Why Passion Will Fuel Your Greatest Work

Why Passion Will Fuel Your Greatest Work

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike.com.

It’s Saturday night, 11pm, and I’m at my desk working.

You don’t have to feel sorry for me though. I have no boss breathing down my neck or pressing deadline to meet. I could just as easily be at the bar, sipping a pint with friends.

But instead I’m at home, typing away fervently, working on my business.

Staying in and working on a Saturday night was an easy choice to make actually… It simply sounded like more fun.

The Tug of War Between Profit and Passion

Growing up, we’re taught that there’s work – that thing that provides financial security – and then there’s fun: our passions, hobbies, dreams and pursuits.

Sure, we can use the money we make from our day job to help fund our outside endeavors. Maybe if we’re really lucky, we’ll even find a career that’s also somewhat in line with our interests! But we’re cautioned that rejecting this model and putting our passions first means a life of Ramen noodles and ratty apartments.

These are our choices: profit or passion. Bring them together or keep them apart, it’s your call. But life is presented to us as a tug-of-war between two distinct forces

Could Passion and Profit be One and the Same?

Here’s a radical idea: maybe these two forces aren’t distinct at all.

When you look at people who truly dominate in their fields – the Oprahs and Obamas and even the Trumps of this world – they are usually highly passionate about their work. Innovators don’t find a compromise between profit and passion. They reject the binary all together.

Ultimately, the profit is where the passion is.

My reasoning isn’t based on any woo-woo theories about how the universe conspires to help those who follow their dreams either (though I do happen to believe this). My reasoning is based on numbers, and numbers alone.

What Does it Take to “Make it”?

“I want to say “good luck,” but it doesn’t take luck…”

These were the last words a stranger on a bus once said to me after a conversation in which I shared my plans to start a business to “inspire multipotentialites to embrace their multipotentiality.”

Most successful people will tell you the same thing: success is not a result of luck or talent. There’s no big break. You never get “discovered”. Success comes to those who work their ASSES off.

Hard work, persistence, long hours in the trenches, getting back up after a flop- these are the traits that distinguish the truly successful from everybody else.

We Always Work 1000% Harder on Something We Believe In

If hard work is the distinguishing factor between those who make it and those who do not, then what’s the best way to motivate hard work? Make all that hard work fun. Make it something you love.

I’m not saying that passion always immediately leads to profit. Sometimes it takes experimentation and a few failed attempts along the way. But when you’re filling your time with activities that light you up, work doesn’t feel like work. As a result, you’re infinitely more motivated to put in insane hours (like working till wee hours on a Saturday night).

Doing what you love means that you’re more driven, indeed overjoyed, to put in the hours necessary to crush it. You work and work and work because there’s nothing in the world you’d rather be doing! It’s like breathing.

But is there a Market for My Passions?

Alright, lets talk practicalities for a minute. The fact is, as hard as you may work on your passions, someone’s got to buy what you’re selling. Spending all day in your room reading mystery novels and writing odes on the guitar isn’t going to pay the bills. I hear you.

You absolutely need a way to channel your interests into something that others will pay for. But this is not a compromise or a constraint on your creativity, it’s a perk!

Would keeping all of your passions to yourself fulfill you in the long run anyway?

You don’t have to monetize all your passions. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to be a mulitpotentialite and have many areas of interest, you might want to keep some of them just for you.

But in the grand scheme of things, we all want to change the world, every single one of us. We want our time here to be meaningful, for some greater purpose.

When you channel your passions into something that adds value, solves problems and enriches lives, those passions become even more fulfilling. That’s also a service people will happily pay for.

What if You Don’t Feel like an Expert?

You may worry that you don’t have what it takes to turn your passion into a business, that you lack the expertise necessary to help others. Well, you know what? You’re wrong. As Barbara Sher says, “what you love is what you’re gifted at.”

Follow your heart, hone your skills and practice. If you’re doing what you love, you’ll have the drive to get good. Just start, you’ll get there.

This isn’t just about making money either. The whole world benefits when you’re doing your greatest work, and your greatest work will always be that which you love the most.

***

Do you ever stop and find yourself overjoyed to be working? Is this not the greatest feeling in the world?

About the Author: Emilie Wapnick is a writer and multipotentialite at Puttylike.com. She inspires other Renaissance types to build lives and businesses around their many interests. She is the author of The ‘Undeclared for Life’ Manifesto and co-hosts the podcast Undeclared for Life.

photo courtesy of in_2_the_fray

 

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Brian July 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

“Most successful people will tell you the same thing: success is not a result of luck or talent. There’s no big break. You never get “discovered”. Success comes to those who work their ASSES off.” Always a necessary reminder. And I know for me, I’m not going to REALLY work my ass for for something if I don’t believe in it 100%. Passion as a fuel for profits, I love it.

