Follow Your Passion, Or Not

We have heard this sage advice all our lives, but is it the right thing to do? According to Julie Wuench and researchers at Stanford University, following your passion can be detrimental to your success. When you stop and think about it, most everyone will eventually come to the same conclusion. Take me for example. My freshman year in high school was a good athletics year for me. I was complimented on both my basketball and football skills. Expectations were high about the kind of athlete I could become in a couple years. Then, I stopped growing. At 5’ 6” and 135 pounds senior year, there was no future in either of those sports for me no matter how much passion I displayed.

A fresh look at pursuing one’s passion is in no way limited to sports. Consider that senior year arrives, and someone has not developed a passion for anything they have seen or done. What then do they pursue? There is also the distinct possibility that someone’s passion will change as they are exposed to a wider variety of information and experiences. I witnessed this firsthand when a young lady who had applied to six colleges with a designated major in animation was first exposed to economics in the spring of her senior year. She fell in love with the subject and changed her major during summer orientation at the college she selected.

There is also a good chance that an individual has no skills in the area they are passionate about. A young person that can build amazing structures with Lego or other erector sets but can barely squeak by without failing Algebra may want to consider a career other than engineering. Of course, there are also things that capture the imagination of teens all the time that do not lend themselves to becoming a viable career. Also, the expense tied to pursuing a passion may put it out of reach for any but the very wealthy.

My approach to helping decide on a career area is to ask lots of questions. The first is usually, “what do you like to do?” Seldom does this line of questions fail to hit upon something interesting. Just remember that each of us is an individual and what excites one person may bore another to tears. Access to a wide variety of experiences and information will make the answer to the question, “what do you want to do for a living” much easier to answer.

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