What's that saying? If I had a penny for everytime someone told me to follow my passion, I'd be sipping a cocktail on my private remote island. Ok, so I made up the last part.
But really, it seems silly that mindlessly following your passion could be an actual prescription for success. Just because I have a passion for singing, demonstrated by my daily rehearsals in the shower, does not mean that I should actually join a band and become a singer for life.
So what about the correlation between passion and success?
Well, let's go back to high school math class. Remember when we learned that just because A is correlated with B, does not mean that A caused B? Righttttt - correlation does not imply causation. I'd love to hear about a successful person who is not passionate about what made them successful.
If not passion, then what?
It seems that in the midst of all this "passion talk", we forgot to think about the meaning of the term "success" itself. Success, by dictionary definition, is the "accomplishment of an aim or purpose". But in reality, it's more like "I'm the best at what I do, and if you want some of it, you better pay me a ton of money". So what does that imply?
Expertise, is "an expert skill or knowledge in a particular field". Expertise, is why people with higher degrees command higher salaries. Expertise, is why there is such thing as a pay scale. Expertise, is why college costs so much freaking money. And at the end of the day, expertise, not passion, is what will make us successful.
But if we graduated from a great university, chance are we're too "well-rounded" to be an expert at anything
Not an expert at anything, but not bad at anything either. And that, is the very sad part about a liberal arts education.
Discover talents by thinking back to the basics
Everyone had a good and bad subject in school. Which subjects were easier for you? Now boil it down to specific skills. Math? Communication? Drawing? Writing? Photography? Biology? An eye for design? A talent for meticulously reading spreadsheets? A memory for storytelling? A knack for building things with your hands? Try to be as specific as possible.
And how society can benefit from your skills
This is the hard part because it requires an understanding of how our society works, and how different industries function. Take an industry. Who are the actors involved? Is there an agency side and a client side? Buy side and sell side? Which side does what? Is there a third actor? It might help here to draw out a diagram and continue doing research along each function. At a certain point, you may need to talk to people in the industry to find out more. Soon you'll discover that there are literally hundreds of different positions out there. Even ones that could be beneficial, but just don't exist yet... Where do you fit in?
It's normal to love and hate an industry
Traders always say that they hate Bankers. And in Retail, those who work on the shop floor most of the time despised Marketing. So it's okay to dislike a particular function within a certain industry. It doesn't mean that the industry as a whole is not right. Just keep on digging.
Remember that the more competitive a field, the less likely you'll rise on top
Life, like the board game, is just a numbers game. If there are more people like us, the less likely we will be better than everyone else. And so while everyone else is going one way, it might be worth it to explore a path off the beaten road.
After all, it's far easier to be #1 in a talent pool where there is only well...you.