don't follow your passion


I know — the title of this post seems very weird, especially coming from me. I admit that I’ve been squarely in the “follow your bliss” or “follow your passion” camp for years now, especially being someone who completely blew up her career to do what I do now. “Life’s too short,” I’d tell people. “Get happy now.”

But recently, during one of the flights I took in the last couple of months, I was listening to a podcast where Elizabeth Gilbert was a guest (I can’t remember which podcast, I’m so sorry, or I’d link it.) I’m not a huge fan of Gilbert’s, but she did say something that struck me as so insightful, it stopped me dead in my tracks. Because the advice she gave is exactly how I’ve lived my adult life.

“Don’t follow your passion,” she said, “follow your curiosity.”

This is such a shift in mindset, and really, it can change everything. The truth is that “follow your bliss” or “follow your passion” only makes sense if you really understand what your bliss is. But I think for most of us, we haven’t figured that out yet. Or, in the alternative (and frankly, what’s far more likely), your bliss will change. What seems like a passion now may wane in the future — and honestly, I think that’s fine. Having a single passion your entire life is like knowing from a very young age what you want to be when you grow up — it’s amazing if that happens for you, but it’s not really the way it is for most people. And the only way you’ll discover what your bliss or your passion is, is to remain open and curious.

And this is absolutely what I’ve done. I went to law school on a whim, just to see if I could do it, and ended up having a long career in a job I loved. I became a photographer simply because I was curious if I could teach myself how to use a “real” camera, and now, decades later, making photographs is a huge part of what I do for a living. Hell, I even began this website 15 years ago in part to keep our families up-to-date on our adoption process, but also because I was curious to see if I could be a writer — and a book later, I’m not only a writer, but a full-on author. I got into podcasting the same way, and leadership coaching as well. Following my curiosity is the reason that I’m able to say that I love what I do, and am convinced that I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life — even if my career changes again.

So forget the “following your passion” advice, friends — Gilbert is right. Curiosity is where it’s at. And it’s the very first step, you’ll find, to discovering your way of making light.