Existential Friday Newsletter

v17: Passion Is On Par With The Afterlife

The idea that you can reduce your dissatisfaction AND do something you love is on par with the promise of life after death.

The stark reality is that most people are dissatisfied at some level in their lives and careers.  Fear not, that’s where the passion propaganda machine comes in.  We’ve talked about it before and there are mountains of literature to promote pursuing your passion.

In the past we mentioned Cal Newport who says that we shouldn’t pursue our passion as much as develop unique skills and pile them together to build our career.  There’s merit in that idea, but it still misses the point on some level.

Newport refresher . . . On passion and its discontents.

In the book Talk Like TED, passion about your chosen field is advocated with cringe worthy enthusiasm.  It’s touted as a core part of being an exceptional speaker.  Passion might be the core, however, passion isn’t what we all think it is.  Here’s more on Talk Like TED.

The shortcoming in passion literature is that it’s associated with subject and topics.  Pursuing topics and subjects as passion misses the point.  We’re not fundamentally motivated by topics.  We’re motivated by the meaning we find in those topics.  Meaning is different for everyone.  It might be helping others find more meaning, creating new ways of seeing the world, challenging conventional wisdom, or creating a sense of authentic freedom.

What you “do” isn’t really what you do.  Our ability to find meaning in our work is a direct function of how well that work manifests our authentic passion.  Passion isn’t about the thing you do, it’s about the intangible meaning you derive from doing.  Passion about a topic or career is really about how well that activity manifests our true passion.

“Finding your passion” can seem daunting, but that’s because we’re looking in the wrong places.  Simon Sinek doesn’t talk about passion.  He talks about finding your “why.”  Sinek talks about why as it relates to companies, but we should all strive to find our personal why.  If we can identify our personal why, it becomes the foundation for good ideas and meaningful choices.

Give this one a watch if you haven’t seen it already:


Here’s the 5 minute clip if you don’t have time for the one above:

If the idea that you can find your passion seems too “foo foo,” here’s a concrete downer you’ll enjoy!  Larry Smith effectively says our knowledge of passion doesn’t matter.  The vast majority of people will fail to have a great career anyway.  Will you?

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