The truth about following your passion

Figuring out what motivates you isn’t enough. True passion requires action.
The truth about following your passion

It’s all too easy for financial managers — and other professionals — to get stuck in a rut. Get up, go to work, same old routine. And when that happens, colleagues and friends may offer advice passed down for years: “Follow your passion.”

But is following your passion realistic? You love scuba diving or cooking or think you want to start your own company dedicated to helping a specific demographic or industry. How can that translate into a new job at your company — or even into a completely new career? In other words, few people know what to do next when told, “Follow your passion.”

“If you are spending time dithering about your passion, you are procrastinating and wasting time,” said Terri Trespicio, a New York-based speaker, branding consultant, and creator of the Tapped to Speak programme. Three years ago, inspired by a career change of her own, Trespicio gave the talk, “Stop Searching for Your Passion,”at the TEDx conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in the US.

“We continue to use passion as the yardstick to judge everything by, instead of seeing passion for what it really is: the fire that ignites when you start rubbing sticks together,” she said in her talk.

So how do you start that fire? If you do something that invigorates you, sparks creativity, and you put in more thought, time, and energy into that “thing”, you are in essence developing your passion. If you sit back and wait and don’t take action, then you may continue to be stuck in a rut.

“To live life with blinders on, it’s unlikely you will ever find what you were truly meant to do in this lifetime,” noted Eli Bohemond, career coach at London-based SEVEN Career Coaching. Bohemond should know: He previously worked as a management consultant and accountant until he started to identify those things at work that got him keyed up: coaching younger workers, attending recruiting fairs, and helping others find direction.

Eventually, after much hard work over a five-year span, he turned that passion into a coaching career. People, he said, “aren’t meant to be machines put on autopilot”, but this is the risk if they do not identify and develop their passions.

Three experts offer the following tips for developing your passion:

Recognise your passion. First, figure out what excites and motivates you and what doesn’t. “Identify what gives you energy, both professionally and personally,” Bohemond said. “Ask yourself: What do I enjoy and do well that also gives me a sense of pride?”

Serve others. True career passion comes from helping others. Ask yourself what problem you would like to solve and what you can do that provides value. Learn about people’s problems, especially those who come to you regularly for help, and try to ascertain how your passion can evolve into something that solves their problem. “Listen and understand what they care about,” said Joshua Spodek, executive coach and author of the book Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow. “It’s serving others so much that they want to reward you for your help.”

Ask for help. Whether it’s a friend, colleague, or career coach, you’ll likely need someone to help you stay on track. “Get an accountability partner and set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly targets for yourself,” Bohemond advised.

Take action. Once you identify your passion, take a courageous leap. Actively develop it and practise, practise, practise. If your passion is public speaking, alert your professional peers, research organisations or events where you may like to present, and begin making contacts. If your passion is photography, sign up for a photography course, share your interest with friends and colleagues, and volunteer to be the photographer at work or networking events. All of these can help build your portfolio, Bohemond said.

Also, when you are developing your passion, you may realise you are more enthused about something else. Find your strengths through trial and error. “Don’t be afraid to start over,” he added. Trespicio also noted: “Gradually outsource the things you don’t like so you can spend time on the things you are good at.”

Be patient and work hard. Once you’ve put your passion into practice, don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Be prepared to spend a lot of time — and that often means years — to become a specialist in what motivates you.

Don’t quit. While you may try and fail at your endeavour, it’s important to try again. “Resilience is a main key to developing a career in your passion area,” Bohemond said.

Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.