If Marco Polo were to be brought back to life, he might be out of a job knowing that Google has mapped out the world. It would be impossible to make a living with his passion for exploring and uncovering new continent.
Similarly, the switchboard operator, bowling alley pinsetter and the beloved milkman would be devastated to know that they would be out of a job too.
And what if we go back in time?
Supposedly if we brought our passion for coding, photography and F1 racing to the days of being a cavemen. These passions could not have existed, let alone saving us from the sabertooth tiger.
So, where did passion come from?
My guess is that the reason it’s our passion project isn’t that we were born to do it. It’s just that you thought it was going to work. And your real passion is to do something that works.
It works to afford your rice and beans, the respect from the people you look up to and forward motion in alignment to your utmost potential. And more importantly so, to stretch you in a way that feels like you’re dancing at the edge of failure.
Passion is perhaps a line weaving through of all the things that we want. A solution that works.
Steve Jobs might have broken a lot of hearts but it not his fault.
The other day, I went for a meeting in a big building. As I approached, the guard opened the door and greeted me. I asked for direction. Then I went up to meet the head of this big company. Now, the guy who is upstairs had a way bigger paycheque than the guard. But he was a little cranky and a bit bitter.
The interactions with the guard were some of the best interactions I’ve had all day. He was positive. He’s open for connecting. He wanted to solve problems. So, the next day, I baked some cookies and handed it to him. He was stunned and surprised.
It turned out that he loves pottery, but pottery is not the only thing he loves. He also loves people, engaging with people, solving problems and bringing kindness. He’s just not selling pottery for a living.
The point is this. Just because your passion doesn’t make you money, it doesn’t mean that you need to sell your soul to the devil. There are many in-between. Find a job that pays the bills. Clock in, do your best and clock out. A tuition teacher, a barista, a nanny or even a guard.
Don’t think that you’re not allowed to pursue your fascination with colours and textures, or your fascinations with music and theatre. You have the time in between the job. Don’t let go of this incredibly fierce self-accountability for you to recognise that you’re in control of all of those things.
When I was 23 years old, I decided to be a wedding planner. I entered meetings explaining the detailed process of how I design weddings. The meetings were long.
And one day, my wedding shoot got featured in an international publication. After which, I realised the conversation changes. I was no longer asked about my design process. Couples trusted me to plan the most important day of their life.
So when I started an animation studio, I did something different. I went to the most well-known companies and offered to make their animation at cost. And after enough portfolio, the long-winded meeting got shortened into a sentence.
It became, “I’ve made animations for Scoot, DHL and UOB.”
I took out all the risk. And the story became a free leverage asset. The conversation shifts from ‘can I trust you’ to ‘how can you solve my problem?’
Perhaps, you can leave the story to fate. Or you can work diligently to earn it. If the work is important enough, it might be worth building the story.
Fear runs deep in our genes. The discipline master walking around tapping a thick bamboo cane on his feet. Or the manager doing his rounds, inspecting the work that you do. It doesn’t take long for us to get our act together in the presence of fear.
Anger could also be fuel to pull all-nighters, build companies and amass wealth. The founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian was told by Yahoo that his company’s traffic was “a rounding error”. He framed it up, hang it on the wall and looked at it all day.
As Jim Denthmer pointed out that there are not one, not two but five things that can motivate us. And they are all equally powerful. They are fear, extrinsic rewards (money/status), intrinsic reward (meaning/purpose), play and love.
It’s entirely possible. Some of the very top professional are trafficking in play. The deal makers negotiating contracts. The athletes playing sports. The coders writing algorithm. They are able to out-learn, out-work and out-last everyone because it’s fun to them, and work to you.
Perhaps if your fuel is hindering you from where you want to go, it’s time to look inside and choose a different kind.