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Why Following Your Passion Is (Not) Always The Best Idea

I remember shouting “teacher!” when someone asked the eleven years old me what would I like to become as I tidied up my mini library. A little girl who five years later applied for communication studies only to find herself graduating with a psychology degree.

Most of my friends have their post-graduate plans set on last semester of college (some even did it since high school). They told me about their interview experience at several established companies, investors that seemed quite interested in their business plan, or a wedding to arrange.

I began to develop Post Graduation Syndrome. Imagine I was a kitten on a busy highway. I saw my friends in a car heading for their next destination with snacks and plans while there I was, questioning my existence.

I’m graduating. Now what? Should I apply for a range of Human Resource jobs? Perhaps take a Master’s degree? What about my childhood dream to teach kindergarten?

People told me to just follow my passion.

What passion? Is it something related to my study? What if I don’t have one? Should I go to a psychologist and take some test?

I’m neither a professional career coach nor an HR expert, but let me share with you how couple of years working experience changed my perspective on one of the biggest contributing factors in one’s success: passion. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

“Passions are inherent. Your heart will know immediately when you find it.”

To those who have found their dream career at their first job, congratulations. To those who are struggling with “what do you want to do for life?” question and wishing for a small-to-moderate earthquake so you can take a day off, please have a sit and wine-toasting with me.

It took me more than ten years to realise that passion isn’t profession. You might be passionate about something but not becoming the expert at it. And that’s totally fine.

Professions change, passions don’t.

Finding your passion isn’t a matter of how much time you spend thinking about it, but what you actually do. Sign up for that boxing class you’ve been eyeing on or apply for marketing jobs that have been on your list for years since you graduated with electrical engineering degree. Try out as many things as possible and let yourself decide which one is for you.

Treat passion like your romantic relationship. You can live your life waiting for that one soulmate God-knows-who at a classic coffee shop or put yourself through the trial-error process and enjoy every lesson that comes with it.

Following your passion is great, but if you want to wait your whole life to find your passion and hope your work ends when you find it, then I wish you the best of luck.

“You can only have and focus on one passion.”

Some people are clueless about their passion while others have too many they can’t decide which one to pursue.

Rather than choosing only one, why not pursue them all?

Despite all the acceptance, being mediocre doesn’t leave much room to live in this highly competitive world. You don’t have to give up your dream of being a writer to be an accountant for the sake of a-safer-job. Don’t you find an accountant who blogs with freelance writing job way more interesting than an accountant who spends his life complaining about how he wishes he could have other choices (which he actually does)?

Following your passion is great, but following your passion(s) would be greater.

“You can only be successful if you follow your passion.”

Oftentimes I got jealous of my successful colleagues who seemed pretty skillful and happy with what they’re doing. High-paying jobs, international assignments, twice a year promotion. Basically everything all first jobbers could ever ask for. Unfortunately, being passionate about a job doesn’t simply make it feel like a tropical vacation.

I didn’t know the hours they spent on weekends to meet deadlines. I didn’t know the countless family-time they had to give up due to urgent business meetings. I didn’t know the efforts and dedication they put to deliver not only good but the best performance.

Good things don’t always come (on time) to those who wait. You follow your passion, work your hardest, and suddenly things happen. Low GPA, rejection from hundreds of job applications, office backstabbers.

I know a number of friends who took a major they initially had no interest in and ended up being successful in the field. They chose to be passionate about it. And that’s totally fine.

Following your passion is great, but if you can’t find one (yet), then try to be passionate about whatever you’re currently doing. You have forever to discover.

The old me would say that the kitten was lost, but the current me would say that she just found a new way home.

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