How often have you heard advice like this? Find work that you are passionate about, and the rest of your career – and possibly, your life – will fall into place.
Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” disagrees, and has good reasons why he feels it’s bad advice for most of us. He believes that there are some people who are called to their work, but thinking that there is just one right kind of work for you may be a mistake. Looking for the perfect kind of work may keep you from discovering work that satisfies you and that may even become a passion.
In my experience, creative workers: writers, musicians, designers and chefs all feel passion for their work. They couldn’t imagine making a living doing anything else. But most people work in jobs or start companies that don’t require that creative spark. Yet they’re fulfilled, engaged, and very successful. What’s their secret?
Newport says that the key to happiness and passionate engagement is looking for a problem to solve. He says “Over time, passion finds you, not the other way around.” If you focus on solving a problem in the marketplace and develop the skills you need to get the work done, you will become passionate about your work.
I donate my time to mentor women business owners, and I can truthfully say that I fall in love with their business every time. I’ve mentored a chocolatier, a manufacturer of industrial pumps, a healthcare services company, and a startup aquaponics operation. In each case, the owner’s passion came from solving important and interesting problems for their customers. The deeper they got into their business, the more fascinating and challenging it became. And the passion was contagious.
Seeking passion in your work (and the chronic job-hopping that is the inevitable result) is as destructive to your career as seeking passion in new relationships can be to your marriage. Find interesting problems to solve and passion will find you.