passion

We’ve all heard the adage “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and much has been written and debated about if people can make money doing only what they love.  But the fact is, if you are doing what you love, you feel better in your body, mind and spirit, and it is much easier to succeed.

Malcolm Gladwell contended in his book Outliers that anyone who deliberately practiced anything for 10,000 hours or more could master it or become top in the field. (Deliberate practice is structured to improve upon skills and performance.) In 2014, Princeton University refuted Gladwell’s theory after researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the major domains in which deliberate practice had been investigated. They “found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions.” They concluded that deliberate practice is important but not as important as people believe.

Eight or nine years ago a university student took a few of my classes. He was nice guy and he was passionate about amusement parks and roller coasters. He talked of them inside and out of the classroom and tailored some of his assignments to include amusement park related topics. He and a friend were even recording their own roller coaster video so viewers could feel like they were riding the coaster as they watched. My student and his friend were trying to get a TV deal. Though I understood he was passionate, which Merriam-Webster defines as “having ardent affection”, some of his classmates thought he was a little obsessed.

But according to Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, “When an obsession dominates us, it steals our will and saps all the pleasure out of life.” Obsessions can also cause paralysis in other areas of life and can cause worry. My student exhibited none of these things. Amusement park discussions made him come alive and animate. He could discuss the intricacies of amusement parks for hours. And if riding rides in parks around the country and researching their history and special effects and little known facts can be called deliberate practice, he surely clocked more than 10,000 hours.

All of this passion paid off in the fact that he followed it into an occupation as an amusement park communications specialist, and he, along with the rest of the public relations team, won a Brass Ring for Marketing Excellence from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions this week for having the best social media campaign.

But the different between the student and many people is that he found a way to incorporate what he loved into his life and career, while many people instead pursue, and become almost addicted to, passion itself or passion-seeking. They let the quest for passion in their relationships, their occupations and their lives leave them feeling unfulfilled and restless. Or as this PsychCentral blog post says, “If you believe you’re supposed to feel passion and excitement about your work and relationships, you will be unhappy when these emotions dwindle.” Emotions are like a roller coaster. Sometimes they make us feel on top of the world, other times we feel a bit upside down and other times we feel like we’re barely hanging onto the track.

While following your passion or having ardent affection for something may not always bring you financial reward or international acclaim, doing work about which you feel a sense of purpose or to which you have a strong emotional attachment makes it easier to ride out the rough patches, the days when things don’t seem to be going quite right or you feel overworked or overwhelmed. Therein is where its power lies. Passion can keep us focused on the forest instead of the single fir tree. And though passion may not be the deciding factor as to whether or not you succeed, it is difficult to succeed at an endeavor for which you feel no passion.