Why Pursuing Your Passion Is Not Enough (and What You Should Do Instead)
A lot of people will tell you that all it takes to succeed in life is to pursue your passion. But is that always true?
There are plenty of people out there who are trying to do things they love and aren’t necessarily succeeding. So what are they missing? The truth is that passion is only one of three characteristics you need to find your calling.
Demand, competency, passion
When I’m working with my students or workshop attendees, I walk them through an exercise in which I ask them to answer three important questions. If you want to build a blog that people actually read, make a living doing what you love, or launch a business that succeeds, you’ll have to answer them, too. They are:
- What do people want?
- What am I good at?
- What do I love doing?
Where these three questions converge is where you’ll find your “sweet spot.” As Frederick Buechner wrote, your vocation lies in the intersection of the world’s deep need and your deep joy.
In other words, you have to do something that is both interesting to you and that other people are interested in. And of course, you have to be good (quality is assumed). These questions cover the following areas:
- Demand: what the world needs or what the market wants.
- Competency: what skill or ability you offer to meet that demand.
- Passion: the enjoyment you get from the work you do.
If you have only one or two of these but not all three, you won’t make it. Competency without passion is drudge work. And passion without demand is a hobby. You have to have all three to make a meaningful contribution.
But of course, that’s not to say there isn’t value in doing things you love. I have lots of hobbies I enjoy. I just don’t expect people to pay me for them.
And neither should you.
What’s in it for them?
If you want to get the most satisfaction out of your work and make the most meaningful contribution, you have to move beyond just what you’re passionate about. You have to consider what’s in it for other people.
This is not such a bad thing, actually. Earning the right to share your dream means you value people’s time. It means you actually care about someone other than yourself. But what does that look like, practically?
Here are three simple steps you can take today:
- Ask good questions. How else are you going to figure out what people want? You discover demand when you find out what others are struggling with.
- Share what you know. The best way to figure out what you’re good at and what value you can offer the world is to share what seems natural and obvious to you and see what resonates with others.
- Pay attention to what gets you excited. See how what you share connects with other people and how that affects you. Do you get excited when you teach? Does it drain you to speak in front of people? Take notice of what lights you up and find ways to do more of those things.
No, passion is not enough. The world needs more than for you to just do what you love. It needs you to make a difference. And each of these steps will help you figure out what people want, how you can deliver value, and what it takes to make that work both fulfilling and satisfying.
So you had better get started.
(Note: I’m not sure who first originated this demand-competency-passion model, but lots of folks have addressed it in different ways. I know for a fact that Scott Belsky and Michael Hyatt have both written and spoken about it.)
Do you think passion is enough to succeed? Share in the comments.