The Meaning of Passion (and How I found Mine)

By David Herrera @

28 Dec The Meaning of Passion (and How I found Mine)

There was a lively discussion on when I posted an article, Why Following Your Passion is Bad Advice. Most readers disagreed with what I talked about – you should only pursue your passion as a career if you are good in it and people will pay you for it. The main disagreement was that passion should not require monetary incentive. I supposed I did not explain how I see passion and this post is to add clarity by defining ‘passion’ in my context.

There were many things I have pursued but given up. One of them was soccer. Since Primary 4, I was very passionate about soccer, despite my mother’s discouragement. I played many hours of football on a daily basis. I continued to play excessively through my Secondary and Junior College days, only to reduce the commitment to the activity in University and beyond. I was good enough to be in school teams, but wasn’t good enough to be champions and a professional footballer.

When I was in Primary 2, I managed to persuade my mum to allow me to take violin classes. I am not talented in music except being very methodical and mechanical about it. It enabled me to attain my Grade 3 but much more flair and ‘feel’ were required at Grade 6, and I flung the exam. I made use of ‘O’ levels exams as an excuse to stop my violin classes. After 6 years of hiatus, I joined the University’s String Orchestra. I was made the President of the club in the following year. It was because the ex-President saw my potential to lead the club and not because I was good in violin. I had so much interest in violin that I spent weekends after weekends in practice sessions. We weren’t that good as an orchestra to dazzle the crowd. The crowd was there because they were friends and family who wanted to show their support.

I had brief periods of intense interests in cycling and photography. But they were like crushes which came and gone very fast. Despite owning 2 bicycles and 3 DSLR cameras, I given up all of them.

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I started near the end of 2007. It was an avenue for me to share what I have learned from the investment world. I wrote articles on a weekly basis up till today. I didn’t do it for money because my job pays much more than this website. It does not make economic sense to spend time sharing all these information for free.

I reflected about the things I have given up while pondering what kept me going on For the things I have given up, I realised the reason was because I could not be better than most people. I felt I could not contribute further in these areas and I should redirect my effort elsewhere. However, I found something on which was missing in all these activities. I get a sense of achievement whenever my sharing had helped someone in his finances and he recognised it. The more I learned, the more I shared, and the more recognition I received. This led me to see passion very differently and I created the Passion Virtuous Cycle to explain it.

Creation of Passion

Passion is not something you can decide right from the start. It has to be discovered and continuously nurtured. You have to try things out for a while before knowing whether you like it or not, and if you can sustain it.

You are on the right track once you found something that you are good at, or an area where you can progress much faster than most people. You should continue to do it and provide a lot of value to others. Do not worry about the money yet. Just keep giving first. Once people recognised the value you have given them, you will start to feel accomplished. Naturally, it will propel you to continue to do what you are good at and you will also want to improve and provide better value to others. A virtuous cycle is formed and passion is created and nurtured in the process. When you become so good, you can create a product or a service and charge for it. This is where your passion becomes your career.

Passion Virtuous Cycle

I will use a professional footballer as an example. Luis Suarez is the hottest striker in the Premier League right now. He is definitely good in soccer and no one will doubt it. He provides a lot of value to football fans in terms of excitement and inspiration. Suarez finds great achievement when the fans adore him for his spectacular performances. This will motivate him to improve his skills and perform better in future matches. He receives both monetary and intangible rewards by being passionate about delivering great football performance.

The process of discovering your passion will take a very long time and some people never find it in their lives. It is a pity because their full potential remains hidden. Some may know what they are good at but but they could not find an avenue to express and apply their talents in the society. Some may have inhibitions to do it because of disapproval or fear.

My Passion, My Career

When I say I have found my passion, I meant I have found a way to pursue it as a career. Passion has to be pursued full-time where one puts 100% commitment to do his best. Anything less is compromising his ability or potential to give. Anything less is not passion, it is an interest.  While he pursues his passion full-time, he still needs to survive and put bread on the table. Hence, he must find an avenue to charge for his passion. This is not an easy task and it takes a lot of courage, entrepreneurial spirit and risk taking to find a place in the marketplace. But money is not what keeps this passionate guy going. It is the intangible part of finding meaning and getting recognition in what he does that mattered.

In 2014, I am going to apply and share my investment knowledge full time. If you asked me to quit my job and follow my passion a few years ago, that would be a wrong advice. I wasn’t ready and I would have struggled and possibly given up this passion. The previous article missed out this clarification. I will never ask someone to pursue their passion if they are not good enough to be paid. It will harm them more than doing them good. Interests can, and should be pursued while keeping a job. Remember passion needs to be discovered and nurtured. The discovery has to be done at the lowest cost possible.

What am I going to do? My passion is about investing and helping people invest better. Besides trading for income and investing my own money, I will be conducting courses and free talks, writing books, writing free quality articles on this website, start a private fund with my partners and potentially go into investment advisory. It will be a suite of complimentary products and services that are aligned to my passion. I will be happily stuck in the Passion Virtuous Cycle! I will have a lot more to offer in 2014 and beyond so look out for this space!


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  • Alex
    Posted at 10:08h, 29 December Reply

    Thank you for sharing Alvin. Good luck with your future endeavors!

  • Tony
    Posted at 13:47h, 29 December Reply

    Agree with your sharing, we have many commitments in life, thus it would be great if an interest/passion could yield monetary rewards to sustain daily living, otherwise a part-time pursue of interests is fine as well :)

  • Sandro
    Posted at 19:56h, 29 December Reply

    Hey Alvin, I am sure 2014 will be a great year for you! I wanted to reply to your ealier post, but it actually worked out well to wait to read this one as what you said is very similar to what I had in mind – but in a nutshel you wouldn’t be writing BigFatPurse if you were not passionate about it ;) I know it is cliché to quote Steve Jobs… but here is something that made me think a lot about where I was heading with my life and my career a couple years back:

    “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”



    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 20:50h, 29 December Reply

      Thanks Sandro! I believe you have found your passion too :)

  • BL
    Posted at 22:17h, 29 December Reply

    I like the part on start a private fund, that’s what I always want to do but did not do.

    • Alvin
      Posted at 22:24h, 29 December Reply

      Consider it as a new year resolution?

  • SGYI
    Posted at 10:35h, 30 December Reply

    Hi Alvin,

    My first comment on your site. I’ve been following your site for quite awhile now. We met before in one of the free seminars you organised back in HDB hub. Truth be told, your late mentor Dennis Ng inspired me that oridinary people can be successful in investing and accumulate 1 million dollars. I’ve been on my own investment journey for the past 2 years and it has been great. I did found my passion in investing and started my own blog too. Through this, I’ve got to know other financial bloggers who’re together on this journey.

    All the best in your endeavours in 2014! It must have been a big decision to pursue your passion as a career. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all these while. Looking forward to more stuffs from you.

    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 11:23h, 30 December Reply

      Hi SGYI! Thanks for your support all these while! It is great to know you guys are out there helping fellow Singaporeans invest better!

      Thank you for your well wishes too. I believe you can achieve your goals too! Let’s continue to inspire the others! Keep going :)

  • Joyce Tan
    Posted at 21:57h, 23 January Reply

    Hi Alvin,
    I am still learning and appreciate you people for being so kind and generous in sharing your knowledge.

    Nice to have people wanting to help fellow Singaporeans and I believe all your hardwork and effort will be richly rewarded.

    Wish you success in your future endeavours!

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