Should You Follow Your Passion?

A lot of people who have known me for many years often say to me,

“I think it’s so amazing that you have followed your passion in life!!”

To a large extent, they are absolutely right – I have put a lot of my time and effort into the pursuit of becoming a great football coach and have followed my desire to help others through sport. However, my life journey over the last 10 years or so has been about much more than just this one simple idea.

Should everyone just follow their passion and hope for the best? I’m not sure it’s great advice to give to everyone, that’s for sure. I’m a much bigger believer in the idea of “cultivating,” as opposed to “discovering and following” your passion. In fact, I pretty much agree 100% with this article, which talks entirely about this concept and so I won’t try and repeat its overall message here in this post.

Although there is a really valuable lesson to be learned as far as looking at your occupational goals and desires with a cultivator’s mindset, I still want to write something that speaks to the passion-chasers. This is almost one of those, if I knew back then what I know now, types of posts. This one will be really, really personal. It comes from the heart, but hopefully it will speak to the mind. Anyone who feels like they are on the brink of pursuing their “passion” in life should know these key things (some good, others not so good!) before they get too far into the chase:

Following your passion is really fun, a lot of the time.

As you jump into a world that captures your imagination and steals a lot of your time, you will begin to immerse yourself in something that that feels effortless. You’ll carry a certain level of excitement with you wherever you go. You will most likely demonstrate a pretty optimistic attitude about what you are doing; after all, you believe you have a future in this field. In a lot of cases,  you’ll meet some other really passionate people who will rub you a certain way and energize you even further. These other passionate people will usually become some of your closest friends, and great friends are always fun to be around.

At some point, you will hit some really, really big walls.

You will encounter some situations that are adverse in ways that you’ve never experienced. You will get discouraged, and will question why you are doing what you’re doing. You may even think about quitting. In fact, I’d be a little surprised if you go a few years into your pursuit without getting this feeling at least once. Obviously, there is a decision that must be made – do I stay, or do I go?

Some of the walls you hit will have a significant, negative impact on the rest of your life.

Only recently, through a great deal of introspection, have I been able to see just how bad things were for me personally and professionally at one point in my life. My second-last year of university was absolutely brutal on so many levels. Not only was I getting very impatient with myself and frustrated with my football bosses due to what I perceived as not having enough opportunities to advance myself in coaching (i.e. I felt self-entitled), but I was falling apart as a student (my grades began slipping), and wasn’t progressing at all as a person. I was just a struggling university-aged dude who had no plan, no girlfriend, not a whole lot of structure and organization…and not a whole lot of self-confidence. I remember being fully ready to walk away from football around the middle of the school year. Thankfully, I didn’t.

Your passion will lead you to your mentors. Your mentors will change your life.

I have a small, yet infinitely special list of mentors about whom I can say have truly influenced me as a coach and person. Whatever your goal may be in life, yeah, sure, it may be attainable by never learning anything from anybody else, ever…but that doesn’t sound too realistic, does it? Mentors (and coaches in general, as I’ve discussed previously on this blog) are invaluable because they allow a person to see themselves in ways that they can’t see naturally. They are our living, breathing mirrors. They are our teachers and guides. Our masters while we are apprentices. And when you show enough passion for something, they will show up and be there for you. As Robin Sharma wrote in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”1

You will find a way to overcome your hurdles, if you really are passionate enough.

This part takes more than just straight-up hard work – it takes innovation and creative thinking. It takes a new approach to doing things. At first, it took me a lot of getting help, guidance, and assurance in what I was doing from a newfound mentor for me to rediscover how intense my love for football could be. In my final year of university, I exploded. My knowledge level grew exponentially and my self-confidence rose with it. I was given new opportunities and then capitalised on them. I provided a ton of value to my organization and oddly fell in love with an intense 90-hour-a-week grind that had me laser-focused one simple direction for the first time in my life.

You will still face hurdles, even after you think you’ve got it all figured out.

When I was hired at the age of 23 to become the offensive coordinator at a division three CEGEP program, I was the youngest collegiate-level coordinator in the province, and possibly the youngest coordinator working at a level above high school in the entire country. I felt like I was the frickin’ sh*t!! Rammed full of knowledge and ideas, tons of confidence, and a fresh chance in a new role, I was ready to go and didn’t want to disappoint. As you can maybe imagine, after some early success, I did disappoint. There was still a lot I needed to learn about coaching, and most especially, leading. Just after turning 25, less than two years into that gig, I was let go from my position and quietly stepped away from the program. While a setback, it was absolutely the right move for me and for the team. I have always been incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to get a chance to perform at that level, and in that role, at such a young age. Fortunately, I was about to move on to a bigger and bolder adventure.

The left turns you will take in your pursuit will blow your freakin’ mind!!

Me meeting a French-speaking stranger before the age of 25:

Stranger: « bonjour Monsieur, pouvez-vous me dire…. »

Me: « Uhhhh..Eurmmmm » ….(in my head…”RUN AWAY!!!”)

Me now: « “Comment? Mais oui, absolument, ce que vous cherchez c’est juste à deux pas de…et est-ce que vous avez d’autres questions pour moi? »

Easily the greatest personal accomplishment of my adult life, my coaching journey took me to a place where I learned how to speak French. Pretty cool, eh?

As you get better, things will get harder.

You’d think it would be the opposite, right? In some ways, certain tasks and activities are much easier for me now than they were three or four years ago, there’s no question. However, the better you get, the stronger the challenge you will seek. The more talented the teammates, the more your own skills have to be up to par. The better the competition, the higher you must rise in order to come out on top.

 The further along you get, the more the sacrifices will start to pile up.

There is a stiff price to pay for following your passion, and that price is different for everyone. This is my price: I have missed dozens and dozens of family events over the years. Typically, I do not get to see my immediate family outside of two fairly short, discrete times of the year. I can go years without seeing old friends. The amount of money I could have made in a more steady line of work is significant. I have a really hard time selling myself to prospective girlfriends because my career is too precarious, too unique, too underpaid, too demanding of my time, or that I am too serious in my approach. I’m still waiting to find someone who really understands and accepts me. I don’t know if this will cost me in the long run or not…

If you’ve made it this far, you will probably have a hard time turning back.

Despite the drawbacks, if you have walked your own road long enough, you will find it difficult to change course. You may not be willing to trade your life for another one very easily. You will have developed, or be working on, a way of making your pursuit more efficient and more balanced, which is a good thing. You’ll find time for the people who are most important to you, and will let those who aren’t just drift away. All of the relationships that you maintain will be more and more meaningful to you as time goes on. You’ll be really happy, because despite the drawbacks, you are carving out an amazing and fulfilling life. More likely than not, you are helping others achieve their goals. Their happiness will feed your own, and you will have found real meaning in your life. To quote Robin Sharma once more, “the purpose of life, is a life of purpose.”2

Peace be the journey, passionate adventurer!

 

-MB

Referenced Works:

  1. Robin Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2007) pg. 30.
  2. Robin Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2007) pg. 74.

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