"You’ve got to find what you love,” the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
Steve Jobs, Former Apple CEO & Co-Founder
Mr. Jobs was one of the few business leaders in the world who truly understood how essential passion is to becoming successful.
I suspect that at some early point in his career, Mr. Jobs personally experienced the power of passion and it radically changed how he worked.
As a mid-life professional (worker age 50+), you've probably spent a large portion of your life doing work you weren’t passionate about.
However, as you enter the second half of your life you should be evaluating who you are and what you do versus who you want to be and what you want to do over the next half of your life.
An essential part to doing that is to - determine what you're passion about and then position yourself to pursue it.
For many mid-life professionals that means they'll look to become entrepreneurs and create new exciting businesses.
Pursuing your passion through creating a business can be transformative but you need to understand four things about passion -
1. PASSION STARTS WITH AN "ELEVATED INTEREST"
I've been a career educator for over 20 years, and in that time I've had countless conversations with professionals of various backgrounds around the concept of passion. During these discussions I would frequently hear individuals that claimed that they didn't have passion for anything.
Often, I found that these people tended to think too deeply about the meaning of passion (particularly as it pertained to their career choices). They tended to believe that a passion had to be something that they absolutely loved to do.
Unfortunately, for many people its hard for them to identify something that they feel that strongly about relating to work.
In order to get people to think more broadly about their passions I reframed the question from - what is your passion? to - what interests do you have?
This question generated more energy from respondents and that usually lead to many more conversations.
As I reflected on those conversations, it became clear that everyone has at least one interest (most have multiple interests). And that they were very eager to talk about them but they were reluctant to classify them as passions (it seemed that the word passion has a somewhat negative connotation).
This observation led me to reexamine how we think of passion and I've come to believe that passion begins as an interest.
The more we explore the interest the greater the potential for the fondness for it to grow in our minds and hearts. I call this phenomena an elevated interest - and it's defined below
An elevated interest is something that you spend a noticeable amount of time (5+ hours per week) thinking about or participating in.
Elevated interest is the closest concept to a passion without calling it a passion. It's a way to get identify what drives you without having to decide if it's a passion or not.
If you don't think that you have a passion - explore your interests there are likely elements within them that can be developed into a passion.
2. PASSION IS NATURAL BUT IT MUST BE NURTURED
One of the key things that separates humans from other living creatures is our passions and the ability to rationalize them.
In other words, we are able to do more with our desires than fulfill basic biological needs. Whereas non-human creatures are primarily focused on the desire to survive and procreate - we humans are gifted with more advanced desires such as increasing our knowledge, pursuing opportunities for personal and professional growth and seeking meaning and purpose in our lives.
For some of us our passions are clear, we know exactly what we want - but may not how to go about getting it.
For others, their passions are less clear. They may be buried under a layer of self doubt or fear. Perhaps they've never given themselves the permission to explore an interest that could become a passion.
Regardless of whether you know your passion or you must work to find it - it must be developed.
You can start by creating a vision for the next 5 to 10 years of your life, connecting with people you admire that model the life you'd like to live and assessing and fixing the things that are preventing you from living your best life.
3. PASSION INDUCES ENERGY AND MOMENTUM
Passion elicits emotional energy that translates into physical action which builds momentum towards accomplishing our goals.
Consider a time when you had strong desire for something (i.e., a job at a high profile company, attend a prestigious school/program, become an elite athlete, etc.)
Your pursuit of the goal creates a natural energy that propels you toward it. You intuitively work longer and harder while often not realizing that you’re doing so.
Futurist John Hagel describes how passion compels us -
It's the process by which people get in touch with their true loves in life and fearlessly pursue them, motivated by the opportunities and spaces for development, which often require that they ignore any rules that get in their way of achieving that potential
Most people think that passion is triggered through emotion and that’s mostly true. However passion also has a physiological element that influences our neurology (brain/nervous system).
This is neurological influence is most often experienced through a heightened state of human consciousness and performance triggered by up to six different neurotransmitters—norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, anandamide, and oxytocin— in varying sequences and concentrations.
Pursuing passion gives us access to these neurotransmitters which enhance our focus, endurance and productivity.
4. PURSUING PASSION REQUIRES COURAGE AND COMMITMENT
Unless you are one of the few lucky people on the planet where your passion and your work are one in the same - you'll likely have to make some uncomfortable changes in order to go after your passion.
The most difficult and uncomfortable of those changes will be the ability to overcome....yourself. It's the skill that enables you to move beyond the self-doubt that's naturally ingrained in all of us.
Author Steven Pressfield calls it the Resistance and he defines it as -
Self-sabotage, procrastination, fear, arrogance, self-doubt is inside you. No one inflicts it on you from outside. You bring it with you from birth.
Pursuing your passion is greatly dependent on your ability to overcome the Resistance - as it's a powerful force that aims to stop you from getting what you really want.
It can only be overcome through courage and commitment -
As Steve Jobs once said - "the only way to do great work is to love what you do".
Understanding and pursuing your passion gives you the opportunity to do great work - and it may just be the best thing you ever do for your career.