Dont-Follow-Your-PassionDo I have your attention? This advice is just the opposite of accepted wisdom. It’s curmudgeon stuff, but read on and you’ll understand.

Talent is a Curse

My lifelong observation confirms that natural-born talent increases your life’s struggles as often as not. Natural talent can be a curse that deludes you into believing your innate abilities are sufficient to build a life.  This is seldom true.

When natural talent emerges at a young age – athletic talent, artistic ability, musical ability – those close to the talented (parents, relatives, friends) heap on the praise.  The belief of specialness follows, and often the die is cast: “I’m special, and this specialness will be all I need for the good life.”  This is a dangerous belief.

You’re Not Special

Being the most talented at something in a high school of 3,000 people means that there are 100,000 people as good as you in the United States. If it’s a quarterback, the demand for NFL quarterbacks is about 10 per year; the demand for violinists in major orchestras is around 500 per year; the number of musicians with hit records each year would fit in some restaurants.

I was a musical prodigy in high school, turned professional at 17, and toured for many years. Ultimately I realized that talent wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, many of my musician friends from “back in the day” persisted in their “passion” only to end up as laborers, bartenders, vagrants, or struggling artists.  I regard all of them as noble and worthy humans; but when we talk (Facebook stuff) I sense great frustration of having been victims not victors.

Passion is Great – It’s the Following that’s Lousy

So let me amend the title: Don’t follow your passion – have it follow you.  How?  Education and hard work. There is no substitute for either. The fallacy of “following” a passion is that you have a clear vision before beginning the journey. In my experience, passion presents itself. It emerges from your life’s experiences.  Passion follows as often as it leads.

In my case music was replaced by teaching as my passion of choice.  The teaching world presented itself through my business education and career – something I would have never found except through education and hard work.  I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled.

Get Busy

As a college professor I have many conversations about potential careers with my students.  “I don’t know what I want to do,” is a common lament.  That’s okay.  If you get busy and educate yourself your passion will emerge – it will follow you.

The McLane College of Business at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor aspires to be recognized as the leading provider of business education in the region and one of the leading providers in the nation. Specializations provide students with in-depth knowledge in the areas of global business, entrepreneurship and e-commerce. More more information, visit us online.