirt. Bob the Pig Farmer didn’t dream of collecting uneaten buffet food from Vegas casinos and feeding his swine with it. But he’s one of the happiest people I know, and very successful. I have met dozens more like him. People who chose a career or job by looking around to see what nobody else wants to do, and then finding a way to be passionate about doing it. Putting opportunity before passion doesn’t mean ignoring your dream, or settling for something uninspiring – it just means you start with the business, before adding the pleasure.

In my own industry, I am surrounded by examples of actors and performers who have followed their passion for years. Now in their mid 40’s, they live largely month to month, so deeply invested in their chosen profession they can’t contemplate the idea of changing course. Some are struggling but content, and seem genuinely happy. (Those are the ones who brought their passion with them.) Others though – many others – have soured. They feel betrayed by the cruel realities of unrequited passion, and frustrated that their diligence and dedication to their chosen careers has yielded economic hardship and other disappointment. They would like to start over, but it feels too late. They followed their passion, and their passion brought them to a place they didn’t want to be.

I think passion works better as an adverb.

Call me naive, but I just don’t understand how someone, anyone, can make such a generalized statement like that. – Debbie

I won’t call you naive Debbie, but I will say that making generalizations is easy. Just spend three years working outside your comfort zone, pay close attention to what you see, take notes, and share your honest thoughts. Someone, anyone, can do it.

I don’t work in a ‘dirty job’ and yet I would consider myself happy. As would my husband, who is a professor, again not a dirty job, yet he and our friends are happy.

I’m glad to learn that you and your husband are content in you chosen careers. And I didn’t suggest that people who don’t have dirty jobs aren’t happy. I’m only sharing my personal experience, and generalizing. But I know many professors, and I know many plumbers. As a group, the plumbers seem happier.

I have the deepest respect for people who do work ‘dirty jobs’, but in all honesty I have never observed them to be ‘happier’ than anyone else.

It sounds like you have spent a lot of time working with and “observing” people with dirty jobs. My own experience has led me to a different conclusion, but I appreciate your opinion and your honesty. – Gayle


I’ve always enjoyed a well-timed quitting, and think the work force would benefit overall if quitting weren’t so universally maligned.


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