Uncommon to popular belief, I was started to think that maybe, something that we think of our ultimate joy in doing the things we loved the most, which also took most of our attention – even led us to beat our basic needs of eating, sleeping, and socializing – or passion as we know it, is somewhat a delusive notion of complacency and life fulfillment.
Hang in there, it is not that I disagree with the concept of passion as a way to survive the mundane phase of climbing our stair of career, while also catalyst the process at the same time. I just feel that most people – or youths, to be specific, including myself – are drowning into this concept of passion as if it’s the magic mantra to find the best job and career path we’re about to take. It seems like a hero who will save our life from boredom, from dissatisfaction, from the dead-end solution for every problem we had in our daily job as if you have this passion, then you’ll be stress-free and everything will be alright.
Well in fact, it doesn’t.
Question of passion
The question of “what is your passion?” to me is quite intimidating. It is like I have to come up with this brilliant answer to clarify my existence as an ideal youth, the next caretaker of earth I am living right now. It delivers an implicit message as if I do not have the answer in this very moment, then my future is at risk. Then I wouldn’t be able to have a cool job, or doing whatever I think matters. The situation is as common as someone bumps into you and ask “when will you marry or with whom will you marry?” and it seems like if you don’t have the answer, you’re doomed. (I can feel you nodding toward this :P)
It was three years ago, exactly in my final year of College, I watched Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford and I was struck by his word, “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do”. This struck me so bad that I had lose my focus in preparing my thesis because deep inside: I felt lost.
I keep questioning my previous decision of choosing a major for College. I question my previous decision on involving myself in co-founding a debate club with my debate-mate and indulge in the main activities on debating instead of focusing solely to reach a high GPA. I question my decision on why I volunteer in certain social projects. I question almost ALL my previous decision and anxiously asked to myself: “Am I walking in the right future career path? Is this something that I truly love? Is it my passion?” I kept worrying and spending most of my final year to contemplate. I wrote things down and recall my past experiences and future expectations. I follow an online character’s quiz from MBTI to DISC to Enneagram to a “What’s Harry Potter Character Are You?” to find out where in the world I supposed to fit in and contribute.
The “Shit Sandwiches” Theory
One year later, I graduated with a hypothesis upon what I should be doing in my life. I packed my luggage with an expectation to find an ideal job, an ideal environment for me to unleash my potential, and an ideal coach to mentor me. I wish to find my passion in my job I’m about to take and by that, I wish for a happiness of doing what I love.
It did not stop there. Aside from work, I follow many activities that I like to be doing. I volunteer a lot. I dive in to social activities, managing a conferences and attending one. I tried to do my best in every roles mandated to me (at least that’s what I thought). Time passed by and during my two years of professional working experience, I discovered that: (1) I can’t avoid boredom (2) I got stressed over many problems I am yet able to solve (3) I got disappointment from expecting things too much; or my unpreparedness to face the reality (4) Life indeed gives you lemons!
The worst part is yet over. Under such a pressing condition, I come to hate myself. When I hit the rock bottom, things are going so wrong that I am afraid that I am not living my passion. It seems that nothing enthrall me; everything that comes to me discarded in a dull, unattractive way. Where are those passion I needed the most? I seems to lose it all behind all the mess.
Truth is, passion won’t save you from any of those double-trouble. Problems exist everywhere, in any kind of job this world has to offer. Every duty requires our ability to solve the problem lies in front of us. It is a bitter pill for us to swallow and I guarantee that no matter how you love your job so much, there are these elements of works that is so repetitive, sometimes painful in some reasons that you can’t just avoid in order to get things done: be it comes from your employers, employees, your working environment, your customers, anyone.
Like it or not, it then becomes the question of our commitment to pull out all the stops in whatever we dream to achieve. If working is as enjoyable as eating your favorite sandwich, you should be asking this question: What shit sandwiches would you love to eat? What sucking experiences you are likely to enjoy as your balance parameter of ‘Work-Life-Balance’? Because just like Mark Manson said in his “7 Strange Questions that Help You Find Your Life Purpose”, we all get served one, eventually.
So, what can actually save you from all the shit storms?
Expertise before Passion
I was intrigued by a 10 minutes TedX Talk given by Terri Trespicio of “Stop Searching for Your Passion”. She elaborately shares her experience of changing jobs and challenging her own assumptions on what she thought she should be doing in her life. She found out that it is the desire to do our best work based on our point of strength that ignites the spirit to give our best effort and makes a difference. It is not that you follow your passion, but passion follows you. It follows anyone who give out their heart on to something they truly believe in and also, they’re good at it!
Another thought-provoking views by Cal Newport in his book of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, said that “follow your passion is the worst advice ever”. He put an example of Bill McKibben, an ex-New Yorker columnist and renowned journalist whom his most notable book, The End of Nature became a classic literature for environment journalism. A Harvard graduate who later produce hundreds of article proved himself an unbeatable columnist at the Crimson, before later decided to sign out and build his own path as an independent journalist. Later he found out that his passion is not what he do, but the condition upon how he did what he do. He prefer to work independently with a flexible hours and finally able to produce his notable book. If only he decided to pursue his independent life at the beginning of his career, then we can be sure he won’t accomplish anything.
However, let us not skip on how he managed to produce an award-winning book. The fact is, he has been written more than 400 articles during his job as a college reporter. The next five years had been spent on writing for The New Yorker and produced 47 edition each year. He is able to do what he do now because he is great at what he is doing and I bet we are all agree that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Only by perseverance and high commitment to improve his works in certain period of time, he can now pursuing to work in a higher level of freedom and independency, something he desire so much that initiate the birth of his masterpiece.
Passion is a feeling. And feeling does change.
As Steve Jobs said: “looking for something you love can take a lifetime” (as looking for your lifetime counterpart :P). The only answer is do not stop looking. It may sounds contradictory with what I have mentioned above but actually it doesn’t. The general rules of thumb is that you will keep looking for any kind of job (or activity) that makes you happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. It is quite impossible to feel those emotions unless we did something truly beneficent where we are (really) good at. You won’t feel happy nor satisfied to be a lawyer if your client keep losing on trial because of your lack of understanding of law or your capability in defending them. You may still get paid but sooner or later, your client will come to someone better than you. At that very stage, if you can endure the pain of visiting hundred courts and trials, reading clients’ accusation and thousands code of laws, eventually you’ll not be able of doing much and ended up feeling dissatisfied. And that’s very agonizing.
Good thing is, just like happiness and sorrow, passion is just a feeling and like any other feeling, passion is essentially able to change. It can grow as long as we nurture our talent and dreams but it also can vanish if we ignore the environment in which our feeling can grow. That is why people with similar interest often form a group, involved in a community and substantiate each other to expand their horizon. It is not impossible that the more we distance ourselves with a supporting community, the more our feeling faded thus unable us to form a chemist formula of passion.
After all, when we think of life and how we want to create the best out of it, we need to focus on what we think are important that we have to do with whatever we have. It requires a deep and perhaps longtime self-discovery until we find the one but it is never too late to make a difference. Just make yourself sure that it’s going to be the best one you’ll ever do.***
Feature Image: Ian Schneider. Unsplash.