I saw someone the other day win an achievement award. In their acceptance speech they said words that have become sort of a mantra: “Follow your passion at all cost. Don’t give up. Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do something.” I can appreciate the spirit of his words. I certainly appreciate his success at his craft. But I have to be honest; I think the advice to “follow your passion at all cost” may be the worst advice floating around.
Passion has two definitions. It can be a “strong and barely controllable emotion” or an “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.” I think the man who won the award was speaking of this second definition. And, although I understand the sentiment of his statement, I think passion by itself can be a horrible guide for life choices. Here are 3 reasons why passion can lead us down the wrong path.
Did you ever watch American Idol? Many times the show would introduce a contestant with a short video. The video would communicate the person’s passion to sing; then their audition with the judges would take place. It was not uncommon to discover the individual had no talent and no tone. Their shock and disappointment when the judges told them they would not be moving on in the competition revealed their passion was more dream than skill. Years (and I think for some of them only weeks) had been wasted. Their passion to be a great singer was dealt a blow of reality.
Just because we have a passion doesn’t mean we have a talent. Some poor soul hears “follow your passion” and they begin to think passion is all that is needed to succeed. Unfortunately, it can take months or years for someone to discover their passion is pipe dream. Passion can point us in the wrong direction and that can be waste of time.
It is possible to be passionate and successful. However, many people become so passionate about being successful at their craft that they are willing to overlook the development of their character. Passion may drive a person to succeed, but it rarely drives someone to be humble. Unfortunately, proud people usually have major character flaws. The current revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct among Hollywood’s elite, along with the long list of dishonest CEO’s and politicians, provide many examples of successful, wealthy people with passion but no character. When success at our passion means we have to step on the less fortunate, take advantage of a vulnerable person, or be dishonest to reach our goal, then our passion becomes our demise. We trade character for success.
When I was in high school my passion was being a football player…all 140-pounds of me. I dreamed of playing football. I spent hours each week lifting weights, running, going to practice and watching film. I just knew that “growth spurt” was coming, and when it did, I would play football in the college ranks. Only one problem, the growth spurt never happened. I do think I was the best 140-pound football player at my high school, but that is as far as my passion could take me.
All that time I spent on football, and it was over when I graduated from high school. I often think: What opportunities did I miss while I was chasing my passion? How much better could I be at what I do today if I had started pursuing then the skills I use now? My passion distracted me from opportunities that might have been more beneficial.
If we can’t follow passion, then what options do we have? Are we doomed to a life that is characterized as ordinary? Are we forced into a career of mundane routine? To answer these questions let me share two promises God has given to people who love the truth of Jesus Christ.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Reflect on these promises and notice two things:
One of the greatest fears we have is that we will not like God’s plan. We fear God will ask us to do something we will hate. Yet, He makes it clear that if we seek Him, pray to Him, let our first passion be Him…then He will show us His plan and we will experience fulfillment, hope and a good future. We don’t ignore our passion when we seek God. We bring it with us and let Him direct it to the plan He already has in place.
Don’t follow passion. Follow opportunity. If God has already prepared works for us to do then we don’t have to beat ourselves up trying to make our passions a reality. All we have to do is walk through the doors of opportunity He has already placed on our path. Through those doors we will find our passion.