I was giving a lunchtime talk to a company about some of the core concepts in Simplify Your Life. It was an interesting discussion, because some of the ideas in the book hint at leaving your job once you've figured out what it is you're meant to do in the world. If word gets out that you speak somewhere and everyone quits their job the next day, you're not likely to get many future bookings. Ultimately, then, what I highlighted was the notion that for some, our passion needs to become our day job, that there is no truer expression for it. But for some of us, we need to keep our passion a nights-and-weekend pursuit because it's unrealistic it can become a career or it's so delicate that spending 40 hours or more a week with it would strain the relationship.
Passion is becoming an oft overused or misunderstood word, and many times I try to reframe the discussion around it. And this is why I like this piece in Harvard Business Review by Oliver Segovia. He challenges readers to abandon the quest for selfish passions in favor of solving problems that affect lots of people the world over.
For many, this is a great idea. Passions tend to look inward: what makes you happy, what you enjoy doing, what gives you the most energy, how you feel most alive. Problems put your focus out there so that you can see what the immediate and future needs of the world are and figure out how to respond.
Better yet, as Segovia notes, problems pay. This may not always be the case with a passion. One of the attendees at my talk that day said his passion was for rugby. He asked how he could build a career around that passion.
I was honest with him. I told him he probably couldn't. While several jobs exist in the field other than as a rugby player, they're not in the U.S. So unless he was willing to make a pretty drastic life change and move to New Zealand and work his way up, he may be out of luck. But, his passion could still be fully lived by playing the game with friends on the weekend or keeping up a blog on the subject.
Problems - rather, their solutions - usually come with some kind of way to earn a living. As long as a solution is tied to a funding model (donations or sales) and you can locate a customer base, the pursuit of a problem can be financially sustainable.
The real sweet spot, of course, is to find that job or calling where your deepest passion meets one of the world's greatest needs (defined as "vocation" by Frederick Buechner). These spots are few and far between, but they're out there, especially if you chase after your passion with an eye to the horizon looking for problems.