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Hey, you’re good at a bunch of things. There are a number of pursuits you enjoy and really like doing. There are even more things you would love to do if you could.
Does pursuing just one of those passions give you a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction? Do you feel like no matter which passion you’re feeding, the others get jealous?
If you’re good at multiple things, not doing one almost feels like a waste of talent. You feel like you owe it to yourself to pursue them all.
In this episode, we talk about whether it’s possible to have multiple passions (spoiler: it is, and you’re normal for having them), the way you know if you truly are passionate about one of them, and whether or not you should be diversifying your time investment.
Each fire pit represents one of your passions. It’s tempting to rush from pit to pit to stoke the embers. But this multitasking and split focus ensures you’ll never build up any one of the fires to a roaring blaze that can be seen for miles around.
We talk about why it’s better not to stoke all the embers now so they have the opportunity to become bon fires later.
- Multiple Passions
- 06:28 Sean: It sounds like the day job is actually something he secretly wishes was “the thing.” It sounds like he’s almost hoping that the day job is the “passion” that makes it.
- 07:59 I’m concerned that the day job is actually what he wants to do and he’s just fitting it into the structure. Does that make sense?
- 08:13 Ben: “Yeah, that makes sense. A question that comes to my mind is ‘How do you define passion?’ Because I’m not sure if I really know what is and isn’t a passion. A lot of that has to do with the fact that many of the things that I would say I’m passionate about are tied up in the need to make an income. It seems like it’s really difficult to even answer that question when he’s got money already tied to that activity.”
- 08:59 Sean: Some people struggle with finding their passion. Others feel like they have multiple passions and they need to pick one. In both cases, it’s the Idea of Something vs. The Act of Doing It.
- 09:34 That has to be through discovery. That’s how I define passion. If you’re passionate about something, that means you’ve done it for a while and you actually enjoy the process of it—being in the thick of it, doing the thing.
- 09:49 Would you say that that’s a workable definition we can use?
- 09:54 Ben: “Yeah, I think so. It’s still difficult for me to let that live in the place of making an income. I almost feel like I want the definition of the passion to be pure—like you can’t call it a passion if you’re making money off of it right now.”
- 10:21 Sean: It has to be separate from the money-making aspect because it shouldn’t matter whether you make money from something or you don’t, you should still be able to be passionate about something regardless. That’s why I like the definition being: “Enjoying the act of doing something.” Whether there are proceeds from that doesn’t really matter. It wouldn’t have an effect on whether something could be a passion.
- 10:49 Ben: “That makes sense.”
- 10:50 Sean: The danger comes when you start out trying to immediately monetize something that you think you like doing. When you prematurely make this the thing that supports you, you run the risk of doing things that you shouldn’t do like compromising on the passion. This leads to eventually burning out on the passion and that’s not a good thing.
- 11:16 Ben: “I’ve experienced that before with compromise and professionalism and dealing with “bad clients.” I don’t know if there’s anything that steals my passion more than trying to do something that I would otherwise enjoy doing for a client who isn’t submitted to a professional process.
- 11:44 “It’s an awful feeling being in the middle of it. I’ve had it get to where I’m saying, ‘I’m done with doing this thing. I never want to do it again,’ because the bad experience is so fresh.
- 12:06 “But when you initially take the need for compensation out of the equation and you’re really just doing it because you enjoy it, you don’t put yourself in that compromising situation. You’re not nearly as in danger.”
- 12:30 Sean: I like how Sarah defines passion in the chat room:
- “Passion is an idea which is totally separate from money. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever make money from it, but at first it’s not the purpose of the passion. You don’t pick your passion out of things that supposedly make money.”
- 12:47 Ben: “I feel like the money thing complicates the question so much. That’s not to say you can’t make money doing something, but initially it seems like it complicates things when you bring money into the equation.”
- 13:26 Sean: I agree. When money is brought in prematurely, it dirties things up. You haven’t given the passion time to grow organically or flourish on its own in a safe environment, so it can’t mature. It can’t become whatever it could truly become when you are imposing monetary requirements on it.
- 13:52 That’s why I always say you have to protect the passion. All of this is aside from money—it’s aside from monetizing. That’s why people fear turning their passion into something that benefits them in any way other than pure enjoyment. They’re afraid to make money because that is so commonly associated with burning out on the passion.
