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Finding your passion is no trivial matter. The problem seems to split everyone into two groups: Either you have no idea what you’re passionate about, or you have so many things you love you’re overwhelmed with possible options!

The difficulty comes down to thinking we might be passionate about something when really we just like the IDEA of something. When it comes to the act of DOING it, we often find that we don’t enjoy the process.

Because passion is found in the doing, exploration is required for discovery. But exploration takes effort and time. Where can you afford to invest time when you don’t know if things will pan out?

That’s what this episode is about: discovering the intersection of your categorical interests. I’m going to throw out a number of questions to help you uncover this and my hope is that one or two of them combined may unlock something for you.

Show Notes
  • Finding Your Passion vs. Finding Passion In What You Do
  • 01:10 Ben: “I’m struggling with the tension between the idea of starting with a passion and finding passion in what you’re doing. I don’t know if there’s much difference between the two.”
  • 02:00 Sean: It is kind of a nuance, but I think the reason saying “Find fulfillment in whatever you’re doing now,” isn’t always helpful is because sometimes people are just in a terrible job that they hate. It’s like saying “Well, at least you have your favorite stapler.”
  • 02:49 When I say find your “passion,” a lot of people think I mean find something that you think would be cool or fun: “Yeah, I could be passionate about that.” But it’s not just the idea of it. It’s the act of doing it.
  • It can’t just be the IDEA of this thing. You have to love the act of DOING it. Finding that takes time. It takes discovery. You have to pick something and DO it for a while.

