Growing up, we were told by guidance counselors, career advice books, the news media and others to “follow our passion.” This advice assumes that we all have a pre-existing passion waiting to be discovered. If we have the courage to discover this calling and to match it to our livelihood, the thinking goes, we’ll end up happy. If we lack this courage, we’ll end up bored and unfulfilled — or, worse, in law school.
To a small group of people, this advice makes sense, because they have a clear passion. Maybe they’ve always wanted to be doctors, writers, musicians and so on, and can’t imagine being anything else.
But this philosophy puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us — and demands long deliberation. If we’re not careful, it tells us, we may end up missing our true calling. And even after we make a choice, we’re still not free from its effects. Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: “Is this what I’m really meant to be doing?” This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.
Yes, yes, yes. In just a page, this piece pinpoints the downfalls of the Cult of Passion. The Cult of Passion tells us that if we don’t wake up every day enamored with our job and what we’re doing, something is wrong.
Newport argues that on the contrary, our passion will follow us: But I knew that my sense of fulfillment would grow over time, as I became better at my job. So I worked hard, and, as my competence grew, so did my engagement.
Now, four jobs and a few years under belt since graduating, this sentiment resonates clear. Sure, I wish I could spend 40 hours a week on a beach or exploring South America, but I get an insane amount of fulfillment at being good at and really, truly enjoying my job. It’s not what I live for (work in general), but as I’ve become better at my profession, so has my personal satisfaction.