- 14:42 The assumption is if you start doing it for work, it’s going to turn into a job and you’re going to hate it. So they say, “I’m never going to do anything work-related with this ever!” This comes from the fact that so many people start with the money. They get right into that Scarcity Mindset because they say “I love this thing, so I’ve got to make money with it!” They don’t overlap, they don’t have the day job foundation, and then they kill the passion.
- 15:18 Ben: “That’s why it’s so important to start with your values, maintain them, and don’t monetize until you can work very comfortably within your values. If you start with compromise, you’re going to continue to compromise. Start with your values and keep working with your values for as long as it takes. Maybe it means that it takes you two years before your work is so well-recognized that people are willing to follow your process and adhere to your values.”
- The Right Kind of Energy
- 17:36 Sean: The day job has to be in a different industry from your passion.
- “How important is this?”
- “Does it really matter?”
- “How different does the industry have to be?”
- 18:12 Here’s how you know: if you come home from your day job absolutely bursting at the seams with energy for pursuing what you’re passionate about, then you know that your day job is far enough removed.
- The right day job will charge you for your passion. The wrong one will drain you and deplete the right kind of energy you need.
- 18:37 It’s the test when you get home: are you running in the door super excited to finally get to the real work that you love to do? Or are you drained and depleted of the right kind of energy? If you are, your day job is using the kind of energy that you need for your passion. That’s what we’re trying to protect against.
- Can You Have Multiple Passions?
- 19:33 Sean: Absolutely yes—you can have multiple passions. You’re not weird, you’re not crazy, you’re not abnormal. I would say you are more than normal. This is very, very common. All of us struggle with this. We have multiple things that we’re passionate about. We love to do many things. There’s a common fear of “wasted talent.” If you’re not doing something you’re good at, it feels like wasted talent. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of things that you could do, I just want you to know that it’s 100% normal. We all struggle with it.
- 21:30 The problem is: Are you screwed if you have multiple passions?
- 21:33 Ben: “And the answer is no.”
- 21:34 Sean: The answer is no because we all have multiple passions. The real challenge is: Can you just go after all of them? The obvious answer is no, but I want to address the fears of that.
- 21:49 Ben: “That seems to be the conclusion that Hermes has come to: he can’t pursue both of those things. Both of those things can’t be his singular focus.”
- 24:05 Sean: Well, there’s a bit of muddying the waters going on because I think in a way he almost is trying to pursue both but just putting labels on them. He loves doing these two things to very slightly differing degrees and he’s calling one of them his day job because it makes money, and he’s calling another his passion. He also mentioned in his email that the other can make money as well. So what he has is two things that can make money that he loves to do. He’s concerned that they both use the same kind of energy. He’s calling one his day job and calling one his passion and I think the reality he’s facing is he realizes he can only invest in one or the other.
- The Danger of You Day Job Being Your Passion
- 24:17 Sean: You have to choose: are you trying to turn your day job into your ideal job? Or you do want to be supported from your passion?
- 24:27 Here’s the danger: If you spend the same kind of energy at your day job, you become more invested even though the freedom is not there. The day job is the wrong environment for growing your passion organically. Don’t do this unless you want to be stuck in a day job forever.
- 24:50 The worst part is, even when you recognize it, you’ll still be paralyzed because of Golden Handcuffs. You’re going to do well wherever you invest. If you invest everything in your day job, you’re going to do well there! That means you’re going to be in a good place money-wise. It’s going to make it very hard to leave once you realize that your passion can’t grow organically here. You don’t have full freedom here. That’s what makes it really hard to leave—it’s where you’ve invested.
- 25:29 If you want to be able to have the freedom to:
- Do what you want to do
- Use your passion how you want to use it
- Turn down jobs that you don’t want
- Not work with people that you don’t want to work with
- Set your own hours
- You have to support your passion. That means limiting the investment you put into your day job. You need to cover your bills and that’s it. That is the goal of the day job—it’s a purely functional piece to this puzzle. You’re investing covering your bills. That is the function of the day job.
- 26:05 Anything you’re doing beyond that is investing in the wrong place. Of course you should give 110%. Go the extra mile. Be a good employee. I’m not saying shirk your responsibilities, but you can’t over invest in the day job or that is where you’re going to be mentally and passion-wise.
- 26:26 Ben: “I like what you said just now about not over-investing in the day job. Do a good job and be a good employee—meet the requirements of that job—but don’t invest any more than is necessary to meet those requirements. Allow the rest of your investment to go toward building your passion.
