Why “find your passion” is the wrong advice

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I once read a quote stating that the difference between man and animals is that man makes history and is the master of his destiny, choosing a destiny.

I cannot remember where I read it or who said it but it stuck with me.

Choosing a destiny comes down to making the first choice and then following through with tangible steps.

Taking that one step of  a journey that may eventually be  hundreds, thousands or  tens of thousands of steps.

You may be planning to take a first step  or may already be halfway along a journey that began long ago.





Where you are in the journey does not matter, what matters is where you are going. Click To Tweet

But be aware each step takes you further on a very specific trajectory and when you find it is not the right way you have to backtrack to the last decision and do something different.

How far back you have to go depends on how far you progressed and how wrong that turn was.

And you will make wrong turns.

There is no one in this world who has not made wrong turns. It is part of being human.

Winston Churchill once said’ ‘Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”.

I can only imagine he was speaking from experience.

If we cannot avoid wrong turns, it makes sense that we want to make sure that we spot these wrong turns as soon as possible to ensure that the process of backtracking does not cripple our journey, and this again brings us back to making decisions.

So how does one make the right decisions. How do you make sure you are moving in the right direction?

Sir Ken Robinson had a TED talk on reform of education that greatly inspired me and I went ahead and bought his book called “The Element” . The premise of his book is that we should follow our passion because that is where we will find the success in life we seek.

This is a notion that has gained traction over the last decade and “Follow your passion” has in some sense become the war cry of the millennial child.

I am sorry to tell you today that that is absolute nonsense

A few years ago I set out to do just that. After reading the book, and being a good academic I decided to research my own passion.

In  a journey that lasted some years I went through every self-help, book, article, quiz or course that I could find and I tried many different things to find this elusive passion…but could not find it.

In the end I was sitting outside one night, loooking at the stars and talking to my wife about how despondent I was about not having that certainty of knowing my passion and where I should take my life.

Then she asked me the important question. “What exactly is passion to you?

And I realised I was looking at this all wrong. How can you look for passion if you do not even know what it is.

I realised that when Sir Ken Robinson and all the others were saying “Follow your passion” they meant, immerse yourself in it, not go and find it. The assumption was you already know what it is, they were just encouraging you to stay the course and not to be sidetracked by the norms imposed by society.

Being a good academic there was once again only thing to do, I had to research what passion is. Once again I was on a mission, I was Don Quixote and on the horizon was a new windmill.

If you are wondering what the conclusion was of all of this, I realised for me passion was in the research and understanding of topics. The journey to understanding and knowing was what I enjoyed, not the destination. For you it will be something different.

I will save you the details of the research, and the whitepapers,  and the books, and the course, of what passion is but they all agree on three things.


There is a place some call “the zone” and others “the flow”. This is a place where you are at your most optimum performance. Time goes away and you are completely immersed, you don’t get tired and even feel more energized afterward but more importantly, in that place you are content.


This place occurs where your interest and skills perfectly intersect. You only find it by becoming good at something and you only become good at something by tenaciously practicing it.


That place is where passion is found


We live in a world of instant gratification and we have lost the art of true, deep and meaningful immersion into something and repeating it until we are proficient.

Passion does not come in a box, it is not something you find. It is something you create with investment of energy and time. Click To Tweet

Stop looking for your passion and start creating your passion by doing, over and over until you are good at it and only then can you truly know if it is right for you. But I have a strong suspicion that once you are good at something, you may find you like it very much. One might even say you will be passionate about it.

Because if you don’t you will be aimlessly walking and backtracking along your journey, looking for something that will always be over the next hill or beyond the next bend in the river and never really enjoying the scenery that is around you right now.

My final thought to share with you is this.

Too many people plot their life by treating it as an engineering problem.

An engineering problem is a problem where the required end result is known and our job is to find the most feasible solution. We know how much weight the bridge must take, now it is just a matter of determining  the best way to achieve it

Life is not an engineering problem; we don’t know what the exact end result should be.

When you sit with a problem where the end result is what needs to be determined and not the path toward it, we call it a design problem.

So treat your life as a design problem, and not an engineering problem.

The best design solutions comes from one simple, but important factor.

The designer took the time to intimately, truly and completely know and understand the needs of the client and to design a solution that caters specifically to unique needs of that client.

When the design problem is life, the designer, but also that client, is you.

One Response

  1. Heidi D Edwards
    | Reply

    So cool Q!
    Depth, sagacity, perspicacity, humour, reflexive prose – what more could a girl want in a Blog 😈

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