  • 03:11 This thing has to be something that when you’re in the middle of the act of doing it, you love that process.
  • 03:19 You’re fulfilled in the doing. Not just the idea of being a best-selling author, or an accomplished musician, but the act of waking up early and writing every day; the playing of the piano over and over to get that one part just right.
  • 03:35 A lot of people don’t know what their passion is because they haven’t done it enough. You have to do it for a while to be able to know if it’s something that you’re passionate about.
  • 06:58 Here’s where people get stuck: They say “I don’t know which thing to pursue to even discover my passion. How do I find what I’m passionate about?”
  • 07:26 Let’s dive into some questions to help spur some discovery. Sure, a lot of these may sound cliché, but we’re going to go a little deeper than surface level. The point is to get you thinking.
  • What did you like as a kid?
  • 07:38 A lot of people dismiss this. They say “That’s a silly question. There’s a lot of things you can find fulfillment in later on in your adult life that you couldn’t have understood when you were a kid.”
  • 07:55 This is true, but I would encourage you to really look at the simplified version of what you liked to do when you were a kid. A categorical interest—not, “I liked playing with Playdough.”
  • 08:11 Ben: “For example, as a kid I liked putting on theatrical productions. Even today, this podcast is a form of performance. I also enjoy being on stage with my band.”
  • 09:51 Sean: For me, when I was 13, I got an eBay account. I was buying and selling PDAs (Palm Pilots and Sony Cliés). I was repairing screens, keyboards, and hinges. I was also learning. I was learning to teach myself. Whenever new devices would come out, I would sell my old ones at a profit and be able to buy the new ones and break even.
  • 11:09 I hardly ever think back that far, but that was a precursor to starting my computer repair business. I always loved business and learning and figuring things out. I was also very meticulous. My homework and notes were very meticulous: both in design and typography (before I even knew about the word “typography”).
  • 11:48 All of that is foreshadowing of what I do now. I prepare a lot and put a lot into preparing outlines for this show and formatting show notes.
  • 12:02 Don’t dismiss something because it was a “kid” thing:
    • What did you dream about?
    • What did you aspire to?
    • What are the things you actually did?
    • What is the simplified version of that?
  • Look to the overlap of your two primary categories of interest
  • 12:24 What are you interested in? What are your two primary categorical interests? Look to the intersection of the two biggest interests you have.
    • Who do you follow on Twitter?
    • What channels are you subscribed to on YouTube?
    • What boards do you have on Pinterest?
  • 12:53 Look to the intersection of the two biggest interests you have.
  • What are you about in a sentence?
  • 14:50 This is a hard one. Treat it as an exercise. You’re going to have to think about it.
  • 15:07 I went to a meetup recently and a guy asked me what I did. I thought, “Oh boy, this is complicated…” I asked him how much time he had and he said he had all day, so I took 20 minutes to explain everything. He said it was a great story. I asked him how he would explain my story to someone else if they asked him. He said, “It sounds like you’ve experienced success in client work, products, and teaching and now you want to help others do the same.” Wow, such clarity! Sometimes it helps to tell a friend your story and ask them to repeat back what they heard. They won’t have as many emotions tied up in it as you do and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is for them to simplify what feels complicated to you.
  • 16:37 Ben: “What would you say to the notion of letting ‘your sentence’ be more general as opposed to being specific?”
  • 17:01 Sean: I like more general. For me, mine is: Helping people make a living with what they’re passionate about. That’s fairly general, but that way I’m not too limited in how I go about it. I can accomplish that mission in a lot of different ways:
    • Podcasting
    • Newsletters
    • Blogs
    • Consulting
    • The Community
    • Talking with people on the forums
    • Talking with people in the chat
    • Talking with people on the phone
    • Meeting people in person
    • Putting out courses
  • 17:12 It’s broad enough that I don’t think it’s something I’m ever going to get burnt out on. I can see that being something I’m ok with dedicating my life’s purpose to. Now, I’m not saying your sentence is going to be something that’s easy to come up with, but it will get easier as you do more things.
  • 17:55 Don’t distill it down to a job title—a job title isn’t a purpose, it’s just a position. Make it something a little simpler and more general. This can be used as a tool: “How does this help me weed out the things that I THINK I might be passionate about, but in reality don’t align with my purpose?”
  • 19:11 Ben: “How permanent should you regard your sentence? Should it be subject to change? I think that’s part of the fear that some people feel: that they’re going to trap themselves in something they don’t want to stay in indefinitely.”
  • 19:37 Sean: I do think it can be changed. it’s ok to let yourself change it. I wouldn’t let yourself worry about that. It’s more of a tool—it’s not to trap you—it’s to help you narrow your focus. It’s to help you focus on what you really want to do and what you really want to accomplish instead of just meandering through life.
  • What do you do when you procrastinate?
  • 21:20 I’m not talking about video games or whatever your time-wasters are. A lot of times when we need to be productive, the things that we distract ourselves with are similarly productive, they’re just not what we’re supposed to be doing right now. We try to trick ourselves into thinking we’re still being productive. I’m talking about those things: the subjects of Productive Procrastination.
  • What would you do regardless of being paid?
  • 25:31 A lot of people say, “Oh, yeah, I like my job,” and they tell you all the good things about it. And I say, “Ok so if you stopped getting paid would you go in for free tomorrow?”
  • 26:25 What could you do just for the sake of doing it, not be paid, and still be happy?
  • WORST passion-discovering question to ask:

    “If I could do one thing for the rest of my life, what would it be?”

  • 29:36 That does not help anyone! If you end up loving something so much you do it for the rest of your life, that’s awesome. It is the wrong question to ask in the beginning. People don’t know—that’s why it’s a scary thing! It’s what keeps people from pursuing something: “What if I pick the wrong thing? If this has to be the thing that I do for the rest of my life, I can’t pick that! I don’t want to pick the wrong thing and be screwed for the rest of my life!” That’s why it’s a terrible question.
  • 30:12 You can’t love the IDEA of this thing, you have to love the act of DOING it. That’s something you only discover in time. That’s why we have The Overlap Technique. You have the day job to support this period of exploration. Exploration period: the time where you do this thing that you THINK you’re passionate about to see if you like the act of DOING it. This is the step that’s missing. This is the step that I don’t see with people telling you to pursue your passion. This is why you hear stories of people who quit their job to pursue their passion and end up hating it, and getting burnt out, and thinking of it as a “job.”
  • You have to protect the passion. You have to guard the passion.

    You can’t just squeeze every drop of money out of it so you can pay your bills out of Scarcity Mindset.

