Last week I spoke at Brooks Institute of Photography in lovely Santa Barbara, California. There I stood, before a classroom of Seniors who are about to go into the “real” world and try to make a living. What did I tell them? To follow their passion if they wanted to become successful, even if that means NOT becoming photographers.
We all seem to forget to follow our professional passions from time to time, but it really holds true no matter what your profession/career choice. On the train home, I was sitting next to a man who was involved in commercial real estate finance. We talked about following one’s passion and he said he most definitely had and it has brought him not only financial wealth but happiness. He had originally been involved in media sales (advertising) where he made good money, but he wasn’t emotionally fulfilled with the work. He was always fascinated by numbers and, specifically, finance so when this opportunity presented itself, he went after it…and hasn’t regretted it ever since. I could see the fire in his eyes. When he spoke about what he did, he made it sound terribly interesting and I could tell he had found his niche. He followed his passion.
We talked about how some people never retire, a point I also discussed with Bill Robbins of Brooks. They don’t keep working for the money, but rather they can’t imagine their lives without their work. Creatives who keep creating, businesspeople who keep running companies, they all share the passion for their work. They found their vocations, in the classical sense of the word–callings. And it’s what I recommended to those students, and what I want to recommend to you.
We all have pasts–maybe yours includes studying photography or design or writing so when you graduated you felt you had to become a photographer, designer, or writer. But it never quite fit. You can do the work, maybe even very well, but you’re not excited about it…at least not often or extremely. This isn’t because the work is bad, it’s because you aren’t doing your best work–and that may mean taking the leap to follow your passion. If you studied photography, maybe what you really would love to do is be a photo editor or even a rep. Writers make great strategic thinkers, like planners in ad agencies. Designers might do better running a creative department for a corporation rather than producing their own designs. Who knows!?!
I’m not saying that if you have a bad day at work you should chuck it all and change careers. What I am saying is that you should be open to what your heart is telling you. Maybe that means shifting from shooting people to objects, or doing interactive rather than print design or writing that novel you’ve always meant to write, or maybe it means going back to school to become a lawyer or doctor or working for a homeless shelter or opening a bookstore. Only you can know what is in your heart, your passion.
But whatever it is, when you find it you’ll also find that your work is no longer work and the thought of retiring one day seems much less a goal. You’ll be happier and better off financially (even if you make less money–because you’ll be happy).
Don’t be afraid of passion, it’s the key to your success.