“A lot of people say, ‘Find your passion.’ I think passion comes from a combination of being open and curious, and of really going all-in when you find something that you’re interested in.”
– Sam Kass
Sometimes when people find out I quit my job to write full-time they say things like, “Josh, that’s awesome you found something you’re passionate about. I wish I could do the same.”
But to be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve “found my passion” in writing.
First of all, let’s clarify the type of writing I do. Because the idea of making a living as a writer has a lot of misconceptions and romantic ideas attached to it.
I specialize in direct response copywriting. Businesses pay me to write marketing messages like emails, landing pages and PPC ads.
I’m not writing novels. I write ads.
So when I hear people say I’ve “found my passion” I just laugh because even though I’m “interested” in what I do, I don’t wake up in the morning with a burning desire in my heart to write an ad about how retirees can protect their nest egg by investing in a fixed-rate annuity.
Sure, there are times when I feel like I’m “in the zone” writing copy and time seems to fly by. But that’s the exception, not the rule. Most the time I don’t feel like writing.
This morning, for example, my alarm was set for 6:30 but I hit snooze until 8:00. I was more “passionate” about sleep than writing today, apparently.
And when I finally do get to work 80% of my time is spent on non-writing tasks. Things like research, emails, managing VAs, etc. Only 20% of my time is actually spent writing.
So being a copywriter is not as “exciting” as it may sound.
The reason I share this is because there’s a lot of advice out there, especially to people my age (I’m 32), to just “follow your passion.”
And it can be misleading to tell people that if they just discover their passion that the money will come. That’s not how it worked for me.
Maybe it works for some people. But when I tried to follow that advice I would end up getting way too introspective and spend days wondering, “What should I do with my life!? I need to find out what my calling and life purpose is!”
Nothing wrong with contemplating your calling and purpose. But I’ve found that in reality those questions are hard to answer.
Sure, some people know what they’re called to do from a young age. People like Reinhard Bonnke who knew he was called to Africa at age 10.
But for most of us our calling is not as dramatic. Instead it’s “discovered” along the way. I like this quote by Ira Glass from the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport:
“In the movies there’s this idea that you should just go for your dream,” Ira Glass tells them. “But I don’t believe that. Things happen in stages.” Glass emphasizes that it takes time to get good at anything, recounting the many years it took him to master radio to the point where he had interesting options. “The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase,” he says.
I agree with Glass. Things happen in stages. And the key is to start exploring and moving into new stages. And the way to do that is to pay attention to what interests you.
It’s much easier to identify your “interests” than your “passions.”
Plus the words “calling” and “passion” are so serious and heavy.
People tense up when they these words because they’re afraid they don’t know what their calling is and they suspect they may be wasting their life!
So here’s what you can do instead.
Ask yourself, “What am I interested in?”
The interesting (pun intended) thing about your interests is that they give you clues to your calling.
For example, when I decided I didn’t want to work in a cubicle and sell insurance for the rest of my life I started to explore my interests.
One of those was writing.
Another was entrepreneurship.
I was very interested in working for myself vs someone else. I wanted to work from home. I was not interested in commuting any more.
I was also interested in sales and marketing.
As I explored these interests I stumbled on something called “copywriting.”
The more I read about it, the more I became intrigued. Then fascinated.
I’m not sure if my fascination had more to do with copywriting or working from home. But whatever my “motive” was one thing I knew for sure was that I was quickly becoming obsessed about freelance copywriting.
That was over 6 years ago.
I quit my job in May 2011 and have been freelancing ever since. And right now I’m writing this from my home office, which is a mere 45-second walk from the new home we just bought 2 weeks ago.
I love the life I get to enjoy. I love that I can work when I want and for who I want. I love that I get to see my wife and kids when I wake up, on my breaks and as soon as I decide to stop working.
And I love that I can support my family through my craft. My wife doesn’t have to work and gets to be a full-time Mom to our 3 young kids.
So I honestly don’t care how “passionate” I am about copywriting and marketing. I enjoy it. I certainly don’t hate it.
And I have a feeling it’ll open doors that are connected to “my calling” but I don’t feel like I need to worry about figuring all that out.
As a believer I trust God with those big questions. The Bible says a man’s heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps. So that’s what I believe.
So if you are struggling with “finding your calling” I encourage you to start with your interests. Even if they don’t feel “spiritual” or important. Remember, I’m writing ads for financial advisors and insurance agents. Nothing grandiose.
But I’m also able to work when I want, where I want and for who I want to. I have freedom and for me that’s very important.