Why Following Your Passion is Bad Advice

By John Malmquist @http://www.flickr.com/photos/95618031@N00/6252507124

18 Dec Why Following Your Passion is Bad Advice

I was searching for my passion for a period of time. I wanted to know what I should pursue in my life. A course of work that I could devote all my energy toward it and enjoy doing it. My late mentor, Dennis Ng, told me I have to search within. The answer is in me. I would say even after a few years I still do not know what my passion is but I have gained a more valuable insight.

You would have heard of such phrases:

“Do what you love and you do not need to work a day in your life!”

“Do what you love and the money will follow.”

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How wonderful and motivating these phrases are? Life would be so good if it happens to me.

Don’t you feel the same way? Are you searching for your ideal job or career? Are you finding that passion of yours?

A book caught my eye one day, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. The book told the story of the legendary Steve Jobs. If Steve Jobs had followed his passion, he would have been a zen monk. For a period of his life, Steve was a practitioner of zen Buddhism and he even went to India to seek enlightenment. That was his passion. We won’t have our beautiful iphones and Macs if he had became a monk.

His career in IT was born out of an opportunistic endeavour, and not of passion. It happened that personal computers were in the nascent stage and seeing a potential to make a few thousand dollars, Jobs partnered Steve Wozniak to create the first Apple computer and sold the units to a local shop. That initial plunge into IT went so much further than they could imagine. They provided something of value to the market, not because Steve Jobs was passionate about computers.

My intention of writing Secrets of Singapore Trading Gurus was to show how hard trading is, instead of promoting it. I wanted to discourage those who are not prepared to take the hard knocks of trading, to give up trading. This would save them a lot of time and energy.

I shared this with my publisher and I said I was ironic. In the sense that I discouraged people to pursue their passion in trading while I encourage people with passion in business to be entrepreneurs. Both are risky endeavours but why do I have a split stand? He told me I shouldn’t be. Not everyone can be entrepreneurs and following one’s passion cannot be trusted advice.

Now I understand what he meant. I had a friend who wanted to quit his job and do business. Instead of just giving him the pat on the back and ask him to go for it, which I would in the past, I am asking him something else – what value are you providing and would people pay for it?

This is a capitalist society. You must be providing something of value that others will pay for. The better you are at something than most people, the higher pay you command. For example, you may be passionate about photography but you may not be good enough to charge for your pictures. But if you are so good, people will pay you top dollars for your service.

Don’t get me wrong, passion is still useful. I have devised the following set of questions to help you find a direction in life. The first two questions to ask yourself ensure you are grounded in reality while the subsequent two questions are related to passion. Passion becomes an afterthought. This set of questions will help you make a balanced decision whether to pursue something or not.

  • What are you good at than most people?
  • Would people pay you for it?
  • Would you enjoy doing it?
  • Would you enjoy the tedious process of honing your skills continuously?

Getting ‘yes’ for the last 3 questions will set you up in the right direction for your career.



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13 Comments
  • coconut
    Posted at 11:12h, 18 December Reply

    if you mix passion with money, you will blur all your judgement.

    what is passion? love to do it over and over again regardless of how much you spend (or earn if you are lucky). there shouldn’t be any doubt in your mind whats your passion is, if doubt, than that not your passion.

    • Alvin
      Posted at 11:19h, 18 December Reply

      hey coconut, nice to have your comment. maybe I wasn’t clear. I meant pursuing passion as a career. this is where $ is impt bcos we nd to eat.

      if it is about passion for hobby, I totally agree with u! is either u enjoy doing it or not! not about the money anymore

      • coconut
        Posted at 11:43h, 18 December Reply

        wow thats fast, ain’t you work today?

        ok got it, passion as a career.

        actually you know what, we can’t really choose our passion, it is the passion that choose us, when we are “call”, then that is it! whether it can make a living for us is not within our control. like a person who love painting, even he is very good, he might not be able to survive on his painting (unless he died young haha).

        i know of people who are crazy about trading and obsess with charting and very technical, but to make money you need more than that. a bit like gambling, and its additive.

        so like i say, put money a side and search for your passion if any, whether it bring us a career or make us broke (a hobby) is beyond our control.

