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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
You know who said that?
He was a Chinese philosopher who lived some 2,500 years ago. He said many a wise thing, but the above quote isn’t one of them.
To make amends, he grew some amazing eyebrows:
You may have heard the same advice in different words: “Follow your passion.”
Well, I’m here to tell you to ignore that advice.
Three reasons why…
1. To Follow Your Passion, You First Need To Find It
And that’s much easier said than done, right?
Most of us have no idea what we’re passionate about, or what kind of job we could possibly love so much that it never feels like work.
The danger is that we’ll invest tons of time and energy into finding our passion, trying all sorts of different things in expectation of a sudden eureka moment.
We see it unfolding like a movie, that moment when you’re engaged in some new activity and suddenly everything clicks and then you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that THIS IS WHAT I WAS PUT HERE ON EARTH TO DO!
To emphasize how silly this belief is, imagine if you believed romantic relationships worked the same way.
That is, you believed that you either fell in love with someone at first sight, or not at all.
Sounds ridiculous, right?
You might be physically attracted to someone immediately, or even feel some mysterious and powerful urge to go talk to them, but you won’t know for sure if you’re a good match until you go on a few dates, get jiggy, meet their parents, live together… etc.
See what I’m getting at here?
Just like very few people have their perfect partner fall out of the sky and into their arms, very few people have their perfect career do the same.
But even if that were to happen to you — if you were to find your passion (or your soulmate) overnight or otherwise — it’s not as if success would suddenly come easy.
2. Doing Meaningful Work Is Hard
Here’s a quote I prefer, by Thomas Edison:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Just like you have to work at a relationship you care about, you have to work at a job you love. You can’t just cruise along and have everything fall into place.
I’ve worked on numerous passion projects over the years.
Building this website is the latest one.
I truly believe that building this site is the best way I could be contributing to the world right now — helping people achieve financial and location independence — and I enjoy the process of writing and sharing what I’ve learned.
All in all, I love my work.
And yet there are many days when I am massively resistant to actually sit down and do it.
Why is that??
Well, when you love something, there’s the fear that you’ll mess it up or that it won’t be nearly as good or as well received as you hope it will be.
And when you’re not afraid of something going wrong, you’re afraid of nothing going wrong.
Success equals transformation and some dark part of us wants us to fail because then nothing has to change.
We can go back to doing something safe and familiar instead of plowing ahead into unknown territory.
So yeah, doing work you’re passionate about ain’t easy. It’s often much easier (at least in the short-term) to do work you don’t give a shit about.
But doing work you’re passionate about isn’t just a tough road. It’s also a long road.
Which brings us to the third reason to ignore the advice of Confucius…
3. It May Take Years To Make Money From Your Passion
That’s if you can ever make any money from it at all, let alone enough to afford a decent standard of living.
And let’s face it: unless you’ve got a mattress full of cash to fall back on, you can’t afford to spend YEARS of your life turning your passion into a career.
Bills have to be paid.
Food has to be bought.
The occasional pint has to be enjoyed.
Not to mention the fact that many of the things we’re passionate about simply aren’t ever going to make us a living.
What if you’re passionate about carving matchsticks or collecting stamps or growing cacti?
What if you’re a teenage girl from Finland who loves nothing more than frolicking around on a fake horse?
Even if you invest years in becoming the best in the world at those things, it’s unlikely that anyone’s going to throw money at you. 2
Let’s take a moment and review what we’ve covered so far…
You should forget passion because:
- If you don’t already know what you’re passionate about, there’s no guarantee you’ll figure it out anytime soon, no matter how hard you try.
- Even if you do figure it out, doing work you’re passionate about isn’t any kind of cakewalk. If anything, working on something you’re passionate about is harder than working a regular job you have little interest in.
- It can take years to turn passion into a viable business, if it’s possible at all.
Let me be clear here.
I’m not saying that you should drop your passion completely (assuming you know what it is). And I’m not saying you should resolve yourself to doing work you hate to make a living.
What I am saying may be best communicated by revising that Confucius quote to read as follows:
“Choose a job you like, can quickly excel at, and will be well paid for… and you will have a lot more options in the not-too-distant future.”
Let’s break that down.
Choose a job you like…
You don’t have to love what you do. Liking your work is perfectly fine.
The past eight years I’ve earned a living mostly as a freelance web developer. But I don’t love doing web development. It might have been my passion ten years ago, but the joy faded from it pretty fast.
Nowadays I like building websites. It’s something I know how to do and do well.
But doing freelance web development affords me a lot of freedom.
In large part because of that skill, I had the confidence to quit my 9-to-5 and the ability to travel the world for years on end.
…can quickly excel at, and be well paid for…
As mentioned, passion projects often take years to pay off financially, if ever.
Some people glorify the struggle of living hand-to-mouth while chasing an elusive dream, like becoming a famous rock star or writer.
I am not one of those people.
Forget being a starving artist.
Put the dream on hold and learn some skills you can use to generate a reliable income within a few months. That means becoming good at something the world values and is happy to pay you for.
…and you will have a lot more options in the not-too-distant future.
Let’s say you can learn and deploy a new skill in the next three months that allows you to earn $1,000/month freelancing online.
That gives you options.
- First of all, you suddenly have the option to work from ANYWHERE in the world. You can head off to a cheaper country with nicer weather, move closer to loved ones, or even travel indefinitely.
- Hitting that $1,000/month mark also allows you to be more selective with the projects you choose to take on. You can start to diversify your client base and raise your rates.
- Further down the road, as you gain more confidence and your business becomes more optimized, you can make more money in less time, eventually to the point where you can devote a few hours a day to working on a passion project, without worrying about how to make it financially viable.
See how that works?
By forgetting about passion and focusing on building skills that improve our options in the near future, we actually give ourselves a better chance of making our passion project an eventual success.
When you’re just getting started working online, your main goal should be to build a steady stream of independent income, and to do it as fast as possible.
The best way to do that is to put your passion projects aside and focus on building a skill you can freelance. It should be something you like doing, can quickly excel at, and will be well paid for.
Now, you’re probably wondering which skill best fits that description for you.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to figure out in the next lesson.