The Myth of the Always Passionate Worker

The Myth of the Always Passionate Worker

Ask me two years ago how important being passionate about your job was and I would’ve told you it’s all that matters.

I’m changing my tune.

We hear the word “passion” tossed around a lot without clear definition and parameters being set. What does it look like?

To have the wrong idea of passion and to chase it with an inaccurate, dirtied image leads to disappointment at the end of the road.

The Expectation

The expectation people have for passion is that you’re fired up every moment of every day and night. You go to sleep and can’t wait to wake up the next day to get back to work. In the morning you jump to get ready to do whatever it is that you’re paid to do.

They picture being engrossed by every minute detail. When people ask, “So, what do you do?” your eyes would widen and your voice squeak a bit as you take in a huge breath so you can go on and on about your work.

It’s often romanticized because of people “selling the dream.” Kind of like how some entrepreneurs push the location independent thing as the ideal lifestyle since you can work from the beach while sipping on your fruity drinks (which, by the way, no one really enjoys for long.)

Like fruity drinks on the beach, the myth of the always passionate worker is a dream they’re selling you. And it may have been what I’ve accidentally sold to myself a while back.

It’s not a bad dream. It sounds great! But it’s not realistic.

What Realistic Passion Feels Like

I’m passionate about my job. I LOVE my company and the people I work with. I get kicks out of what I’m doing and sometimes I actually do fall asleep excited to do this and that the next day.

But I’m not fired up every day and sometimes I just don’t feel like working.

The whole package isn’t always fun. I don’t get my jollies from catching up on emails or occasionally doing non-creative work. It’s the people, the things I get to learn and apply, and the overall mission that makes me passionate.

I’m not always thrilled to write either. Both my job and this website require a good amount of writing.

Sometimes, I don’t want to open up a Word document and stare at an empty page until words appear. Other times, I’m scrambling to jot down three different ideas, rushing to open a new document, and start typing away at 3 million words per minute.

Again, it’s the mission. Wanting to make a positive impact on people definitely warrants motivation… and suddenly writing is fun again.

Actual passionate work is subtle but rewarding. It brings fleeting moments of doubt and dissatisfaction, but those periods make the times where you do feel strongly about your work that much more rewarding.

So maybe we’ve got this whole passion thing wrong. It’s still damn good though.

Occasional Sparks of Passion Trumps Never Having Any

You should really fear being stuck doing work you absolutely hate on a daily basis. If you hate the whole package, the people included, and every day you dread the next then maybe you should start looking elsewhere.

Maybe you should make it your full-time job to find new opportunities that actually interest you.

If you’ve got the right mindset for it, start a business. Hell, one step further, build a business in Southeast Asia.

None of this is easy. No one ever said it was. It’s a hustle and always will be.

Just don’t buy into the dream that you have to be motivated all the time. But enough drive goes a long way.

Some closing advice? Don’t settle.

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

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16 responses to The Myth of the Always Passionate Worker

  1. Definitely my favorite post from you so far! Awesome job!

    Completely agree with everything you said.

    I think the passion part is sometimes blown out of proportions.

    For example, I’m planning on creating an e-commerce store in Estonia when I get back home, and it’s a project I’m passionate about.

    Does this mean I have to be a watch-o-phile or something like that?

    No. The part I’m passionate about is growing the business and working on the thing as a whole.

    Hope you catch my point.

    Cheers Vincent! 🙂

  2. I agree. You can’t always be passionate even if you love something. It just isn’t possible because your moods fluctuate and some days you just won’t feel motivated. That is why it is important to have the habits for you to push through it. There are also shitty parts to pretty much every job.

    I think if you find work where you enjoy working with the people that you interact with on a daily basis then you are on a good path.

    • Had three all-day meetings in a row and got two more to go. Everyone’s stressed out and anxious because we’re working on a huge redesign that has a lot of moving pieces. I’m moving around putting on all kinds of hats.

      Lots of stress and anxiety. Lots of moments where I want to break my laptop.

      But at the same time I’m fired up and absolutely loving (almost) every second of it. It’s so hard to explain.

      I can’t imagine having the same stress and anxiety and applying all of it to a job I don’t like. Can’t even fathom.

  3. yes, i also think that passion is not like you feel it 100% of time. But I don’t really know. Im still not sure what I want to do. Im 18 years old, and all those thing I read and hear online like “you should always do what you are really REALLY passionate about” makes me think too much if what I do is right… Sometimes they stress it just too much I think…

    • Marek, I’ll be straightforward with you. Most online articles are bullshit. I’m bullshit sometimes too and might be right now, but all I can do is tell you what has worked for me.

      When people overemphasize the importance of passion it’s because:

      They don’t define it well enough for themselves / they romanticize the idea of passion.

      They’re not writing from experience but instead preaching what things should be like.

      Sometimes it’s both.

      Don’t ask yourself if what you’re doing is right because that’s an impossible question with no answer. Just see how you feel when it’s time to sit down and put in the hours.

  4. Passion:
    strong and barely controllable emotion.
    a state or outburst of strong emotion.
    intense sexual love.
    an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.
    a thing arousing great enthusiasm.

    No meaning does even remotely convey the thought that it can last.

    What you need in your work is purpose, the deep drive deep inside you.

  5. I agree with your thoughts. Sometimes I feel very passionate about what I do, and sometimes I’d rather eat dirt. Everything is mundane or routine sometimes, it’s just part of the package. I work with my clients to assess if what they are doing gives them enough days where they feel creative or passionate but not every moment. Because then, passion would become the baseline and we’d need to find something more.

  6. Really liked the article . Thanks for sharing .

  7. I couldn’t agree more. I love what I do for a living and have a lot of fun doing it. But man there are some days where the politics and petty customer complaints make it hard to function. Though those kinds of things can temporarily set me back, they don’t shut me down forever. I just need the time to get back into the swing.

  8. Passion is just a word; a meaningless word to represent something good. There are probably better words out there, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.

    It’s like ‘world class’. I hate that term but I struggle to think of a better way of describing someone who is one of the best in the world at juggling chainsaws. Apart from nuts, obviously.

    I think it’s normal to have a passion for something yet experience off days and moments when you want to to run in the opposite direction. I am passionate about playing guitar, but there are days when I’d rather punch myself in the face than sit down and play something fiddly.

    I’m passionate about fiddling, but don’t tell anyone.

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