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Sal_Greco July 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

WOW WOW WOW WOW Emilie… First off… Check this out… Right now, I am commenting SOLEY on your headline… Yes, that means I did NOT even read the post yet… (I will read of course and comment more in a minute) I just wanted to say AWESOME job!!!! Jonathans blog is so special, he is one of the few sites I have the RSS hooked up to my sites fanpage, and twitter, so I was on MY fanpage… Saw this Headline… and just wanted to pop in first and say, from seeing the headline alone….

Totally F*$#ing RIGHT It Does!!!!!!

OKAY, read it now… AMAZING Job!!! I had this realization, I wrote about it a while back… “If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, or have some passion involved in it… THEN YOU SHOULD NOT be doing it.” Reason being, is someone else who is passionate can do it better, and you can do something else that you are passionate about better too… (of course!)

I was amazed to come to this whole, “spend your life on your passions” movement a few years ago. While I started college, I assumed like the “norm,” I would get out, get a normal job (hopefully one I liked) and do the career move… And then….

I discovered surfing…

and then….

I started working at Disney, which showed me the power of loving what you do. I don’t do it anymore, but I am pursuing a route in the Surf industry… Consulting small surf brands/companies, and also coaching surfers to be able and do what we do… Work online, so you can catch the waves, whenever and wherever you please.

BTW, love that word the person on the bus used, NEVER heard of that. Thank you.

Going to check your site out NOW!!!

Surfs up,

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ethanwaldman July 7, 2011 at 11:49 am

Great post, Emilie. I’ve found that in the course of finding a market for my passions, that I have deepened my interest and depth of knowledge in them. It’s a win-win!

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MartaSpendowska July 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Such empowering post, Emilie.

But.

I’m in the middle of Penelope Trunk’s book. Have you got yours? It’s golden + hard-cover one — such a brilliant combo.

Anyways. She brings up this uncomfortable idea, for us, media entrepreneurs, writers, painters, you know who.

She says : ” Bad Career Advice : Do What You Love”.

And it’s her talking. PT!

She says it’s an absurd, and if you’re telling yourself that your job has to be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid, you’ll be looking for a long time.

She advices to rather : DO WHAT YOU ARE.

So, maybe, all those Oprahs, Obamas and even the Trumps of this world are where they are, not because of their passion, but because of WHO they are.

Yep, I guess you can become O O or T by doing a passionate work, but you also get TO that passion, to the root of it from/by WHO you are. And vice-versa.

I have to say (I have to write a post about that, because it bothers me) that when you realize it’s beyond the passion, and it’s a business first, your “burned-out” moments tend to be a part of the business and don’t hurt that much. We won’t say ; “We suck at that passion and fullfilling it”, but rather : ” THIS business needs a shift”.

And if you’re a designer/painter/writer and you hit the block/wall/impasse, we can “judge” it from the back-end, outside point of view.

That’s my 2 cents for an awesome you, Emilie.

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MartaSpendowska July 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

One more point : If we’re talking mostly about channelling your passions into something that adds value, solves problems and enriches lives, then we’re talking about passion more than the service.

That’s why people question their value/expertise. Qs like : “Is my pasion ENOUGH to solve your problem?”

I think it can become the service/business once we DECIDE to monetize it and treat it as a service/business, not the other way around.

More like : I am THIS, I do THAT well (it happens I like it very much), I build business around it.

Then:

I love doing it, I build business around it.

:: Marta

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Marta, Yeah, a lot of people believe that you shouldn’t turn what you love into your career. I’m in the other camp (for the reasons I explored above). I guess I have a hard time making the who/what distinction in my mind. I actually believe that you ARE what you love doing. If you love writing, then you’re going to write. That makes you a writer. And if you’re a multipotentialite, there will be many things that you love, do, and consequently, are. And I don’t think there’s something inherent in the Oprah and Obamas of this world. I don’t think they were born natural leaders. They were probably exposed to something which pushed them in that direction, but it was their intense passion that drove them to work HARD and hone their talents. Passion lead to work which lead to success. I do agree that we need to disassociate from our “passion” and view our projects as businesses. Absolutely. It’s the same with art. You may have a passion for painting, but you are NOT your work. Passion must fuel our work, but not define it. Still, at the end of the day, I believe that you’ll always work harder at something that comes from a place of love and excitement. Thanks for your thoughts.

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Whoa… My line breaks disappeared. Sorry about that. :)

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm

@MartaSpendowska

Yeah, a lot of people believe that you shouldn’t turn what you love into your career. I’m in the other camp (for the reasons I explored above).

