Thursday, July 18, 2013

Passion is Overrated. Focus on Diligence and Hard Work Instead

Passion.  You know the line:  find your passion and you will excel.  I understand the point, but it’s over-rated.  The truth is, only 1% of the entire universe is fortunate enough to work in field they actually are passionate about.  If that describes you, count your lucky stars (or thank God) that you are so fortunate.  For the rest of the human race, you just have to plow your way through.

My point is simply this:  passion can be a starting point, but true long-term success is based upon excellence and hard work.  You can disagree.  That’s fine.  And you have a right to be wrong if you want to be.

I know many passionate people… and they are passionately ‘not making it.’  Starving artists.  Broke musicians.  Passion and success don’t always go together – and passion doesn’t always equate into happiness either.  But this is the nonsense being dumped on us by the ill-informed motivational gurus,

For the record, no business ever makes it on passion alone.  No business person or business owner ever makes it on passion either.  And no ministry leader will be successful just on passion.

Back to my earlier point:  excellence is what moves you to the top, and hard work doing the right things is what makes you excellent.  To tell someone that passion is the key to success is to mislead them.  Here’s why:  because somewhere down the road you will discover that no one else cares about your passion.  You will quickly discover, that, while you are passionate about your particular field, you will need to have something more than passion; things like having the right skills, being an expert, a marketing strategy, leadership, management, finance, or an understanding of market share.  You will need a business plan too.  If all you have is passion, trying cashing that in at the bank.

Take my job for example.  It involves things like preaching, teaching, pastoring, shepherding, and leadership.  I love the work.  I’m called to do it.  But loving the work is not enough…. I have to be reasonably skilled at it if I hope to make it.  I have to work hard too.  That means striving for excellence, improving my skills, and becoming an expert in my field.  The apostle Paul called it being a “wise master builder” (I Cor. 3:10).   It takes more than passion to grow a healthy church – it takes skill.   I wrote about this in 2008.  See here.

I enjoy being a pastor.  But if the truth be known, my real passion is LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER or LIVING IN THE COUNTRY.  There I would have one of my Jack Russell pups sitting at my feet on the front porch as I’m leaning back in my rocking chair,  having a conversation with my wife with no cell phone interruptions, with some Rolling Stones playing in the background while I’m enjoying the smell of freshly caught fish in the deep fryer.

Now, I can get passionate about that. 

But standing on a stage once a week in front of hundreds of people, trying to say something creative and inspirational, is a challenge.  I have to work at it.  It takes and incredible amount of discipline and diligence to study week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-after-year.  I bog down at it sometimes.  Yet, it’s my calling.  It’s my vocation.  It’s what I do.  Being skilled at it is how I stay employed.  If I was (only) passionate about pastoring, but not skilled at it, I would be UNemployed.

Passion qualifies you to choose a field to work in, but it does not allow you to make a living at it.  Excellence gets you paid.  And twenty or thirty years or hard work, study, and practice, is what makes you excellent.

So set your passion aside… and just get really good at what you do.  Got it?  Forget all that baloney about passion and just go to work, while striving for a standard of excellence.

MY ADVICE.  Keep your day job, get out of debt, and save a ton of money.  Then one day you’ll be able to pursue your passion without starving.

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