- Does Diversification of Investment Apply to Passions?
- 27:05 Ben: “I don’t know if we want to go down this road but in terms of investment, we’re often told to diversify our portfolio and to put money in a lot of different places. Is it because it’s safest or because it’s most effective and does that apply to passions like it does investments?”
- 27:34 Sean: Diversified investments are definitely the safest. Whether it’s the most effective is debatable, but I get where you’re coming from. It seems like you don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket. If we’re thinking of passion in terms of investment that makes sense.
- 27:49 But if we’re going with the investment analogy, it’s important to look at what you should be investing in first. In a recent Late Nights episode with Matt in the Community, we talked about getting started with investing and the top 5 places you should invest.
- 28:16 The first thing you want to start investing in is yourself. Invest in your own business. If you have $10,000, invest in your own business. If you’ve got a few million dollars, sure, spread it out and invest in a few different places, but the first thing you want to invest in is your own business. Because guess what? When you put $10,000 into your own business, you already know that you’re motivated. You’re fully on board and this is your thing. You’re the one who has the drive and the passion to make something out of this. You’re going to turn that into 5-fold, 10-fold, even 20-fold way easier than throwing this money into the stock market.
- 28:58 So #1: Invest in yourself. Invest all of that money into one thing—yourself: your education, your business, your resources, your equipment, your tools, and your process. It’s a focused investment.
- 29:14 In the beginning, start with a focus on one thing and let that take you to the next thing (Related: e105 What if I’m Jack of All Trades and Master of None?). Eventually as you move from one thing to the next, you acquire skills, experience, and knowledge that will apply itself to the next thing that you do in ways that you can’t even foresee yet.
- 29:56 Through this journey of focusing on one thing and letting it take you to the next, you will build up this arsenal of skills. When you’re not going about this in a haphazard way but rather a focus on one thing at a time, you’re going to gradually have a bunch of skills.
- 30:16 You might initially think the investment analogy applies and that you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but there’s one crucial aspect in which it is not like the stock market where something can fail and then you’re screwed. Unlike the stock market where your money’s gone forever, when you fail here, you fail forward. You fail on to the next thing and you bring with you experiences and skills that you’ve acquired from “failing” at that thing.
- 30:39 Ben: “Yeah, I feel like there’s not really as much of a parallel here between investing in the stock market and investing in yourself as I was trying to make.
- 30:50 “On the subject of skills you acquire along the way, I think if I do focus on one thing at a time, even though I have multiple passions, and ignore my fear of leaving other stuff on the table, I will be more likely to get to those other things sooner. I’ll also be more equipped to do better with them than I would trying to do many things at once.
- 31:45 “Using you as an example, you were laser-focused on developing a single skill for a long time but because of the freedom that you achieved through your laser focus, you now are employing many different things that you’ve learned. They’re tools that you’re taking with you onto the next thing and you wouldn’t have had the freedom and resources to do all of the things that you’re doing now three years ago before you started really just focusing on one thing. You could have tried to do all of them but you wouldn’t have grown. You wouldn’t have been able to do all of those things as well as you do them today.”
- 360° Illusion
- 33:14 You often feel like you have 360° of options. You’re standing in the middle of the circle and all of your possibilities are in 360° around you—you can go in any direction. This is how a lot of people feel. They have all of these passions and they don’t know which one to pick. They all seem right, they all seem plausible, but they’re afraid that if they pick one they might pick the wrong one and they’ll be heading in the wrong direction.
- 33:48 But it’s really more like a starting line. Rather than a circle with 360° of possible directions, it’s more like a starting line with a bunch of arrows pointing forward. All you have to overcome is inertia. Starting. Getting past that starting line and picking any one of them. They all go forward.
- 34:12 The chance that you will do whatever you pick for the rest of your life is infinitesimally small. You can pretty much guarantee that no matter which one of the eight things you have in mind you pick, it won’t be the thing you do forever. So just pick one and go after it. Just try it out. You’re going to get things out of it that can be applied to the next thing you do. It’s not a loss. It’s not a failure. It’s not the wrong direction. It’s progress.
- Embrace the Seasons
- 34:55 This ties into the whole idea of seasons. Right now you may be in a season that you don’t particularly enjoy. But you have no idea how the things you’re learning right now in this place you don’t want to be will serve whatever you end up doing in the future.