I guess I have a hard time making the who/what distinction in my mind. I actually believe that you ARE what you love doing. If you love writing, then you’re going to write. That makes you a writer. And if you’re a multipotentialite, there will be many things that you love, do, and consequently, are.

And I don’t think there’s something inherent in the Oprah and Obamas of this world. I don’t think they were “born” natural leaders. They were probably exposed to something which pushed them in that direction, but it was their intense passion that drove them to work HARD and hone their talents. Passion lead to work which lead to success.

I do agree that we need to disassociate from our “passion” and view our projects as businesses. Absolutely. It’s the same with art. You may have a passion for painting, but you are NOT your work. Passion must fuel our work, but not define it. Still, at the end of the day, I believe that you’ll always work harder at something that comes from a place of love and excitement.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm

@ethanwaldman Definitely! I’ve found the same thing. It’s pretty amazing when you take on a project because you’re curious in learning about something new-ish and then once the project is complete, you have this whole new skill set. That’s pretty much how I taught myself webdesign- building on previous skills and taking on projects that pushed me a little further down the rabbit hole.

Thanks Ethan! It’s nice connecting with you. I really dig what you’re up to.

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm

@Sal_Greco Wow – Thank you, Sal!

I love your story too. Are you familiar with Srini Rao’s blog The Skool of Life? His whole life and career revolves around his love for surfing. I think it’s beautiful how he mixes his identity as a surfer with his other interests (business, personal development, travel, etc.) on his site too.

And you’re absolutely right. Doing something you DON’T love is a waste. You’re bound to struggle to keep up against those who are truly passionate. It’s also so sad to see someone just pursuing something because they think it’s what they’re “supposed” to do. Our time on earth is short. Spend it doing the things that light you up.

Oh and the word on the bus- multipotentialite? Yeah that was me who said that. You probably figured that out when you went to my site… :)

Thanks for the wonderful comment and the props on the headline! Really means a lot. Keep doing what you love, Sal. Just hearing you describe it is inspiring!

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm

@Brian Yup! It makes such logical sense. It’s about numbers- putting in your time.

Thanks for the comment, Brian.

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patientpotter July 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Passion creates enthusiasm, enthusiasm creates customers, customers create profits.

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MartaSpendowska July 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

@Emilie @MartaSpendowska I’m in the same camp as you are, Emilie. Maybe I didn’t convey what I mean.

The who/what distinction might be, I guess, explained like so : I am interested in art, because of who I am/what I’ve experienced etc. From there I paint, explore and the passion kicks in.
But I agree, it’s a tricky one. It’s one of those : What was first: chicken or egg.

Also, about passion and business.
I paint. I used to paint a lot. I also come from a weird, lovely, passive country Poland. I could never make a living as a painter. I assume that even in US (I’m here since 2005) it might be hard to live off my passion that is painting.
So I started looking closer into design. Design is my passion too, and it’s more possible that I can make a living designing than painting.

That’s where the passion becomes “business-first”, even if it’s based on passion for painting.

Ok, I guess we’re all love to put out there the best pieces we can create and serve others by doing the Work.

Thanks Emilie!

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MartaSpendowska July 7, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Sorry for no brakes.. eh! Writing from iPad.

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MartaSpendowska July 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm

@Emilie @MartaSpendowska I’m in the same camp as you are, Emilie. Maybe I didn’t convey what I mean.

The who/what distinction might be, I guess, explained like so : I am interested in art, because of who I am/what I’ve experienced etc. From there I paint, explore and the passion kicks in.
But I agree, it’s a tricky one. It’s one of those : What was first: chicken or egg.

Also, about passion and business.
I paint. I used to paint a lot. I also come from a weird, lovely, passive country Poland. I could never make a living as a painter. I assume that even in US (I’m here since 2005) it might be hard to live off my passion that is painting.
So I started looking closer into design. Design is my passion too, and it’s more possible that I can make a living designing than painting.

That’s where the passion becomes “business-first”, even if it’s based on passion for painting.

Ok, I guess we’re all love to put out there the best pieces we can create and serve others by doing the Work.

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm

@patientpotter I never thought if it that way, but you’re right. People are always looking to be inspired. If you can inspire people, you’ll be alright financially.

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 10:49 pm

@MartaSpendowska I actually do believe that artists can make a living off their art by using web 2.0 tools (I wrote a post on this: http://puttylike.com/starving-artist-meet-web-2-0/). I’m actually working on a side project to teach artists how “not to starve”. Sort of taking off from where that post left off.. But yeah, side note.