        • Alvin
          Posted at 13:09h, 18 December Reply

          haha coconut. are u a person who believes in fate or destiny? it is true sometimes letting go is better than trying to take control of everything in life.

          • coconut
            Posted at 14:41h, 18 December

            definately alvin, i believe trading skill are by and large born with. i might be wrong but i hold it.

            in trading you take full control of your system, based on your risk and capital, thats all it is. the market will tell you eventually your system works or not, not you tell the market how it should work or operate. there is no manual.

            the place you don’t want to force yourself is in the market place.

          • coconut
            Posted at 15:00h, 18 December

            and bare in mind i only refer to trading and trading alone, pure speculation to the bone haha.

            there are many other ways we can make money from the market, in fact all our earnings comes from the market, direct or indirectly, your job, a broker, a trading guru who teach trading and so on, everyone is getting something out from the system right?

  • coconut
    Posted at 11:18h, 18 December Reply

    oh, and your passion have nothing to do with others, there is no comparision to who is better and what you good at. it just happen that if you keep repeating it, most likely you are going to come out ahead.

    and passion without enjoy doing it is not passion at all. the only thing that can stand in the way to your passion can be money, time, social, family etc etc.

  • Createwealth8888
    Posted at 20:21h, 18 December Reply

    Find out what actually works for us then follow it passionately?

    • Alvin Chow
      Posted at 09:13h, 22 December Reply

      Nice to hear from you again Createwealth888!

      I think I did not define passion properly. Passion is discovered and bred. Not chosen.

      Passion is not about doing things that you love. That’s selfish.

      Passion is about being your best at what you are good at, providing a lot of value to other people. Making their lives better through your product or service. Passion embodies life’s purpose and self-actualization.

      Passion is altruistic.

  • BL
    Posted at 03:55h, 25 December Reply

    Alvin, I believe most of us can see that your passion lies in investment, or else you will not be writing this blog consistently for so many years. Without a burning passion, most people would have stop long ago. Plus you write a book about trading, surely there are tons of efforts in writing, interviewing the traders and finding publishers etc.

  • BL
    Posted at 04:03h, 25 December Reply

    If your real passion is in investment, how to convert your passion into a career. You can be a stock broker, problem is if you start now, you need to build your clientele, that takes a long time. You can be a relationship manager, but that is more like a sales job rather than advisory job. You can be an investment consultant to relationship managers and clients. Or you can be an investment analyst, hey you have friends working as fund managers, ask them for opportunities. Or you can start your own fund.

    • Alvin
      Posted at 07:31h, 25 December Reply

      Thanks BL. I view it differently.

      There were many things I was interested in and passionate about. But somehow, I gave up most of them after pursuing the activities for a few years. I gave up because I realised I couldn’t get better than most people in these areas. For example, I was very passionate about soccer when I was young. I was playing everyday and watching games every week. I was in school teams but I just could not make it to be a professional. In fact, I didn’t want to be a professional despite the passion for it.

      I started to write about investment and document my learning journey in 2007. You are right to say that I am passionate about this topic but it wasn’t enough to keep me going all these while. The passion did not come all of a sudden too. I realised I was progressing faster than most people who started the investment journey together. I was also ahead in terms of investment knowledge compared to my peers. I was adding value to some of my friends and fellow readers in this website. The more I do it, the more I learn, the more I share, the more I find it meaningful, the more passionate I become.

      Passion is about doing what I am good at, and giving value to others so I can find meaning in it. Passion is gradually nurtured.

      This understanding was consolidated from years of passion seeking. As opposed to my post which I say I have not found my passion, I now say I have found it :)

      I found it with this understanding.

  • The Meaning of Passion
    Posted at 16:30h, 28 December Reply

    […] was a lively discussion on BigFatPurse.com 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 […]

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