When it comes to success, how do you strike a balance between the things that you feel passionate about and the thing you choose to call your career? There are so many people these days espousing wisdom when it comes to business and success (myself included), and so much of what they have to offer falls along the lines of "Do what you love, and love what you do". Believe me, it makes for a nice bumpersticker. But does that advice really make for a good career, much less a good life? I'll be honest here, I didn't grow up wanting to be a Business Development Manager. As a little girl I didn't envision myself as a software maven with a knack for the accounting industry and a love of third party applications. I wanted to be a veterinarian, then a professional soccer player, and then later a pediatric oncologist. I never knew that I would work in software, much less grow my career working with start ups and new technology solutions.
As much as I truly enjoy my work in software, it isn't the core thing I am passionate about. I love to many other things. I am passionate about art and painting. In a past life I was a skilled dancer, and still very much enjoy live dance performances. I'm an avid sewer & knitter, and find great comfort and happiness when I'm in the kitchen cooking something delicious for friends and family. I am great at these things, and I almost always feel a sense of excitement and passion when I am doing them. However, the thing about these loves is that I get to choose when I pick them up and when I put them down. When they get boring or frustrating or unenjoyable, I can set them aside. And real work doesn't work that way.
The thing is, there should be a clear cut difference between the things that we are passionate about and the things that we are invested in. I realized this the other night, while I was chatting about this very topic with a dear friend of mine who recently put aside his job building custom (and quite incredible) motorcycles to pursue other endeavors. At first his career choices made no sense to me, particularly because he had been able to make a pretty good living doing one of the things that he loved most. As he explained it though, by making his passion his full time job, it begun to become something he loathed rather than loved. By turning his most favorite activity into work, it became something he had to do, rather than something he got to do, and with that his passion began to dissipate. His daily work now is very different from building motorcycles. He is incredibly gifted, and from what I can tell, still quite enamored with his work as a entrepreneur. Some of this has to do with passion, there is no doubt about it. But when passion fails him, there is the investment he has made into his own success.
If there is one thing we all know to be true about investments, be they personal or financial, it is that they can have their ups and downs. And anyone who has benefited from a lucrative investment knows that they truly pay off when you are in it for the long haul, rather than writing them off at the slightest hiccup or failing. That is why I truly believe that it is investment, not passion, that dictates whether or not we find success.
In the past, I have let passion be a key motivator when it has come to decisions about my life and my career. The results have been mixed at best, and I have learned a lot from the outcomes of those choices. Don't get me wrong, I am still passionate about the work I do, but there is a whole lot more than passion driving my work forward.
I am invested in the work I do. I have clear and ambitious goals for myself and my career, and I know that it is going to take a whole lot more than heart and mind power to get me there. It is going to take hard ass work. Some days that is going to be difficult and uninspiring. I don't ever want my dancing, or cooking, or drawing to feel that way. So that is why I choose to put the bulk of my passion into those wonderful non-work things. These days, when it comes to my career, I like to take my passion with a side of ration. And I can't help but notice that both things are often overshadowed by the mountain of work I put into my career every single day. And that is exactly how I would like things to be. Because I know that the hard work I commit myself to now is the most worthwhile investment I can make, and that it will pay off tenfold in the form of my future success.