Former Democratic congresswoman and gun advocate Gabrielle Giffords once said, “Pursue your passion and everything else will fall into place. This is not being romantic. This is the highest order of pragmatism.” My favorite part of what she said is how going after your passion isn’t a romantic notion; that it’s not about being caught up in fanciful and unrealistic ideals of what we think living out our passion and purpose should look like.
Actually, if you’re truly committed to your passion, in many ways, you’re going to take the pragmatic—the practical—approach. In many ways, you’re going to do what the Hebrew word for passion means. You’re going to cleave to it. You’re going to be so engrossed in it, that it literally and daily becomes a part of you. You’re going to remain faithful to it—in good and not-so-good times. It’s going to be like…breathing.
When I recently read that only 13 percent of Americans are passionate about their jobs, the first thing that came to mind is this is probably because so many other people are not doing what they are truly passionate about (if they even know what that is; bookmark that). The second thing that came to mind is that fact is really sad, because we’re designed to do what makes us feel alive, what complements our gifts and talents and what betters us and those around us; not just what pays the bills.
Last fall, New York Times published a piece on how following our passions is truly good for us. In it, a productivity expert by the name of Laura Vanderkam said, “Life just feels better when you have things in your hours that you want to do.” Indeed. Problem is, a lot of us are wasting time not making strides in the pursuit of our passion because we’re making a lot of popular-yet-totally-overlooked mistakes.
If you’re ready to give your all to your passion so that it can reward you for your faithfulness, start by assessing if you’re taking the following passion pushback missteps.
Not Being Clear About What Their Passion Is
If there’s one thing I’m grateful for when it comes to my childhood, it’s that I had a mother who was super in tune with her children’s passions. She has said that, as a toddler, I liked to shake newspaper and, as a toddler, my brother liked to bang on pots and pans. Now I’m a writer and he’s a musician.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have this same testimony; their parents were more interested in their kids doing what would be more financially lucrative or at least would provide a solid sense of job security (are you “secure” if you’re miserable?). As a result, I believe that’s why one study said that almost 85 percent of young people aren’t pursuing their passion.
Where I’m going with all of this is, when you’re not encouraged to figure out what you love, not only do you grow up not really knowing what your passion is but, even once you discover it, you have a really difficult time cultivating ways to make a living from it.
If you have no clue what your passion is in life, a cool read to set you on the path is “The Secret to Finding Your Passion (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)“. Another thing that can help is creating a vision board full of things that bring you joy and doing some daily journaling. Life is too short to not be doing what makes you come alive. Make that a priority. You won’t regret it.
Needing Others’ Approval in Order to Make Moves
People who are close to me (or used to be close to me; you can read between the lines right there) tend to have a love/hate relationship with my writing path. On one hand, many of them dig how candid I tend to be. On the other hand, my rawness can make them uncomfortable.
Take when I wrote my first book, for example. Whenever people ask me what it’s about, I usually say that it’s my “sexual autobiography” because I’m very open and upfront about many of the experiences that I had. Anyway, while I was penning the book, I had family members who refused to speak to me. I was literally given the ultimatum that either I should stop writing it or not speak to them (kinda like what Nova is going through in Queen Sugar this season, only, my folks knew before the book went to print and I told more of my business than theirs. Nova is straight-up trippin’. Ugh.) I’m a writer and I was born being very “tell it like it is”. To concede to them would have been a form of self-betrayal. The book is 15 years old now. You see what I choose to do. I have absolutely no regrets about it either. Not one.
There are a lot of people who were put here to do the unseen (more on that in a sec), but instead, they are quietly doing nothing or following in the path of what’s popular, acceptable or safe, all because they are worried about what others will think if they don’t. Let me tell you something—my 45 years on this planet has taught me that folks can be fickle, petty and even envious. Don’t let their, shoot humanity, hinder you from being a supernatural force in this world.
And yes, following your passion is a type of superpower. Just ask anyone who’s done it or is doing it.
Focusing on Making Money More than Making Connections
We all need money. I’m reminded of this every time one of my writing gigs switches up on me and I have to figure something out in order to cover the bills. But if the only reason why you’re spending most of your waking hours doing, whatever it is that you’re doing, is because you are trying to get that check, you’re going to look back someday with a heart full of sorrow and regret.
