What does it take to pursue passion? Last week I shared an interview with the remarkable Wyn Wiley—whose journey to build an enviable life inspired us all. He's learned how to make a dream a reality, but today I wanted to spell out the lessons from his story in greater detail. Disclaimer: You may be sick of the word passion by the end of this post.
(1) Pursuing a passion takes sustained effort. There is a pervasive belief that our one true passion is serendipitously discovered, and then you live happily ever after. There is certainly an initial rush of inspiration and excitement after discovering what you love to do, but after the buzz wears off, you’re responsible to keep the dream alive. Wyn said it well, “I think a lot of people are in love with the idea of doing something they love, but they’re not in love with the action of it. You’ve got to be in love with the action of it.” According to Cal Newport at Study Hacks, the key to living a remarkable life involves mastering a skill that’s rare and valuable. Cal’s right—anyone who does what they love has worked damn hard at it, sometimes for years, before they’ve had any success. If you think you’ve found your passion, keep working at it. Let go of your desire for immediate gratification. Do one thing every day that moves you closer to realizing your dream.
(2) You will face resistance in pursuit of passion. Before we began our interview, Wyn and I bonded over a book that has been crucial in helping us pursue our dreams: The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. Pressfield’s big idea is that the creative process is riddled with resistance—an impersonal force that everyone battles when creating something worthwhile—that is fueled by fear and manifests itself in the form of procrastination, self-doubt, negative self-talk, sugar binges, and countless other behaviors. The best thing you can do as a creative is to treat your work like a professional: show up no matter what, stay on the job all day, and refuse to let resistance win. Thankfully we’re smarter than resistance—so if you’re creating something and it’s hard, good! It means you’re working towards something worthwhile. Keep going. (And read the War of Art if you can.)
(3) Pursing passion (or anything worthwhile) takes the right mindset. Wyn might not realize it, but he has the mindset of a champion: the growth mindset. What’s a growth mindset? In Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking book, she describes it as the belief that ability changes with effort and that challenges are opportunities to improve our ability—whether creative ability, intelligence, or negotiating skills. This is contrasted with the fixed mindset, which holds that you’re born with a set ability and there’s little you can do to improve it. People with a fixed mindset don’t put in effort because it threatens to define their talent—and therefore their identity. The problem with a fixed mindset is that it’s untrue. Ability—even intelligence—changes with effort, and believing anything else is a untrue. I think of Tom Osborne. He is ruthlessly committed to the growth mindset – refusing to let any unfavorable event influence his trust in his team’s success. If you’re working towards something you love, try on a growth mindset. You might be pleasantly surprised.