Find Your Passion – And why that’s good advice

By Jay Forte

I recently learned of a study by researchers from Yale and Stanford in which they state “find your passion” is bad advice.

That’s a sweeping statement. But I don’t agree. It is up to each of us to discover who we are – our talents, abilities, passions and interests. The mere discovery of them starts the process. We can’t develop and live who we really are if we first don’t discover it.

Let me challenge some of the researchers’ thinking.

1. “Find your passion” vs. “develop your passion.” These are two completely different statements. “Finding” is different from “developing.” Finding or discovering your passions are required to identify what must be developed. The statement I use with my clients is that no one was born with an owner’s manual. You learn about who you are by showing up present, aware and mindful to life. You like some things and not others. Do you notice this? Can you learn from this? Life is a menu of amazing things that you don’t know are available until you find and experience them. Until you do the work, they are unknown and when unknown, they cannot be developed and used to guide you to live a happy and successful life.

All of us have particular interests and passions – they activate us. I call them life’s fuel. It is up each of us to sort through our world to identify and develop those things that energize, activate and inspire us. Once known – and we know them by how they get our attention – we can choose to spend the time to develop and use them to create our lives in a way that matters to us.

2. Growth mindset vs. “you’re born with it.” The researchers state it’s more beneficial to encourage a growth mindset vs. saying you’re born with fixed, inherent traits. Right. Growth is important, but only after you become aware of what original equipment you are indeed born with. DNA does in fact influence your abilities. Your predisposition and intrinsic excellence with some abilities and not others tells you that you are not great at everything, but you can be exceptional at the things that need what you do and like best. Bottom line: unless you have both an ability and a passion for something, you are not likely to pursue and grow in it.

Consider a pro athlete with an intrinsic talent and passion for the sport who succeeds by working diligently to develop it. Abilities and passion. Consider also the talented athlete who only plays the sport when time allows. Abilities without passion. I may be talented in my connection with people, but have no passion for selling. I may be talented with music, but have no passion to learn and play an instrument. Both are important and it is awareness of both the ability and the passion that creates the opportunity for both to be developed.

In my book The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself-Find Your Fit, Transform the World, we find our fit – our “greatness zone” – at the intersection of what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us. Each of these three areas play a role in our ability to show up fully, make our impact and deliver on our sense of purpose. Together, they guide us to the places in work and life that bring us the greatest joy and impact.

3. Be informed about your passion. The researchers state you can encourage someone to pursue a passion, but ensure that it’s “informed and complemented by the world of knowledge that exists…” I agree, and that’s why the coaching approach we take at The Forte Factor is so different from the way the rest of the world works.

We guide our clients through a self-discovery and self-awareness process – to identify their unique abilities, passions and values, and to develop the clarity of who they are so they can assess how to show up successfully in today’s world, workplace, relationships and life. They define what they want, assess who they really are and build plans to close that gap through the development of their abilities, passions and values.

My belief is that we each must discover, develop and live who we are. We have unique abilities, passions, and values – they become our ingredients for a most amazing life. It first starts with knowing the ingredients. They can then be developed and used to make something great. Strengths create the abilities. Passions create the fuel. Values create the inner guidance.

It isn’t bad advice to “say find your passion.” Rather, finish the thought and say, once you find your passion, develop it so it fuels your performance and energy so you can work and live in a way that brings your greatest happiness and success.

What do you think? Is it bad advice to say “find your passion”?