Follow your passion is not bad career advice
Cal Newport in his book ‘So good they can’t ignore you’ claims that follow your passion is dangerous advice. Just like any generalized career advice follow your passion on its own is certainly a dangerous advice. However, if you can figure out the right passion and become good at it, it can lead you to a successful career. I prefer the word interest and you can have multiple interests. Making a career out of passion is really optional. But your career should be in an area on your interest.
The first step here is to find the right passion or interest which can bring you a lifestyle you are expecting. Your circumstances play an important role too. Many people confuse passion with hobby or inspiration and blame the advice ‘follow your passion’.
Your Expectations and Priorities
First let us look into the life you are expecting. Getting into a national sports team is very difficult as sports is very competitive. Many still follow sports and won’t make it to the national team. We cannot blame the ones who failed, they had to try. It is perfectly alright to fail. What do you think the ones who did not make it prefer to do with their lives? Coaching a school team in sports which makes less money or doing a job s/he absolutely hate which makes more money? Some will certainly need the money and will go with the latter one. But many will happily do the school team coaching. So before deciding to follow something you want, you need to set your expectations. You need both personal and financial freedom to have a fulfilling life.
You also need to make sure that you will continue enjoying your passion once it is a paying career. Photography may be a passion of yours. But once it becomes a paying career, it is a whole different game. It takes considerable effort and pain to make a career out of your passion. Make sure you are ready for that too.
If your financial circumstances are not so good, following a passion which can take time to show some results, can put you in trouble. If you are from a financially solid family, it is easier to follow your passion. So, its easier to take risks if you are privileged. Yes, Mary Kom was not wealthy, but how many Mary Koms do you see? If you are ready to go such extends you should definitely follow your passion.
Generally people ask you to prepare for success. But are you prepared to face the failures too? You are not supposed to gamble with your money, if you cannot afford to lose it. It is a huge risk. Gamble to win, but be prepared to lose.
Some career options won’t pay much, but making 8 lakhs/annum and having a fulfilling life is better than making 25 lakhs/annum and a miserable life. But if you are making only 2 lakhs/annum you won’t be happy either. Being poor is not nice. Find the balance.
Passion or Hobby?
Hobby is something we would like to do for pleasure. We hardly master it or become good at it. For example, photography. Everyone who owns a DSLR thinks they are a Professional Photographer and will start a Photography page in Facebook. But most of them will be taking pictures in auto mode. It is their hobby, not passion. If you misunderstand it as a passion and if you try to make it as a source of income, chances are you will fail. Same time there are a lot of people who makes a living as a Photographer. They take things to the next level. They spend time, take effort and master it. Many good artists fail as they lack business skills. So, complementary skills are also important.
You found inspiration from a book? Good. Now try to develop it and see where it is going. It may or may not be your true passion. If you are not ready to take the pain and effort to become good at something, you will fail.
Good Career Advice
Follow your passion is good career advice if you can get good at your passion, and people need to acknowledge it. There should be a market need for you to make a career out of it. To become good at something you need to be passionate about it. You need to prepare yourself to spend time on it, you need to take the effort.
Follow your passion is certainly a dangerous career advice, so is skydiving. But if you can master skydiving you can make a living out of it. Passion is only a small part of the equation. You need to do a lot of work on your interest to make something good out of it. If you are following a career path like sports/acting/civil service, understand that the odds are against you, just make sure you are prepared. Career is a long journey, enjoy the process.