- Passion Pit Fires
- 37:19 Ben: “I like trying to create a mental picture because it really helps me a lot. The best I can come up with is this: Let’s say you have five passions. So you have fireplaces—five fire pits.”
- 37:39 Sean: Passion pits?
- 37:40 Ben: “Passion pits. You only have so much time, energy, focus and attention to give at any one moment. So you’re putting a majority of your time, focus, and energy into building and maintaining this one fire.”
- 37:58 Sean: You can’t stoke five passion pit fires simultaneously.
- 38:03 Ben: “Well, they can’t be blazing pillars of fire simultaneously but you can keep the embers burning in the other ones. You can periodically, you know every 10 minutes or 15 minutes, go blow on the embers…”
- 38:17 Sean: I don’t like it.
- 38:18 Ben: “…so that they glow.”
- 38:19 Sean: I don’t like it.
- 38:20 Ben: “But there’s like a full blown pillar of…”
- 38:24 Sean: Nope.
- 38:25 Ben: “What… why not?”
- 38:26 Sean: Ben, people latch onto stories. I want you to picture a bucket and I want you to blow that bucket up 100 times. It’s 100 times bigger. Now make it 10 times bigger than that. Now dump that entire bucket on your scene and put out all the fires.
- 38:48 Ben: “Okay. All the fires are…”
- 38:50 Sean: Yep. That’s what I think about that metaphor.
- 38:52 Ben: “It’s just like… there’s steam coming up?”
- 38:58 Sean: There’s no more steam.
- 38:59 Ben: “So it’s thoroughly soaked… there is no more steam?”
- 39:00 Sean: No.
- 39:01 Ben: “It’s darkness.”
- 39:02 Sean: They’re gone. I don’t like that metaphor.
- 39:04 Ben: “Fine.”
- 39:05 Sean: Because Ben, you know what you’re doing is you’re not focusing. Even if you’re saying, “I’m going to give 80% of my time to one fire, 15% to another, and 2% and 2% and 1% to the rest,” you’re not focusing. You’re trying to multitask. It’s in the back of your mind. You’re running around trying to stoke the other ones.
- 39:27 What would be better is getting one fire to the point where it’s so big it is unstoppable. You don’t have to stoke this thing, you don’t have to put more kindle on it—it is a roaring fire! This would take down a forest.
- 39:48 People know you for that fire because they can see it from miles. Because all you did for months was build that one fire. Now guess what? You can go to the next fire and put 100% of your energy on that.
- 40:02 Ben: “Can you take fire from…”
- 40:04 Sean: You can. You can, Ben. You can bring fire from the previous roaring blaze to the new fire pit.
- 40:13 Ben: “Okay. I like where you’re going with this. At the same time though, I don’t. Because I don’t want those other embers to go out.”
- 40:25 Sean: Which is more of a disservice though? Putting out those embers for now and giving them at least the possibility of eventually becoming big, roaring fires, or them being embers forever?
- 40:54 Can you see an ember from a mile away?
- 40:57 Ben (Sadly): “No.”
- 40:58 Sean: No one else gets to experience that. They don’t get to experience the warmth of your passion pit embers. What the heck is going on?
- 41:08 Ben: “That’s awesome. ‘The Warmth of Your Passion Pit Embers.’ That’s good. I like it. I wish that’s what we could make the title of the episode.”
- Stunted Growth
- 43:17 Sean: Do you feel like you have all of these half-baked, half-finished, half- polished things that’s you’re half-kind-of-not-really known for? And are you not happy with that?
Question from Hermes:
I know this will probably be addressed in your book, but I wanted your thoughts on something, if you wouldn’t mind: what would happen if one wanted to get a day job doing something they love, but that came second to their main/primary passion? Is that something you consider wise or even feasible?
If that’s a possibility, how much time should be devoted to becoming good at this day job versus developing one’s passion, and would it be such a horrible thing if the day job turned into a passion later on?
The way you know that you truly are passionate about something is if you enjoy the act of doing it.
Focusing doesn’t mean that you can’t ever do anything else, it means you’re giving attention to one thing at a time.
Are you looking at other people that are known for something and wondering why? Wondering how?
This is how: they stoked one fire.
They built one fire at a time.
They built it to roaring status before they started to split their focus to anything else.