“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.”
- Albert Camus
What is passion for you? Something that you would love to do day and night? Something for which someday you would quit your day job and pursue full time? There are innumerable articles and quotes on the internet where you see people say “Quit and follow your passion”. Makes sense doesn’t it? Or does it?
“Follow your passion” and “Do the work you love” have become the favourite things for people to hear mostly because this is what is the advice they get from the so called “gurus” of entrepreneurship. Though this is what the world would love to believe, it is not as simple as just following your “passion”. To follow something, it is important to know what it is. Do you really know what is it that you are passionate about?
What is passion?
We assume that we know exactly what we are passionate about. But truth be told, you don’t know how deep the waters are unless you take a dive. Most of the times the thing that we think we love to be or do are not the things that we might want to do everyday as a profession. We have passions simply because we don’t do it everyday.
As a case in the point, I was passionate about many things during various stages of my life. I loved guitar since I was a kid and always thought that was my greatest passion. After years of waiting, during my college time, I was fortunate enough to learn guitar from my friend Shyam with whom I had started a band.
He was a good guitar player with some formal training. I was amazed at the way he played few of my favourite songs and was motivated to learn. During the process of learning, I understood how hard it is to even play the basic chords and songs. There is the problem of getting your fingers on the right string and being careful not to mute them, the coordination between your mind and the strumming pattern and the pain you have to go through when your fingers hurt due to the pressure of the strings on them.
But somehow I kept going and was able to play enough to do few live performances. Fast forward few years, I came and settle down in Bangalore. My guitar skills had taken a back seat and I had found an excuse of not having time to abandon my guitar practice. Well, time management is for a whole another post later. A few months later, Shyam followed suit and came to Bangalore as well. We met up one day at his place. As expected, he played few tunes on his new electric guitar. I was in for a shock!
This guy had improved drastically from the level he was during college times. When we selected songs to play live, we were careful not to choose songs that had complex guitar patterns and solos so that it would be easier for us to play on stage. But now, he was able to play everything with ease. Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer - you name it. What had happened during the years we weren’t in touch was that he had continued improving his craft whereas I had other things to which my attention drifted on to. In the end, his skill improved in logarithmic scale whereas mine diminished to a point where I could hardly play anymore.
What was the reason for this? The reason is the definition of the word passion. Passion is not just something that you love to do. Passion is something that you love the process of doing. I loved the idea of playing guitar, but my passion wasn’t exactly in the process of learning how to improve my guitar skills. So there is a difference between wanting to do something and being ready to go through the process of doing it. To call something a true passion you need to be ready to be committed enough to go through the process of following it.
For your passion to be anywhere near to make a living for you, it should be clear to you that it is exactly what you love to do and not merely what you wish you could do. A person who thinks that quitting his job and becoming a freelancer will give him satisfaction and that is his passion in life, should be ready to accept the various downsides of being a freelancer as well. They should be ready to face the hardship of setting up a business, finding clients, taking care of client relationships, accounting, marketing, project management etc. Few of these would not be exactly what you call pleasant tasks to do, but these come with your choice of being a freelancer.
If you think that your passion will immediately put you in a position to make money out of it, you might end up disappointed. Similar to the above example, if someone has a passion towards music, making it into a full time profession will require hundreds of hours of effort in terms of improving your skills, recording demo tapes and finding gigs. The truth is, you are entering a world with fierce competition. For you to place yourself in a position to sell your passion, it takes a lot of background work.
Your true passion is the one that you are ready to do even if no one cares about it or if no one would pay for it. Yes making a living is important, but to make sure that you are passionate enough, you need to ask yourself - “Am I willing to do this if no one else cares or pays me?”.
Since your passion is not your main gig right now, it is very much possible that whatever you love to do is still at a nascent stage and yet to be matured enough to make a living out of. So trying to pursue your passion and earning money from it might not be easy at first. This is where your day job comes to the rescue. Having a day job might not be as bad as you think.
Day job to the rescue
Looks like these days everyone hates their day jobs. Well, you cannot blame anyone who does. Apart from the few lucky ones who are enjoying their life doing the work they always wanted to do, most of us are stuck doing a job that we wouldn’t want to do in case we had other sources of income. Sitting for hours trying to make sense of what you do might not be your cup of tea, I know it isn’t mine either.
But truth be told, your day job is what pays your bills. You cannot just get rid of it because you want to. You are bound to your job because this is what let’s you exist. This truth makes you feel miserable that in spite of not wanting to be there, you still are stuck there. In fact your day job is what gives you freedom to have a passion and follow it. If blogging is your passion, you are not going to make any money even if you put out an article everyday. Yes you can make money to have a very well sustained life by blogging. But not in the initial phase.
Until your side gig makes you money, your day job keeps you afloat. You got to depend on it to pay your bills so that you are not under pressure while following your passion. It enables you to find time to follow your passion on the side, then you are lucky. So, having a day job might be serving you in ways you might have not imagined.
Financial freedom: Your day job gives you financial freedom. It helps you take time off and pays your bills every month so that you are not under pressure to make money out of your side projects. The moment you start feeling the pressure of making money out of your passion, you might even end up feeling that it is really not your passion and any hope you had to follow it will be nipped in the bud.
Keeps you longing: Having a day job and spending time at work give you that longing to get back and work on your passion. Everyday you will try to find time outside of your work to get things done on your side projects. This keeps you wanting to do more everyday and keeps the fire lit always. It also helps you planning your work well since you have very limited time everyday to move your side project ahead.
Prevents you from compromise: Having a steady source of income prevents you from taking up the wrong work and keeps you from compromising your art. For example if you are interested in doing web design work, you might end up taking mediocre work and difficult clients because you are in a hurry to bring in the income and end up not focusing on the quality of work. You will also end up compromising on the pricing and end up charging way less just to get the client. But when you have a day job to feed you, your choice can be more refined in terms of taking up good work and better clients who pay well.
Instead of looking at your day job as a curse that you want to just get rid of, be grateful that it is paving a way for you to follow your passion. It is empowering you to try out different things and fail. It is what is keeping you going without having to worry about finances. Look at it as the path that takes you to where you want. Also having in a day job helps you in learning through the situations and challenges that will be useful tomorrow when you are on your own.
Take a deep breath and accept that day job is your saviour. At least for now.
So, passion is not all about loving something or wanting to be something, it is about loving the process of doing or becoming that thing. What you believe your passion if might actually be not the thing you want to be doing for rest of the life. So how do you know what is your passion? How do you know what is it that you would love the process of doing? What is it that charges you everyday and keep you motivated to go one even if the path isn’t easy? It is by starting to do.
Start on whatever you thing your passion is. Only when you start would you know which direction you need to take. Not necessary will you stick on to one thing. There are people who start with doing print design as a side project and then progress on to become web designers. Then they get into other aspects of web like frontend and backend coding, databases and server etc. Once they are matured in web space, the natural progression is towards mobile development. Finally they might find out that mobile development is what they always wanted to do.
There is nothing wrong in changing your passion as time goes by. It might take years of doing something to realise that you are more interested in a certain aspect of doing something else. One path leads to the other and finally you find your calling.
Give it time. If you do not know what your passion is, start working on your hobby. If it is music, play regularly and share your music. If it is coin collection, start a blog on it and document your progress. You might find out that you love writing. If you feel there is nothing for you to do, start a blog and just write whatever you feel like.
Keep going until you find something that you love the process of doing and would love to do for a long time. That is your passion.