5 Things To Consider in Pursuing Passion in Work

I always seem to get the best insights into my children’s minds from the front seat of the car when they don’t think I’m listening.  It usually comes in the form of backseat dialogue between themselves and a friend.

One particular day driving to baseball practice, a friend of my son’s was with us and he out of the blue stated, “I want to be a lawyer when I grow up.”

My son responded, “Why?”

“So I can make a bunch of money,” he said.

I guess my son saw this as an invitation to declare what he wanted to be when he grew up as well.

“Well, I want to be a Pokemon collector when I grow up,” he said.  “And, also, I’ll work at Target where I can help people find Pokemon cards they like.”

I resisted the urge from the front seat to insert myself and say, “What?!?” Then, I realized, he’s eight.  No need to argue about his current passion being his career.  It will change (his passion and his career choice) I’m sure, no less than a dozen times before he is really old enough to be employed.

But it does beg the question, should we pursue passion in our work? And should we encourage our kids and others to do so?

Does our passion lead us to work or does work lead us to our passion? 

Passion is one of our values at Horizon Point, so you might find me hard pressed to argue against pursuing passion at work, but some recent reading and listening have provided some context for these questions.

The Passion Paradox and Adam Grant’s WorkLife Podcast: The Perils of Following Your Passion are both great things to check out on the subject.

I think I can sum up  both the book and the podcast best with the thought Angela Duckworth shared on Adam’s podcast and that is this: We often use “follow” your passion when it should really be “develop” your passion if we want passion to guide us in a healthy way. It’s not the noun “passion” we get wrong, it is usually the verb we put with it.  Fleshing this out means:

  1. Following seems to convey that passion is already inside us and we know exactly what our passion is.  Most of us are unsure of our passions and how they can or should translate into work.
  2. Following also seems to convey something that we do with blind devotion. As The Passion Paradoxpoints out, this kind of myopic thinking can lead us to do really bad things.  There is a dark side to passion whether it is in work or in any aspect of our lives. 
  3. Developing your passion, instead leads us to seek out opportunities for exposure and learning where we can grow and discern what we like and don’t like.
  4. Developing leads to growth and expertise.  In order for passion to be something we can make a living at doing, we most likely have to be somewhat good at it.
  5. Developing emphasizes the journey, not the destination.  When we are only focused on the destination number two above, the dark side can kick in.

As was pointed out on the WorkLife Podcast episode, it makes sense that passion is also a word used to relate to relationships.  

Is passion a component of dating and marriage?  Yes, it usually is a spark that starts things and hopefully shows and sustains itself over the course of a lasting marriage.  But is it present all the time?  If you’ve been married for any length of time, my guess is you would easily answer, “No”.   And if a relationship is only about passion, my guess is your response would also be “No” if I asked you if that relationship is sustainable.

Passion is the pursuit of that which fulfills and sustains in a way that is more often than not, bigger than ourselves.  It is unselfish at its core.

So, although my son thinks that he can make a living working at Target selling Pokeman cards to others, at least he isn’t picking it for the money.   As his interests and passions develop, I hope doing something greater than helping himself stays core to what he wants to be when he grows up.

Like this post?  You may also like:

More from Adam Grant: Stop Asking Kids What They Want to Be When They Grow Up

The Point Blog Posts on Passion

Mary Ila Ward

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