You are here

Follow Your Passion? Find It First!

Here in the age of social media it seems like we’re bombarded with more career advice – and life advice – than ever before.  As always, much of it tells us we should “follow our passion;” that is, not just go through the motions in our careers and our lives, but be engaged in what we really care about.

What does “passion” mean? One dictionary definition suggests a “strong and barely controllable emotion,” which is a little scary, while another says passion is “usually associated with love or anger.” Probably true, but how about in the professional sense of the word?

When we speak of bringing passion to your career, do we mean enthusiasm? Excitement? Nope.  Enthusiasm and excitement are byproducts of passion, but it’s more than those.  For me, passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it.  Put another way, passion is ambition transformed into action that compels you to put as much heart, mind, body and soul as possible into a given endeavor.

The speed bump here, of course, is that you need to actually be able to make a living while you’re following your passion. If you decide that the most important thing in your life is rescuing Patagonian tree snails, be prepared for a difficult go of it. Much of the well-intentioned advice mentioned above leaves out that little detail: your passion needs to be compatible with your career in some way.

So you need to carefully identify what your passion is before you can follow it.  And how do you do that?  For most of us, it will involve trial and error … we’ll probably have to slog through a lot of stuff we don’t care too much about in order to find the things that turn ambition into action. Much time will be spent kissing plenty of those proverbial frogs to see which ones ignite a flame in us and which do not.

Where to start? Volunteer for something. Anything. Raise your hand for a new assignment at work, join a committee or a board, or identify something that really bothers you and start a movement to fix it. And don’t go it alone … use social media to find like-minded individuals and harness the power of the group.

You might be surprised at where you wind up: nobody foresees a passion to clean up fire or storm damage, mitigate sewage loses and clean up from dead bodies, hazardous materials or viral contaminations … but here I am.

Two things are for certain: first, finding your passion will involve stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things; second, the effort will reward you in ways you’ve probably never imagined.  Go get ‘em.

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at