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The Myth of ‘Just Follow Your Passion’ in Career Success

Just Follow Your Passion

Within the science or art (you can be the judge) of career counseling and self-help literature, the advice to 'Just Follow Your Passion' has become extremely common place...almost a mantra for many.

"Do what makes you feel good."

"Love your job, and you'll never work a day in your life."

"Do what you do best...make your dream your reality". 

All of these are the same phrase just said differently, and they're often presented as the key to unlocking a fulfilling and successful career.

But is this age-old advice really the "be all, end all" that it's often touted to be? Is it truly good advice to follow?

This blog seeks to peel back the layers of this popular career advice and explore its limitations.

Through the lens of the Building Your Legend (BYL) Philosophies, Principles, and Fundamentals we'll explore a more nuanced view of career development that balances passion with practicality and most importantly...strategic planning.

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. 

     -Pablo Picasso

The Origin and Appeal of 'Just Follow Your Passion'

Think about it for a second... "Just Follow Your Passion" is a phrase that resonates deeply.

It's a message of hope and personal fulfillment, suggesting that if we find that one thing we love, work will feel effortless; it will be a joy to punch in every day.

But where did this idea really come from, and why does it strike such a chord?

The concept of following one’s passion as a career guide can be traced back to the latter half of the 20th century.

It emerged alongside a growing emphasis on individual fulfillment and self-expression in Western culture. The rise of personal development books and motivational speakers further propelled this idea, making it a cornerstone of career advice.

This advice is particularly appealing because it taps into our desire for a sense of purpose in our work. We all want to feel that what we do for a living aligns with who we are as individuals. 

The thought of merging our hobbies or interests with our professional lives promises a career that's not just financially rewarding but also personally fulfilling. 

It suggests a life where Monday Blues are a thing of the past, and the line between work and play blurs.

BYL's Perspective of 'Just Follow Your Passion'

However, as BYL acknowledges, this appealing narrative doesn't always paint the full picture.

While the idea of following your passion is inspiring, it’s often presented in an oversimplified way. The realities of job markets, economic demands, and personal circumstances are seldom part of this narrative.

This notion assumes that everyone has a clearly defined passion that is easily identifiable and perfectly aligns with a viable career path, which isn’t always the case.

Moreover, BYL emphasizes that passions can change over time. Interests we have today might evolve or be replaced by new ones as we grow and gain more experiences.

Just think for a moment, how many things you've had an interest in over the years and now you no longer strive to do. How many basements are filled with dusty exercise equipment or a forgotten pottery wheel?

Following a passion also over-simplifies the complexities of actually turning a passion into a sustainable career, which can involve much more than just enthusiasm for a subject.

BYL suggests a more comprehensive approach – one that blends passion with practicality, aligning personal interests with market realities and strategic planning, to create a sustainable and fulfilling career path.

Let's look at the Limitations of the Passion Hypothesis and develop a few alternatives that will provide clear action steps for Building Your Legend.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. 

     -Eleanor Roosevelt

Limitations of the Passion Hypothesis

The advice to 'Just Follow Your Passion' in choosing a career path, while inspiring, comes with several notable limitations that need to be carefully considered.

Not Everyone Has One Defining Passion

One of the biggest assumptions of the 'Just Follow Your Passion' mantra is that everyone has one clear, overriding passion that can easily be translated into a career.

However, this isn't always the case. 

Many people have a range of interests and may not have a single, all-consuming passion. For others, identifying what their passion truly is can be a confusing and evolving journey.

'Just Follow Your Passion' Doesn't Always Align with Marketable Skills

Even when a clear passion exists, it may not directly correlate with skills or fields that are in high demand in the job market.

For instance, one might have a passion for a hobby or an art form that doesn’t have a straightforward or lucrative career path. This mismatch between passion and market demand can lead to challenging career decisions and potential financial instability.

The Evolution of Passion

As mentioned above, passions can change over time.

What you are passionate about in your twenties might be different from what excites you in your thirties and beyond.

The dynamic nature of our interests means that a career chosen based on what we are passionate about at one point in our lives might not fulfill us later on.

Underestimating the Challenges

Turning a passion into a career often requires more than just enthusiasm for the subject. It might involve developing a new skill set, facing stiff competition, and even dealing with the mundane aspects of turning a passion into a business. 

These challenges are often underplayed in the simple directive of following one’s passion.

Overlooked Growth and Development

There's also a danger in becoming too narrowly focused on one's current passion.

This tunnel vision can lead to missed opportunities for growth and development in other areas. The world of work is vast and varied, and sometimes, career satisfaction and success come from unexpected or unexplored avenues.

Pressure and Loss of Joy

When a passion becomes a profession, it can sometimes lose its original joy and appeal.

The pressures of earning a living from a passion can add stress and transform what was once a source of happiness into a source of worry.

