The Passionate Purpose Paradox

Does passion define your purpose or does purpose define your passion? Does your purpose outweigh any notion of passion, and do you just focus on making living, making the best with what ends up being your life’s work? I’m somewhat undecided but it’s a topic that I find fascinating.

I read an article on LinkedIn recently, an excerpt from Inc. magazine, that essentially debunked the popular refrain of following your passion in life to find meaningful work. The upshot of the article is that you first must define your purpose and then your passion will follow through hard work and accomplishment.

I can’t say I disagree. I’ve written about this before, in an article I published on LinkedIn a few years ago. I am passionate about a lot of things, but I don’t know if I could, or would want to make a living out of some of those things. You have to be realistic. For example, as much as I like to play guitar, I don’t think I have the talent to make a living from it and I am not sure I would want that lifestyle. I think it’s the same for a lot of people. We are not all destined to make a living from our hobbies. But I do try to incorporate as many of my interests into what I do. Take this online magazine for instance. It allows me to combine my love of writing, music, guitar playing, guitars, photography, and videography to create work that I care deeply about.

I believe most people have a goal to make a meaningful contribution with their lives. Boredom, anxiety, and some forms of depression are the result of a person feeling unable to make a meaningful contribution, in my opinion. It comes down to defining your purpose in life and what you believe in. It involves determining how best you can use your innate talents to the best of your ability and create a life that you are proud to live. As Simon Sinek puts it, “finding you why.”

I believe it’s a never-ending question that is very difficult to answer. It is, however, a question worth asking yourself every so often. The quote attributed to Socrates, “an unexamined life is not worth living,” are words to live by. Self-awareness is one of the keys to personal growth.

The article I referred to at the beginning of this article, went on to essentially say that you must ask yourself the question, “What do I really care about?”

The crux of the matter is finding what matters most to you. It has to go beyond mere survival or sustenance. Once you earn a salary you are comfortable with, and that will allow you to support yourself and your family, higher levels of personal fulfillment need to be addressed – the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The best employers understand these concepts and are therefore better able to retain top talent by allowing their employees room for personal and professional growth.

A good friend of mine, Mike, once told me many years ago, “my goal is to be world-class at something.” He loved cycling but didn’t have the ability to become a world-class cyclist but he did end up becoming a world-class judge for mountain bike racing.

Over the span of thirty years, he has been a judge in several Mountain Bike World Cup events and has been a judge at both the Rio di Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics, in Mountain Bike racing. I think he’s reached his initial goal. But he wants to go further and push himself beyond those noteworthy accomplishments – the mark of a true achiever.

And that’s not even his day job. By day, he is a very successful account manager for a major multi-national company. That’s how he makes his living and cycling is his passion. Mike is also a good drummer, and we play in a band together. We also recorded a couple of songs together.

Mike’s experience proves that you can be passionate about the job that makes you a comfortable living and still have passions outside of your main work. This is topic deserves more attention and I will devote more space to it in future articles.

In the next installment of the In-Tune Guitar Academy, I will feature an interview I did with Mike. I think you will find his story quite unique and fascinating.

Cover photo by Frank Claeys.

To read a practical application of these concepts, please click the following link:

One response to “The Passionate Purpose Paradox”

  1. Frank, just a short comment so that you are aware that I love reading your articles.

    You keep it simple, easy to understand yet profound and down to earth! I can relate to your thoughts in my work life and personal hobbies. Your article lends to healthy reflections.

    Do keep it up and cannot wait to read more of your articles.

    p.s. you have an amazing writing talent and an accute mind.

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