Following your Passion – Boldly Brave or Stupidly Suicidal?

mind power

Think or Act?


What first? Think or act?

What’s the best way to start following your passion? Take a bold sudden dramatic leap or embark on a careful, steady, persistent climb?

My contrarian mind has been working overtime on this question for some time, now this post has been triggered by 2 totally different inputs, one a blog post and the other a tweet with a link to an eye-opening article about writing skills or the lack thereof.

I have written in previous posts, that because of age and geography, my introduction to the Internet came later in life than for most bloggers and Internet Marketers.

Perhaps I am just a cynical old baby boomer, but soon after I was parted from some hard-earned cash by several seductive promoters of positive thinking / follow your passion / get rich quick / overnight success systems, I woke up. You know the sales pages I am referring to, those with 6 figure incomes and Lamborghinis and Ferraris on nice brick paved courtyards in front of fancy houses on the beach.

If you are active on the Internet you can probably see the pictures in your minds and quote the copy word for word.

Let’s back up a bit here. I am a strong supporter of positive thinking, setting huge goals, believing we can all do amazing things and achieve happiness and a wonderful life. Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t believe in fairy stories.

It seems to me that although the overnight success systems guys and girls have toned it down a bit, the slack has been taken up by the “follow your passion” people. Nothing wrong with following your passion at all, but we have to incorporate a bit of realism into the mix.

The first of the two inputs was a blog post by Niall Doherty on his Disrupting the Rabblement blog: Follow Your passion? Not so Fast. 

Niall is an interesting blogger who is travelling the world on a shoe string budget supporting himself by using skills he acquired in earlier years pursuing a more conventional career.

In the post, he quotes from a book by Cal Newport on why skills trump passion.

Click on the link above to read the post, it gives a refreshing perspective to the “follow your passion” belief. Niall also builds WordPress websites for clients, I have seen his work, he is quick and gives good value. I do not earn a commission from him, just mention him because he is good.

The second input came from another blogger, closer to my age than Niall’s, and was a link in a tweet. My twitter friend Roberta from @MoreThymeBlog sent me a link to a post “Why Johnny can’t write” on the HotAir site . Click on the link to read the full article, but the point of it is that because schools no longer teach children to write properly, students finish school  unable to think critically or express themselves clearly in writing.

Despite all the criticism of what tweeting, texting and updating is doing to written communication, it is still written. We communicate more in writing than ever before, even if that writing is produced and read on an electronic screen and not with pen and paper.

Poor writing skills are aggravated by poor reading skills and habits. A diet of 140 character tweets does not compare to the benefits of reading a full length non-fiction work or well written novel.

For a wonderful example of good writing, great food photographs and mouth-watering recipes, visit Roberta’s blog at MoreThymeThanDough.

Connecting the dots between reading and the pursuit of passion

Am I the only one who is connecting the dots here?

Without the reading and thinking skills for discerning good from bad, realistic from ridiculous, hype from hope, is it any wonder that we have such a huge number of promises being marketed and hopeful buyers lining up to buy them? If that is so, is it any wonder that we have so many broke and disenchanted failed entrepreneurs, bloggers, “follow your passion” victims.

The extensive reading background covering a wide range of non-fiction and fiction, newspapers and magazines common to most people in the pre-internet age has been replaced by an overwhelming flood of information on every subject under the sun.

So overwhelming that we could spend all day reading about the narrowest and most trivial subject imaginable. Google gives 4 880 000 results for a search on “Mongolian Camels” for example.

In the interests of living a successful and happy life, an hour reading  Charles Dickens or a similar author is probably better for us than an hour on the Internet reading about Mongolian Camels or watching cute cat videos on You Tube.

Concerns about the “Follow Your Passion” evangelists.

There has to be discernment and critical thinking. The best solution for a risk taker may not be a wise choice for a more cautious type. People, responsibilities, commitments, circumstances, situations and opportunities are all different.

There is no magical, one size fits all, approach to following your passion.

I have taken some blind leaps of faith myself, some have worked. At other times I came crashing down in flames. My best successes came after leveraging years of accumulated skills to exploit  new opportunities. Even then those successes were not permanent, they needed continual tweaking and some turned into failures because I failed to recognise changing circumstances and adapt in time.

That is another area where discernment is required. To recognise when persistence,


Flogging a Dead Horse

determination and commitment to achieving a goal starts to work against you. It’s called flogging a dead horse, no matter how much effort, enthusiasm, belief, passion or determination you apply, the animal is not going to rise from the dead. Same with a dead opportunity, no amount of passion will breathe life into it.

Working at some thing we are passionate about, is more of a motivator for some of us than others. I have seen people leading contented lives while doing hard, boring, low-level work. But their alternatives were starvation. They had a purpose – to stay alive – that trumped thinking about passion.

I subscribe to the view in the Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” that we should first find more enjoyment from what we are doing, that might be a better strategy than a blind leap into the “courage culture” to follow what we may only think, is our passion.

For others, a “regular” job or conventional career might be too stifling however much  enjoyment can be found in it. For some, the only way is to take the leap, but be prepared to accept the consequences and discover it might just be the first leap of many.

Responsibilities are also a factor. It is not so bad going hungry and sleeping in your car or on a friend’s sofa when you are single, but it really tears at the heart-strings and tests your commitment when you can’t afford food or basic clothing for your kids.

What’s the answer?

Accumulate skills, find our purpose, assess the risks realistically, be absolutely certain that we are setting our own goals, following our own passion, not ones that look good on an exciting new lifestyle website.

Decide if we can start our new venture in parallel to our main job or business, in some cases that is workable, sensible and reduces the risk. It can mean continuing income through the learning curve of the new business or life change.

If there are dependents or high overheads involved, this can be an option.

Then just do it, if that is what we really want and we are prepared to put 110% commitment and determination into succeeding. Half measures don’t work, trying doesn’t work either, doing does.

Some of us did not, do not or will not have much choice as to how and when we start our new direction. When you are suddenly left without a job, business, income, a place to live or even, like me, a country, there is no time for messing about or even spending too long finding your passion. You have to take action, decisively and quickly.

Wishing you success first and as much passion as you can.

Peter Wright




Rodin Statue photo – Wikipedia Creative Commons

Horse graphic from Artvex.




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  4 comments for “Following your Passion – Boldly Brave or Stupidly Suicidal?

  1. Roberta Hunter
    November 14, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I think this post is excellent. The pieces are intertwined.
    And I agree with your conclusion. Follow your passion and beliefs is good.
    But as you say, only take you so far. That’s when patience, persistence, and traditional
    education and some intelligence give you the back up you need to stick to it and finally succeed. This
    may take years not months. This is also when you better enjoy what you are doing or it won’t succeed.

    • November 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Thanks for your comment Roberta, I wonder how many more general societal problems could be symptoms of poor reading and writing skills?

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