Recently, I was strolling through my neighborhood listening to one of Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation podcast episodes (is there a better way to chase away the Sunday blues?!). The guest was Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, the Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame; the Elizabeth Gilbert that has inspired us all to follow Big Magic and commit to discovering our passion; the Elizabeth Gilbert of whom I seriously can’t get enough.
Except this time, she had a slightly different message. She spoke about a realization after reading an email from a disheartened fan. It hit her that her years of encouraging people to follow their passion as the surefire road to true happiness, it had actually led to a promise of something that’s not always realistic.
Maybe you don’t have a passion that is meant to be your life’s work. You’re not a painter, you’re not a poet, not a writer, not someone who plans on founding the non-profit that will solve world suffering. And that’s OK. You could be an amazing friend, an incredible mother, or someone who finds joy and curiosity in the everyday. You do not need passion for anything other than life itself.
But, what I actually got out of this podcast was something even greater — something that resonated with the culture we live in today, where we’re bombarded with messages telling us that we haven’t made it unless we quit our day jobs and follow the work that brings us unlimited joy.
You don’t have to monetize your passion.
Too often, the message of carving out your solopreneur journey is pitched in the same, “You’ve got this, girl!” voice that we’ve come to associate with MLMs and Facebook messages from high school acquaintances that are hawking the next big get-rich-quick scheme. Our passions have become commodified to the point where we’re led to believe that we are somehow inadequate if we haven’t quite figured out a way to make six-figures while sitting on a beach in Bali.
Of course, if that’s your goal, that’s great. Get after it.
But, if it’s not, don’t measure yourself against your ability to make money from something that you enjoy simply for the act of doing or creating. You don’t need to sell your art to derive value from it; you don’t need to leave behind your 9-5 because you have an eye for photography; you don’t need to become a digital nomad to appreciate travel. Your passions can be the exclamation points that punctuate your days, rather than the money signs that drive your motivation.
Don’t measure yourself against your ability to make money from something that you enjoy.
Plus, think about the implications of monetizing the things that bring you joy. When you need a stress release from the grind of the everyday, you turn to painting or writing. What would happen if those things were no longer your retreat, but your primary source of income? While it can be wonderful to share something you love with the world and make money from it, it can also be exhausting. It can suck the inspiration right out of your passion when you feel like you’re on the clock, always trying to meet deadlines and hit sales marks. It’s easy to let your billable hours creep into your off hours when passion and work are one in the same, and while some people thrive in a state of constant creation, others find themselves rapidly approaching burnout.
However, when you release the need to turn your passions into entrepreneurship, you are given the freedom to fully enjoy the act of creating, doing, and finding pure joy. You’re no longer at risk of compromising the unadulterated excitement you get from exploring and growing your talents — you’re permitted to truly pursue your passion for passion’s sake.
When you release the need to turn your passions into entrepreneurship, you are given the freedom to fully enjoy the act of doing.
Now, I realize this may sound rich coming from someone who is a writer — someone who did find a way to turn their passion into a career. For some of us, like Elizabeth Gilbert has often said and says again on Oprah’s podcast, this was the only choice. But, for many others, we can excel in a career that brings us fulfillment, and we shouldn’t feel pressured to leave it behind just because the blissful concept of full-time pursuit of passion is the bill being sold on social media.