Thanks for the comments. :)

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Emilie July 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm

@MartaSpendowska

I actually do believe that artists can make a living off their art by using web 2.0 tools (I wrote a post on this: http://puttylike.com/starving-artist-meet-web-2-0/ ) I’m actually working on a side project to teach artists how “not to starve”. Sort of taking off from where that post left off.. But yeah, side note.

Thanks for the comments. :)

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yTravelBlog July 8, 2011 at 2:58 am

Love this post and agree 100%. I am also staying up till all hours of the morning sacrificing a lot for my passion and I never once regret it, I love it. As Trump always says “Love what you do!” That is the number one reason for success and turning massive rewards. Just look at musicians and sports people as examples they love what they do and they get richly rewarded.

My passion is travel, and I have been living and travelling the world for 14 years. i stopped for a brief period and my life went downhill because I was no longer doing what I loved. I always dreamed the ideal job would be working for National Geographic or host of a travel show, because you would get paid to travel. I never dreamed in a million years I could create my own way of getting paid to travel. For the last year my husband and I have built our travel blog up to be one of the best with a large following. I now get regular free press trips that involve travel and am working in sponsorship with major brands. We are just growing and growing. It is so exciting. But it all came from living my passion and working my ARSE off!!

The rewards are there if you believe and you just keep moving forward

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Emilie July 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

@yTravelBlog

Wow, that’s amazing! Good for you. You touched on another really important point which is that you don’t need to apply to be “chosen”. You don’t need the big industry’s approval. You just “choose yourself” and then build something. It’s amazing how many people are waiting for permission to follow their passions. The key is to just start and then the opportunities come.

Thanks for the comment!

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HolliMargell July 9, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I don’t know how you do it, but here is a perfectly timed post! I was just talking to my man, Casey, about perspective and expectations shaping how we perceive our abilities. I have found myself thinking bigger, actually believing in my ability to help people and share my passions.

Just starting a blog as scary. Now that I have developed a level of confidence and focus, it feels possible to go further and create a more defined site honing in on my passions. Thanks to you, I have clarity. This post just adds to that. So, although it’s taking me a long time (relatively) to get my new site launched, I am enjoying the process.

From just the past 6 months, I can honestly say that folks need to just start doing “it” whatever their passion is and keep moving forward. It’s fun to see how far my perspective and possibilities have opened.

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Emilie July 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

@HolliMargell I remember when you started your first blog. And I’ve also noticed how your confidence has grown. It’s amazing how something feels terrifying at first and then you do it and adjust, and it’s not so bad… And of course, that next step feels scary too, but this time you’re a little more prepared to take the leap. Every accomplishment builds on the last and you start gaining momentum. But yes, you’re absolutely right. Just starting (even if it’s starting small) is so important!

I’m really looking forward to the launch of your new site. I think you have so much wisdom to share and I also think that your perspective and voice will really resonate with people. I know you’re going to build something wonderful. :)

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Sal_Greco July 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

@Emilie @Sal_Greco Hey, thanks Emilie!!! And.. of COURSE I know Srini lol…. He made the jump move ahead of me, that is my next step. Once business is a little more automated, instead of taking trips, I will turn life into a BIG trip…. Full time traveling “Surftrepreneur”!!!

See you around!

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Ken Wert July 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

I always like to think of the famous quote by Thomas Edison, “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”

It is so true that success requires all of us. That’s true, though, no matter what we do. Successfully building a deeply rewarding relationship and happy marriage, successfully raising kids who are motivated, happy and loving, or successfully building a blog that provides others with hope and direction and answers to deep abiding questions about life and choices and happiness.

Thanks for the timely reminder, Emilie!

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Emilie July 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm

@Ken Wert Absolutely. And it’s that much easier to put in the 90% when you have passion to back it up.

Thanks Ken!

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Nikoya July 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

Passion may be the inner fuel that flows, but what is the substance that actually holds the bigger picture intact? We can work our asses off on something that we ultimately love, but like you hinted at, if you do not believe in yourself, you might end up working hard for something to fail. I think passion is a vital ingredient of the fuel because it births persistence.

Without persistence you give up.

But if you do not do your practical research and apply your time wisely, you passion may be left alone for only you to enjoy..

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MartaSpendowska July 12, 2011 at 11:03 am

@Emilie @MartaSpendowska That’s great! Loving your writing style + this post you’re referring to. Thanks Emilie—you definitely rock!

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Naomi February 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thanks for this inspiring post Emilie.
I finally started my blog to combine some passions of mine. Kitesurfing. Living abroad. Travel Hack. Personal development. I couldn’t pick one to concentrate on, so we shall see where the blog will take me this year. Luckily my bills are paid through teaching kiteboarding but I am thinking of a new project to bring kitesurfing to the 2.0 world. I may check out your new product for artists. Does that apply to sports?

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