Passion isn’t everything

Does it matter if you don’t have a passion? What does it even mean to have one? Is passion one of those ‘if you have to ask…’ things?

I know quite a few successful artists. The definition of a successful artist, I think, isn’t a rich and famous one, but one who really enjoys what they do. They have a niche and they never tire of ploughing it. They wake up every day (or most days) and don’t mind doing their particular thing all day, at all. They might resent elements of the job that aren’t about making or thinking about the thing they’re obsessed with, but they see it all as a means to an end. The challenges are embraced as growing pains; the whole thing is tolerable, because they just can’t imagine doing anything other than making small glass lanterns or giant urban murals or dance or music or whatever it is.

It’s just who they are.

Now, I don’t know many people who feel this way about work that isn’t creative, but that’s not to say they don’t exist. I’m sure some people identify absolutely with their job as a doctor or a postie or a teacher. No doubt about it. But it seems harder, at least with a lot of modern jobs, to argue that pure vocational spirit is driving the choice.

“Oh yes, I’m an Executive Product Manager. It’s just who I am! I can’t imagine being anything else. Executive Product Managing is in my DNA.”

Said no one, ever. If this is you, you seem to have two choices.

Number 1: You while away your boredom hours at work fantasising about the ‘pure’ life you could be leading in a parallel universe (often you’re an author, or you’ve got your own bar all quirkily decked out from antique shops. Maybe you live by the sea, have a little boat and paint crockery. You know the sort of thing).

Number 2: You tie yourself in knots of justifications that this is in fact, in some obtuse way, your ‘passion’. You’re not so different from those artists, after all!

Well, we’re making a lot of assumptions about ‘those artists’ aren’t we? Putting a lot on their be-smocked shoulders. And what about the rest of us, in different ways quietly dedicating our lives to keeping the wheels turning on society? Is the quest for ‘passion’ in this context even useful, or is it a big ugly behemoth that just slows us down when we’re trying to get stuff done?

My creative spirit is not pure at all. I don’t have a furrow. I don’t feel drawn to any particular theme or aesthetic. But that’s fine. It appears to make no difference; I get stuff done anyway. Monogamous passion is absent and I’m sure there’s nothing important missing.

I would go so far as to say that passions can make life more difficult, especially as they tend to be specific and hold a narrow focus. Not many people ‘make it’ as professional swimmers, world class rock climbers, opera singers, book illustrators… Executive jobs in offices, on the other hand? There are plenty of chances for plenty of people to do well in those.

The best option, I think, is to re-think success a bit. You don’t have to be passionate to be successful. You don’t have to be ‘like an artist’ or indeed like anyone you’re not. You just have to be OK with where you are. That’s the feeling I’ve noticed everyone’s chasing.

Today’s question

Self-help is often about needling for problems. But maybe there isn’t one; maybe – in some areas of life – you don’t need to develop or stretch or change. If you don’t live and breathe something, you’re led to believe you’re lacking. (Remember this is an industry, like the weight loss industry, that can’t continue if it properly ‘fixes’ you, so it’ll always invent new problems!) So screw the conventions: what’s great about where you are, right now? Which are the aspects of your work or projects that suit you really well?