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Don't follow your passion, build the right skills instead

James Clift | November 6, 2015


Every day you are bombarded with messages about why you should follow your passion.

Why you should quit your job and go travel the world.

Why, if you’re not doing what you love - you should do something else, immediately.

This is dangerous advice, especially when you are first starting your career.

You can have it all - but not right away.

Here are 5 reasons why you should develop skills before following your passion.

1. The better you get, the more passionate you’ll become

Don’t follow your passion, follow your effort

  • Mark Cuban

Being good at something feels good. Developing competence in a field (and eventually mastery) opens up your options immensely. You complete projects faster, help more people, and build momentum to make interesting career changes. Focus on what value you can produce in your job as opposed to what value your job brings you.

2. Success is fun, failed passion projects are not

Have you ever worked on a highly successful project? When the team is gelling, the product is selling, and the boss is telling (you that you’re awesome). Being apart of something that is growing and successful is a lot of fun - no matter what the field.

On the flipside, losing all your money in a lost cause can make you hate your work (and dig you into a deep financial hole).

3. Skills lead to autonomy, which leads to control

The more skills you develop, the more you’ll be left alone to get your work done. Developing a reputation for delivering results and being a skilled person will leave you in a very desirable place - one where your employer needs you more than you need them. This gives you leverage to get ask for more in your career- whether it’s flexible working hours, a big raise, or your choice of projects to work on.

4. Most people’s passions are not profitable (at least initially)

What if you could love what you get paid for? Really tempting to spend time trying to get paid for what you love. It’s probably easier and certainly more direct to talk to yourself about loving what you do.

  • Seth Godin

Personally, my favourite things in the world are kiteboarding, hiking, playing squash, and drinking red wine. I could probably etch out a living in a few of these fields, but I’d rather really enjoy the work I’m doing, make an impact, develop the right skills, and spend my downtime doing what I love. Perhaps one day I’ll start kiteboarding/winery retreat in the Dominican Republic, but not today.

5. Focusing on the big picture can lead to both short-term and long term failure

Everyone wants the dream house, car, and vacations. Everyone wants to be working in a business they love. But you need to pay the price to get there. And that means putting your head down and acquiring the skills necessary to make it happen. Have a vision, but design short term systems that keep you productive and learning every day.That will pay off more than the dream in the long-term. Whatever you do, work hard, deliver results, and always be learning. The rewards will take care of themselves.

Eventually, you will either become passionate about what you do, or find a job that you’re passionate about.

Blost post author James Clift

About the author

James Clift

James is the CEO of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

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