Many people say you should do what you’re passionate about. It’s an inspirational idea, espoused often in commencement and graduation speeches, and these are the most inspirational types of speeches. However I prefer a softer formulation: Do what doesn’t make you sick with boredom. While it may seem cynical it forms a welcome out from those who feel out-enthused by the overenthusiastic.
Passion is difficult for the large proportion of the population who both don’t know what their passion is and are Australian. The second one might seem strange, but if you grew up in Australia you know that broadcasting passion about any topic will quickly result in having the piss taken, or balls busted. Both unattractive outcomes, and highly demotivating.
The start up I’m now involved in is challenging, interesting, and important. I’d be greedy to need a fourth attribute, when so many barely have one in their professional lives, but I almost did decline because I’m not passionate about health at all. In hindsight I’m glad I ignored the passion thing and took it up; I’ve discovered some advantages for working in a field I’m not passionate about.
My passion for physics meant I was very careful to preserve my name in the industry. It meant I stuck to the normal career path and didn’t try anything too interesting out of fear of ruining my name. In contrast the health industry feels liberating, I’m unnaturally confident and more audacious with my legacy. I can experiment and even have fun. Worst case scenario I overstep my mark and my name is mud in health – that’s cool, I’ll move into a new industry that I’d be at least as passionate about.
My alternative advice: Do what doesn’t make you sick with boredom ignores passion and instead hedges against the worst outcome – that may be stuck doing something that is not interesting. Avoid that at all costs – boredom is the mind-killer.