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follow your opportunity

Follow Your Opportunity (Not Your Passion)

In this article, you will decide whether to follow your opportunity and not your passion. It’s the start of a new year, but for so many people, they’re stuck on an old question: “How do I find a job or career I love?” as they toil away at their current one. Mark Twain once said “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”1 But that has two big assumptions, that your perfect job is out there right now waiting to be discovered, and that you don’t actually want to work. I’m doubtful on that first assumption, and I totally reject the second.

8 years ago, not long after I started FUSE Power Washing, I had a mini identity crisis. I looked to my father, and said, “Is this what I’m going to end up as? A pressure washer?!” I’ll never forget his reply to me: “Matthew, very few people actually get to do what they love for a job, maybe 5%. The other 95% do something else, and then use the resources they get from that to do what they enjoy on the side.” And I agree with him (I’ve also come to terms with pressure washing). As long as we’re choosing to grow and learn where we’re at, that’s great advice. The trouble comes in a couple of ways. Some people struggle to find a way to grow/learn/make an impact where they are at. Others are scrambling and searching for a way to get in that 5% and do what they love. For lots of people, it’s both. And even if we’re not in these groups, we all know people who are in them. But is there a solution?

I think there is. But first, let’s take a look at a 2018 study from three Stanford researchers, and their conclusion that following your passion can actually be detrimental to success2. They found that focusing on a single passion can make people less likely to consider new areas of interest. Also, it seemed that people who believed in following their passion think that it will be easy, since it’s what they love anyway, and are more likely to give up when faced with challenges. The researchers instead suggest that we should think of life as a series of opportunities that allow us to develop multiple passions.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of Shark Tank, agrees: “One of the great lies of life is ‘follow your passions.’”2 He always wanted to a be a professional basketball player. He could have spent years and years trying and failing to get into the NBA, frustrated that his passion wasn’t turning into a full-time job. Instead, he found he was good at business, and after diligently pursuing that for years, he was successful enough to BUY an NBA franchise. Don’t tell Mark you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

Personally, I could have gotten stuck on trying to make it to the NHL because of how much I love hockey, and been distraught when that didn’t pan out. Later, I could have been too narrowly focused on my passion to grow FUSE Power Washing to see an opportunity at Ledcor Technical Services. Fortunately, I decided to go outside my comfort zone and try something different, and learned sales and people management skills that I could later bring to my business. Hopefully I can see the next opportunity that comes, even if it’s big and scary, because that’s when the most learning and growth happens.

For more reading on this, check out Cal Newport’s classic “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”3. Instead of searching for the perfect job, seize the opportunity that is currently available to you!

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