We have a friend who has always worked in the childcare industry. Jodie has always been a natural with kids, and is always learning, reading and talking about them. There was never any doubt she would build her career around kids, and it is no surprise that she has now set up a very successful business as a childhood education consultant. Like Jodie, many people have inbuilt passions, and, according to the media, we should follow these passions to find fulfilment in our careers.
Apparently, we are happier and never actually feel like we are working if we are doing something we love. Well, we’d read that about exercise too, and we still haven’t found an activity that doesn’t feel like hard work. We had no passion for any particular job at all. So, we sat a desk in a boring job waiting for inspiration to strike. For years.
Then one day, while doing yet another Google search on “how to discover your passion”, we came across an article written by Professor Cal Newport from Georgetown University. Newport challenged the notion that we all have a pre-existing passion to follow. Instead, Newport says, our love for our work comes when we build our knowledge and skills to become good at what we do, and when we feel like the work we do is adding value to the world.
Professor Cal Newport became our instant hero.
What a relief! Not only were we not the only ones who didn’t have a clue what we were meant to be doing with our careers, it was still possible for us to find fulfilment and become successful. Right on! Intrigued, we read more about Professor Newport’s theories. It was exciting to find others agreed with his belief that the media need to stop freaking us poor passionless souls out.
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found while people do indeed feel pressured to follow the notion that we should search for work we are passionate about, it doesn’t have to necessarily involve chasing a vocation that we feel we are the perfect fit for. The results of the study suggest If we change our attitude to accept that success and contentment can still be attained by being patient, working hard, and developing our knowledge and skills in our chosen field, similar levels of job satisfaction can be experienced to those who followed existing passions.
The more we thought about it, the more flawed the argument to follow a passion became. It is not always possible to turn a passion into a profitable career. Lynda’s husband loves gold detecting and spends all his spare time doing it, but if he sold the gold he has collected during all the hours he has spent digging and panning in riverbeds, he’d only have a few hundred bucks. And, even though he loves detecting, there are days when he doesn’t enjoy it, and Lynda sometimes wonders how long this hobby will continue to be his number one passion.
Additionally, we noticed the media always describe a passion as if it can only be a particular job or industry, such as medicine, childcare, or writing. We don’t think it needs to be as black and white as that. Maybe your ‘passion’ is the feeling you have when you help someone, or the sense of achievement you get when you complete a project. Or maybe, if you are like us, your passion will be a combination of things that excite you, such as writing, marketing, and an unhealthy obsession for notepads and colourful pens.
Now, we know some people are lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do with their careers, just like our friend Jodie, and, to be honest, we are rather jealous of them. However, the pressure from the media to subscribe to the ‘Cult of Passion’, as Professor Newport calls it, has to stop. There are other ways to make a valuable contribution to the world through our work. The most important thing is we explore opportunities that excite us and we feel the work we do is making a difference.
If you’ve always wanted to start a business but didn’t because you don’t have a “passion” to follow, then grab a pen and paper and get ready for a brainstorming frenzy. We’ve come up with 7 questions for you to think about to help you cultivate your very own passion.
7 ways you can cultivate a passion to build a business
1) What do you HATE doing?
One of the quickest ways to narrow your focus on what it is you want to do is by establishing what you don’t want to do. Some of these will be based on past experience, for example, we know we NEVER want to work in another 9 to 5 job, and we definitely do not want to have to commute to get to work. We used the same strategy when were deciding what niche we wanted to work in, and once we had ruled out all of the ones we weren’t interested in, we were really only left with a few options. So, it is a good idea to wash away the dirt to find the gold.
2) What are your skills? What skills would you like to develop further?
We all have things we are good at. Apart from being champions at drinking wine, we have both been told we are great at motivating others. When it comes to creating printables for others to use to create plans for life and business, we also have a few areas we excel in, but quite a few we suck in, too. Once we made the decision to create printables, we were determined to learn everything we could about it. Why? Because by picking a skill and getting really good at it, we have the opportunity to establish ourselves as experts in our field. And the more we learn, the more engaged we become with our work.
3) What makes you unique?
When it comes to business, knowing your point of difference is going to give you a huge advantage. Are you a great talker? A problem solver? What are your quirks? Your habits? What do people say you are good at? Figure out what makes you different and rock it.
4) What are your opportunities?
It is such an exciting time to be thinking about going into business. Technology has made it possible for learning, marketing, networking, business planning and research to be available to us 24 hours a day in a wide variety of formats. This means you have endless business opportunities and the ability to connect with a market, no matter how small your niche is, or wherever they may be in the world. Think outside the box and dream big.
5) How can you become really good at the things you enjoy?
We have a friend who cleans toilets for a living, She loves it. Her family business is booming because they are hard working and set themselves a goal to become great at what they do. You see, when you are good at what you do, there is money to be made. Whatever it is you enjoy, immerse yourself in the topic. Read and listen to everything you can, work hard at developing your skills, speak to experts in the field, learn from them, and decide how you are going to become great at the things you love to do.
6) What are your values?
Instead of struggling to think of a specific vocation, think of how your values can be the driving force in helping you to cultivate a passion for your work. Say, for example, you have experience building websites for people, and while you are good at it, it doesn’t set your soul on fire. What if you change your strategy to building websites for a group of people you connect with? Maybe you could help mums who want to build a business from home, or maybe non-profit organisations? Or maybe you can help people in a particular industry you have an interest in, such as travel or fitness. Think about what you value, who you want to help, and how you can align your work to serve those people.
7) What excites you? What task could you spend all day doing?
We would say that we don’t have one single passion we want to build a career from. However, we have a lot of things that excite us and we enjoy doing. When we are talking about printables we want to create we lose track of time. We get lost in the moment and the hours fly by. So, it made sense to us to make printables part of our business. After a while, we realised we loved it so much it became our whole business. What could you do for hours and never want to stop?
Now that you know you can create a successful business even if you don’t have a passion to follow, it’s time to get thinking about how you are going to build a business around your skills, interests and opportunities. The passion will come in time. If you are like us, then you are probably hanging to get brainstorming. Lynda has created a few awesome tools to take you from feeling frustrated about what your next career move should be, to feeling pumped and excited about your work.
- A free questionairre to get you thinking and narrow your focus on the things you are good at and enjoy. You can get it here.
- Business Ideas Brainstorming Pack - This pack will help you identify things you love, knowledge you have, and people you can work with so you can brainstorm business ideas that will fire you up and get you swinging into action.
The point of these exercise is to figure out your likes and dislikes, your skills and strengths, and then identify themes that appear in your answers. Once you’ve identified what makes you feel excited and alive, then do more of it, get better at it, and make money from it.
Janine and Lynda