Considering these limitations, the BYL approach advocates for a more balanced strategy.

It encourages individuals to not only recognize and nurture their passions but also to realistically assess their skills, the market demand, and the potential evolution of their interests.

It suggests aligning passion with practicality, thereby creating a career path that is both satisfying and sustainable.

Goals are like a map. They help us determine where we want to end up and give us personal direction on which to focus our energy. 

     – Catherine Pulsifer

BYL's 'Deeper Dive'

If you're reevaluating the role of passion in your career, consider the comeback journey outlined in

'Fired to Inspired: A Guide to the Professional Comeback

Discover how strategic planning post-setback can lead to a career that's not just driven by passion but is also resilient and rewarding.

Realities 'Just Follow Your Passion', the Job Market, and Career Success

When we think about the limits of just following our passion for career choices, it's really helpful to look at the bigger picture.

This means consider what's actually happening in the job world and remembering that a successful career can mean different things to different people.

Dynamic and Competitive Job Market

Today's job market is characterized by rapid technological advancements, changing economic trends, and global competition.

This dynamic environment requires more than just passion. It demands agility, the ability to adapt to new technologies, and the foresight to anticipate and prepare for industry shifts.

A career built solely on passion, without consideration of these market dynamics, may struggle to thrive.

The Need for Diverse Skills and Continuous Learning

Success in the current job market often hinges on one’s ability to acquire a broad skill set and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Remember, industries evolve, new technologies emerge, and job roles change.

This reality necessitates a willingness to continually develop and update skills, sometimes even beyond one’s primary area of interest or passion.

Importance of Networking and Relationships

Building a successful career is often about more than what you know; it's also about who you know. Networking, mentorship, and industry connections can play a significant role in career advancement.

These relationships provide opportunities, insights, and support that are crucial for navigating the complexities of the job market.

Balancing 'Just Follow Your Passion' with Practicality

While passion is a great motivator, practical considerations such as job availability, salary requirements, and career stability cannot be overlooked.

It’s essential to balance what you love doing with what can sustainably support your lifestyle and long-term career objectives.

Adaptability and Resilience

The ability to adapt to changes and setbacks is crucial in today’s job market.

Industries that thrive today might face challenges tomorrow. Careers often don't follow a straight line; they zigzag, requiring the ability to pivot when necessary.

Redefining Success

Career success is subjective and can mean different things to different people.

It might be financial stability for some, while for others, it might be job satisfaction, work-life balance, or making an impact.

Recognizing this diversity in the definition of success is key in understanding the broader aspects of career development beyond just following one’s passion.

In light of these realities, the BYL philosophy encourages a more holistic approach to career planning.

This approach involves:

  • Understanding of the broader job market
  • A commitment to skill development
  • Strategic networking, and... 
  • An adaptable mindset.

It’s about finding a harmony between passion and practicality, ensuring that your career path is not only fulfilling but also resilient and responsive to the ever-changing world of work.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
    -
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Conclusion and Your Call To Action

Let's be honest, the idea of 'Just Follow Your Passion' is pretty appealing, but it's not the whole story when it comes to building a career that lasts and satisfies. That's where the Building Your Legend approach comes in. 

BYL is like having a trusty map and compass in the sometimes-tricky journey of career planning.

It’s about smartly weaving your passions with real-world savvy, resilience, and a solid game plan that adapts to life's twists and turns.

So, how about joining us on this adventure?

We've got a bunch of helpful and thoughtful BYL resources to share (visit our Resource Hub), and we'd love for you to be part of our community. Why not sign up now for our upcoming newsletter (premiering in Spring 2024)? 

  • It's a great way to get regular tips, stories, and ideas that can inspire and guide you as you build your own legend.
  • In the meantime, explore the BYL site, read the blogs, and share your insights!

Think of us as your personal support system and guide in the journey of career development. Whether you're just starting out or looking to shift gears in your career, we're here to support and encourage you every step of the way.

Let's make your career journey not just successful, but something you truly enjoy and are proud of.

Ready to dive in? We can't wait to see where your journey takes you.

Together, let's turn your passion into a career that's as fulfilling as it is successful... 

Let's start "Building Your Legend"!


John Sundt - Contributing to Your Legend

Navigator of Success | Career Strategist | Business Mentor

 John is your trusted guide through the dynamic world of business. With over 30 distinguished years of combined experience, He has not only navigated the intricacies of the U.S. Army for over a decade but also risen through corporate ranks for 22 years.

As the authoritative voice behind 'Building Your Legend,' John shares the invaluable lessons learned from successes and the wisdom gained from overcoming challenges. He's not just a career strategist; he's your business mentor, providing a toolkit for success shaped by real-world experiences.

 Welcome to 'Building Your Legend'—where success is meticulously crafted, mistakes are turned into stepping-stones, and legends are born.


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