  • 31:05 You have to have a day job to protect the passion from compromise. Your day job has to cover 100% of your expenses.
  • 31:29 If you get your hours cut, or your job goes down to part time, don’t substitute your passion to make up the difference. Can it work? Could you be successful doing that? Yes. It is possible. But 95% of people who try to do it this way will end up killing the passion. Because it’s monetizing too early.
  • 32:10 If your day job gets ramped down to 20 hours, you have to find something else to make up the difference. You cannot afford to compromise the passion. You’re risking the love for this thing when you do that. It can’t be something that you use to pay bills until you’re ready. It has to be guarded. The way you guard it is The Overlap Technique: cover your bills, do this thing on the side, grow it organically, and do it for the sake of the passion not for the money.
  • 32:53 You can’t have a long game mindset when you’re not giving the passion its space. You need to be in a place where you can think long term. That means giving value without regard for immediate monetization. You won’t be in that kind of a place when you’re so focused on taking anything you can get to pay bills.
  • 37:16 You have to ask yourself:
  • Do I love this thing enough to not do it right now or to pursue something else in the mean time so I don’t kill the passion later?

  • 37:49 Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for burnout and you’re going to end up hating this thing. Then what a lot of people end up doing is blaming outside circumstances:
    • “I’ve just had such terrible clients.”
    • “I never caught my lucky break.”
    • “I didn’t get the work. It just never came in.”
  • 38:06 It’s your responsibility. That’s the hard truth no one wants to hear, but it is your responsibility. Do you love this thing enough to not do it right now so you can get yourself in a position to support it in the right way?
  • One thing leads to the next
  • 38:30 The paralysis of which thing to pursue—you say you have a bunch of things you say you’re interested in:
    • I like music
    • I like design
    • I like illustration
    • I like lettering
    • I like engineering
    • I like videography
    • I like podcasting
    • I like making websites
    • I don’t know what to do.
  • 38:54 People see it as 360° of options and if they pick the wrong one then they’re heading in the wrong direction. But it’s not really 360° of options, it’s more like a starting line with a bunch of arrows pointing forward. You’re going to find that one thing leads to the next.
  • Pick one and start
  • 41:51 Of all the things that you’re not sure which you should go with—just pick one. If you can’t pick one, write them down on slips of paper and pull one from a hat. If that scares you, ask your wife/husband to pick one for you. If they pick one and you go, “Oh, not THAT one!” then go with another one! The point is to find what you really want to do. You’re going to find out whether it’s something that you like as you do it. It’s ok if you find out that you don’t like it as much as you thought you would: one thing leads to the next.
  • 43:21 Ben: “The problem is I’ve been talking too much about what I’m GOING to do. I need to stop. I need to DO some things. I need to let myself become identified with something rather than try to identify something up front and living into that identification.”
  • Don’t be discouraged if you’re not there yet.
  • 45:25 The things you’re learning now at your current job are things that you WILL apply in the future. It’s not a waste. It’s just a step in the path.
  • 49:24 There’s the 10,000 hour concept that says in order to master something, it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. But there’s also something to be said for shared 10,000 hours. So much of what you do and learn is valuable outside of that one pursuit. Those skills don’t just live in a bubble, they can be applied to other things. What you learn in one area can be applicable in another and give you a head start on those hours. You don’t have to start from scratch every time.
  • 51:59 I would say don’t focus so much on what is “THE thing” or “THE destination.” Instead of “What is the one thing I’ll do for the rest of my life,” focus on:
    • What am I passionate about right now?
    • What is the next thing?
    • What should I be focusing on right now?
  • 52:23 Get your bills taken care of, then just pick one and go with it.
  • Conclusion
  • 54:33 Consolidated discovery questions:
    • What did you like as a kid?
      • Not super-specifically, but distilled down to a simple idea.
    • What are you about in a sentence?
      • This is an exercise.
    • What do you do when you procrastinate?
      • Not video games, but the kind of work you do when you want to trick yourself into feeling productive.
    • What would you do regardless of being paid?
      • If you stopped getting paid would you go in for free tomorrow?
    • Look at the overlap of your two primary categories of interest
      • Evaluate the things that you subscribe to.
    • You can’t just love the IDEA of this thing.
      • You have to love the act of DOING it.
    • One thing leads to the next.
      • If you don’t know, you have to DO.
    • Don’t be discouraged if you’re not there yet.
      • This is not a place of arrival you have to define before you take the first step. Just take the next step.