Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Finding Your Passion

I've read probably more about this than any other topic over the past few years, but I wanted to share my take and my notes on it, so that folks out there can see another perspective.

What do I mean by "Finding Your Passion"?  I mean finding the thing that really gets you going.  The thing that if you could figure out some way to do that right now, you'd drop your current work and pursue it.  Something that you believe in so strongly that you think about it even if you're not currently in the field and it's not really bothering you.  Something that you could talk and learn about for hours on end and even see yourself becoming an evangelist for.

Some say it's what you'd do if you didn't have to pay the bills (that is, they are doing their current job because they get paid more than they believe they could in their desired job).  Some say it's what you'd do if you just knew how to get there (that is, they are trained as an engineer, but really would rather have been a stage actor).

There's a perception that what you are doing currently has you trapped for some reason.  You've got a mortgage, car payments, student loans.  The job market sucks in your current field so you don't believe you should be looking for another job, believing that staying where you are is somehow a safer option.

I'd like to tell you I have the answers, but I don't.  I've been searching for my passion for a long time.  I have been in the financial services industry for quite a while now, and I really enjoy that domain, but I'm not sure if it's my passion (which is another way of saying that it isn't, I guess.  If you don't know if something is your passion, it's not).  Luckily, one of my passions is learning, so I can be happy and productive just about anywhere as long as there's always new information coming my way.

Probably the first book I read about finding your passion is Chad Fowler's The Passionate Programmer, a fascinating read, and something that helps keep me focused.  I've always liked computers, and having the ability to make them do stuff, so that's a pretty good start for me. I recommend it, especially for the programmers out there.

I saw a great talk at That Conference by Sharon Cichelli about being intentional in your career.  Really driving towards what you want to do instead of letting things happen to and around you.   This is another form of finding your passion, and crafting your career around your passion is a good thing.

I've often even heard "Do what you love, and the money will follow."  I think this only gets you so far.  Depending on your desired lifestyle, you have to make choices about what pays and what you truly want to do.  I think this causes the biggest struggles for folks in Corporate IT.  There's the feeling that what you want to do won't let you continue paying your bills.

That's where Mustachianism comes in.  I've recently switched from my former crazy consumption habits and downshifted a bit to enjoy a far more frugal lifestyle.  The idea is, if you can ever save up enough money to begin living off the interest in your investments, you are freed up to do what you love no matter what the income it brings you.  I recommend you having a look at this blog from the first post and read it through.  You may have a very big revelation, and I would be curious to hear about your reaction.

Oddly enough the only time most people have this freedom is before, during, or right after college.  Before they get anchored to a place or people or buildings or whatever keeps them in place.  But when you think about it, really the only things that typically change is that people build up a need to have more money (based on the lifestyle they become accustomed to) and that they are older and figure out what matters to them more.

Sounds like that's what the mid-life crisis is all about.  You finally figure out what you like in life, just about the time that you're too immobile to do anything about it.

I'm here to tell you that those feelings are only perception.  You can be free.  You can pursue what you want to do.  You are free to find your passion.  It may take a little more planning than it used to.  It may take a little more looking than it used to.  It may take a little more patience than it used to.  But if you figure out what your passion is, you can make a plan to get there.

First step, make your passion known.  Let people know what you are interested in.  Find people in the industry you want to go into.  Talk to them.  Find out from them what it would take for you to get involved.  Maybe you already have a skill set that is a natural fit to something tangential that would give you the exposure an the experience.  I'm a firm believer that if you put yourself out there, you have a much better chance of finding the opportunities that you want.

No one can help you if you don't tell them what you are interested in contributing.

Tell someone.  Tell everyone.  Find that passion.

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