“Do what you love, and the money will follow.”
I heard those words time and time again from my mother growing up. In a way, they’re an illustration of her unwavering support for my dreams and ambitions, and that’s one aspect of my upbringing for which I’m eternally grateful. Years later, I put those words to work and turned what I loved most into my livelihood.
While it’s true that my work life did, in many ways, become easier after being built on my passion, this path presented just as many downsides.
The career I had chosen was design. From the time I was a youngster, and all the way through my middle and high school days, I loved to draw and to create. Notebooks, napkins, whiteboards, sneakers… you name it.
If it could hold ink, I would adorn every inch of it with an illustration from the depths of my imagination.
Naturally, once I learned that there were viable professions which could facilitate a lifetime of getting paid to create, I branded this career path as my destiny. I tailored my high school classes to prepare for art school, I attended said art school, and a short four years later, I graduated and was thrust into the professional world.
The first months of my career were enjoyable and exciting, but also stressful as I learned the ropes of being a commercial designer. But I was good at it, and I did well.
But after a few years in the industry, the activity I once loved began to wear on me. You see, nothing fundamentally changed about what I was doing, but the context did.
My creativity became quantifiable—by salary, by rate, by the respect I was shown… you name it. It’s difficult to be told by others what your passion is worth; sometimes it’s crushing. And when the rent is due, and your “passion” is just barely getting you there, it becomes downright loathsome.
What I began to realize as I observed the career progression of my peers is that an accountant who plays the guitar on the side will continue to love the guitar. Meanwhile, a lover of a guitar who makes the instrument their livelihood could grow to feel the same way I felt towards design.
There was a period of time during which I was convinced I was done with design. The industry had worn me down and I was approaching burn out.
Did I completely exercise it from my life? Not at all. But I did make some changes, practically and mentally to rediscover my passion for creating, and below, I’ve listed a few of those safeguards for all of you who need them.
I still maintain that putting one’s passion at the center of their life is a recipe for success, just make sure you’re thinking about these tips while doing so.
1. Diversify What Makes You Happy
Before transforming your passion into your profession, make sure that you have additional hobbies and interests to fall back on. For me, when art and design became my primary source of income, I took up cooking and writing on the side. Both were creative by nature, and gave me outlets through which to express myself for the times when design was playing a less than satisfactory role in my life.
Whatever passion you decide to build you career upon, make sure it’s not your only egg in the basket.
2. Don’t Let Money Define Your Self-Value
Your passion and what makes you happy is the essence of you. When turning that activity into a profession, it is going to be quantified.
Maybe (and hopefully) you’ll be wildly successful going down whichever path you choose. However, the early days of pursuing your passion may not be met with the most desirable fiscal rewards. Don’t fall into the trap of equating your occupation solely to money.
Focus on being the best, focus on providing value, and fall back on your other passions when needed.
3. Environment is Everything
Your workspace and the people with whom you work will dramatically impact your quality of existence. If you find yourself carrying out your passion in a traditional office setting, make sure that your coworkers demonstrate a genuine appreciation for what you do. A general consensus that your trade is superfluous will rapidly meld it’s way into your own perception.
If you’re self-employed, make sure that your clients or customers demonstrate a similar appreciation. Don’t let third parties control your passion, as your opinion of it will deteriorate quite rapidly.
4. Find New Ways To Grow
Stagnation is the enemy of passion. Don’t choose an environment that restricts your ability to grow. Find an outlet where you continue to learn and explore the furthest reaches of your passion. If you be to feel suffocated under tight parameters and regulations, then it may be time to move on.
5. Take On Side Projects
You don’t need to find entirely separate interests as hobbies. Just make sure that you take on plenty of side projects that contrast your work tasks. Choose projects that are fun, that allow you unwind, and leave you with complete and total freedom to explore.
Don’t be afraid to put passion at the center of your life. Passion is the path to happiness. Just make sure you’re able to maintain that fire within for years and years to come.