I recently wrote an article on here about the fact that creatives are willing to make some really strange sacrifices in order to make things happen. Oftentimes, those sacrifices have to do with their coins (or the lack thereof). For us, it’s about investing in our passion more than having a lot of cash (a co-sign on this is another article that was published on the site—”Passion Over Paycheck: Why I Quit My Job At 30 To Start Living“)—at least, for the time being.
For the church folks reading this, if you follow your passion long enough, you will learn to want God’s favor more than man’s money. And for everyone, in general, following your passion will also teach you that the right connections are priceless.
Don’t make the mistake of chasing a paycheck over undermining the wisdom of “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Instead of working overtime for cheese, get off of the clock and do some networking in the area of your passion. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Following Blueprints Instead of Blazing Trails
Fear has got a lot of people out here messed up. I say that because, I can’t tell you how many times a week that someone will talk to me about a great idea that they have. But instead of following through with it, they chalk it up to being a mere pipe dream because they’ve never seen it done before. And?!
Passion is fueled by creativity. Being creative means that you are doing something that is truly inspired and original. If you’re shuffling your feet when it comes to getting something off of the ground because you’ve never seen anyone else do it (or do it the way you plan on doing it) before, you are letting your creative energy down. Trailblazing is the kind of hard work that only self-confident, focused and bold people are able to pull off. But trailblazing is also what changes the world.
Don’t be so scared to do what your passion is leading you to that you become a follower instead of a leader. That would be tragic. Extremely so.
Relying on Feelings Instead of Faith
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not big on the whole “follow your heart” thing. A definition of heart is emotions and emotions can have you all over the place. Following them can actually cause you to make some pretty illogical and unstable decisions, if you’re not careful.
Does that mean that I don’t pay attention to my feelings at all? Of course not. I think our feelings can be a barometer or a heads up to pay attention to what’s going on within and around us. But when it comes to making serious decisions, I try to exercise faith instead. Faith is like my feelings’ parent. It says, “I hear you but we’re going do this over here because all you see is the present. I am wise enough to look into the future.”
That said, a series that I like to watch on YouTube is BET’s I Went Viral. An episode that was memorable for me featured Elijah Conner (the guy who had the stare-down with Diddy on The Four). He’s a little on the cocky side, but because he didn’t cower at Diddy’s rejection, because he did not succumb to what his feelings wanted to do on the show, aside from Elijah’s viral meme, all kinds of opportunities have come his way.
According to Elijah, the experience also taught him something that all of us should write on a Post-it note and put up in our bathroom mirror—”One thing I’ve learned with this whole situation is just like, a lot of times you have to take that criticism and go look in the mirror and say, ‘You know what? Thank you for telling me ‘no’. Thank you for not giving me a chair.’ Because that ‘no’ really meant NEW OPPORTUNITY.” Speak on it, brotha!
Your feelings won’t tell you something this revelatory and mature. But your faith? It most definitely will. Follow it instead. It’s got big plans for both you and your passion. Maybe not immediately but eventually which brings me to my final point.
Being Impatient with the Process
An author by the name of Shannon L. Alder once said, “Every talent you have is not wasted. It is there because of a reason and God will open that door when the right time comes along to use it.” I think this is a great place to conclude this piece because another mistake that people make when it comes to following their passion is that they don’t apply patience (“bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like” and “quietly and steadily persevering or diligent, especially in detail or exactness”) to the process.
How can you know if you’re impatient and not just eager? You’re always anxious or stressed out. You make impulsive or snap decisions. You’re constantly in a rush—mentally, emotionally and otherwise. You tend to be irritated a lot or get angry easily. You don’t know how to rest well. Here’s a real good one—when you start something and it doesn’t immediately pan out the way you want it to, you up and quit. Over and over and over again.
Sometimes, the things that we want to manifest from our passion don’t, simply because we’re so busy trying to “make things happen” on our own, that we’re flying past the doors—the people, the opportunities, the resources—that God is affording us if we’d just stop and look at/acknowledge them.
Passion doesn’t work without patience. If you want to see your passion thrive, don’t make this mistake of not letting patience perfect and prepare you for what passion—and the Universe—have in store.