Follow Your Passion? Not So Fast

Hey, there!

OK. I’ll admit: I’ve given the advice of “Follow your passion and the money will follow you” more times than I can remember.

Guilty as charged.

I mean, it seems so logical – you’ll be happiest, and most likely more successful, if you’re doing something that you’re passionate about.

Well, I’m through giving that advice.

The truth is, following your passion is rarely even possible, especially in our business, for a very, very good reason.

So much of what we’re passionate about is being able to perform, and to do so for money. To pay the bills. To eat. To enjoy life.

And much of that is beyond our control.

But the main reason that blindly following our passion might not be the best strategy is that we can’t really follow our passion without a really strong base of skills, strategies and tactics.

I often say that you should be open to all forms of VO because neither of us can safely predict what we’ll end up being successful at.

Example: lots of young female VO talent come to me, stating very clearly that they are following their passion to be the next Disney Princess.

That presumes they are going to become a celebrity first, because all the latest Disney Princesses are well-known actors.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to have passion, and to have goals, and to have the drive to try to reach those goals.

The reality of life is that you’d better be prepared to follow that passion by being really good at whatever you have to do to get there.

And, you should be agile and open enough to allow for a zig or a zag in your life path. Agility means skills, openness means seeing the bigger picture.

And you’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you find your passion via preparation and training, rather than picking a passion out of thin air and going about the training after the fact.

Colin Shillingford said on Quora recently:

“Telling people to follow their passions (without any other advice or guidance) simply sends them on a dream chase, which may be more harmful to their careers in the long-term.”

And Cal Newport did a whole TED-like talk for 99U on the subject, entitled “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Advice.

Cal says:

“American culture is obsessed with the idea that we need to find our ‘passion’ in order to be happy and successful. But there’s a problem: it’s an astonishingly bad piece of advice. We have no pre-existing passion. Instead, passion is found by first building a rare and valuable talent and using it to take control of your career path. In other words, be so good and work so hard that no one can ignore you.”

(Thanks to Mashable for concatenating both of these quotes into one great article.)

My passion as a teenager revolved around computers and radio. Over the years, I’ve thought about lots of different passions, and realized that the better prepared I was, the more likely I was to find those passions.

Whatever you decide – train, strategize, prepare, commit, gear up and execute. And let your passion be found. Don’t just declare a passion, and face disappointment as you go about randomly “finding” it.

If I can assist you in helping you do that, I’m happy to do so. Get in touch.

I’m also committing to never tossing out that platitude by itself ever again. Rather, I’ll add that you need to train, strategize, prepare, commit, gear up and execute. And then, your passion has every chance of finding you.

Hope this helps.


9 Responses to Follow Your Passion? Not So Fast

  1. Ian Fults August 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    It is a good BEGINNING I think, to search what you ENJOY doing the most, that is one’s passion.

    I LOVE telling stories, I am a Storyteller. But I have many ways to TELL my stories, using my writing is where I start, then I use my voice to bring what I write to life, THEN I search for other Voices who can find the voice that is in my head and make it come out of THEIR Voices.

    It started small, with a simple thought that “Because I can do voices means I can be a voice Actor” Learned the hard way that is not the case.

    I need to learn SO Many things, and be EXCITED to learn and to work hard at them. THAT is what has brought me success in my passion to be a story teller.

    And it did all start one day with someone telling me to follow my passion. Little did I realize the work involved, but when you enjoy what you do, it is not really work. :)

    • David H. Lawrence XVII August 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

      Thank you for making my point – you STARTED with that passion, then you must have gotten the right resources in place to pursue and eventually achieve that passion. That’s the point of this article – don’t stop with identifying your passion.

  2. Matt Forrest August 8, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Well said! While it’s true to a certain degree that doing what you love is a wonderful ideal, the sad fact of the matter is that many, if not most, people who “follow their passion” aren’t necessarily good at whatever that passion is! As you said, it takes more than passion – it requires time, talent, training, and a host of other things.

  3. Suzan Lorraine August 9, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    How true! Wanting to do VO work after working in the corporate world for years, I stumbled around in ACX, did a couple of auditions – to no avail – and finally realized that I wouldn’t be able to do this all by myself . . . well, maybe, but would probably lose the passion in the process. Now I’ve found a path – vo2gogo classes – and I can’t believe the difference in my attitude, my strategy (actually I had none), and the success it’s all leading to. I feel like I’ve been pulled out of a black hole of no or mis-information. Thanks to you, the passion is heated up!

  4. Chet Hanson August 9, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    I am almost in agreement. By-in-large I am, with some other subtleties.

    My sister told me I was an artist, not a business man. When I begged to differ, citing the fact that I had started 6 business’ and had made money on five of them, she answered me in words that ring truer everyday I live. She said, “You are not a business man, it is only that you are so passionate that when you set out on something nothing can stop you.”

    I now live for the art of making a beautiful life. I do not have great material wealth, but I am a rich man.

    Lest I be misunderstood I firmly believe that the definition of success is, “When Preparation meets opportunity.”

    If you like something and are mildly passionate about it you could find yourself in deep trouble if you believe that will get you through. If you are truly passionate you will dig into everything, including the things you don’t like to do, like research, look beyond your first resource, get a variety of opinions, test and re-test your theories.

    If passion, rather than some formal education or internship, is your vehicle – you had better be REALLY passionate.

    By the way, when it comes to technology, I am a very slow learner – it is painful. But I did get an offer on my first set of auditions. I will master the art. As soon as i have done an excellent job on the book I have taken on I will voice my own book. That will allow me to do more or die happy – whatever God wills.

  5. Ted Mcaleer August 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    A very interesting viewpoint, I was always told that chasing the passion meant get skills to be able to do the job, but the quote – “We have no pre-existing passion. Instead, passion is found by first building a rare and valuable talent and using it to take control of your career path. In other words, be so good and work so hard that no one can ignore you” is probably the best I’ve seen.
    And you managed to use “concatenate” in a sentence… Nicely played!
    Ted Mcaleer

  6. Gwendolyn August 19, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    No pre-existing passion? Pfff. Maybe he didn’t have one. But it doesn’t take a lot to look back and see that storytelling was always my passion. My PLAN of how I can do that all the time however is the key to success and happiness. I am going to study and work and listen and learn and tell stories and listen to stories and enjoy working very very hard to get better at telling stories so that I can get paid to do it which in turn will give me more time to tell stories and read stories and get better.
    My understanding has always been that ‘follow your passion’ MEANT work your ass off doing what you know you like to do and you’ll be happier. Keep saying it. Just make sure to be clear that that’s just the start of the converstion.

  7. Bobbie Cahill May 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    I enjoy reading your emails and this one especially hit home for me. My passion these days is being on WXCI 91.7 fm, WCSU’s radio station and having my own radio show – Tea with B. If money is supposed to come from following my passion well it ain’t happenin’ here! I have learned, as you point out, that work and preparation are important. I hear it in the better interviews I’ve given on my show because they have included thoroughly researching the guest. I really enjoy being on air, talking with and introducing musical artists to the WXCI listening area. Being a member of the zanier Saturday Morning Show is another fun passion. It is work that is too enjoyable for me to consider work at all but I am passionate about both shows.

    So, thank you for the timely newsletter and good advice.

    And maybe one day I’ll actually make money at it!


  1. Top Voiceover Articles of the Week – August 12 | - August 12, 2014

    […] VO2GoGo – Follow Your Passion? Not So Fast […]

Leave a Reply