Passion Fatigue: Why Just Following Your Passion is Bad Career Advice

One of my favorite podcasts is Work Life hosted by Adam Grant.  It is witty, unconventional, and focuses on how to “make work not suck.”  Adam is an ally for equality and showcases a wide variety of diverse talent on his show.  If you have yet to check out his work, I highly recommend his books, TedTalks, and monthly newsletter.

In a recent episode, the experts talked about how many cultures encourage people to follow their passions, and how unhelpful that advice is.  At first, this sounds counter-intuitive.  We think that we want to do the work we love.  We want work that has purpose and brings us energy.  Yet, that alone is not enough.  We need more than just passion.

Passions evolve over time.

In my career development speaking and training, my clients often share they are unhappy in the current roles or organizations.  This happens for a variety of reasons and they are searching for work with greater purpose on connection.  Our passions adapt over time.  Rarely, does the same type of work excite us over the course of our full careers.

Remember the question when you were a kid, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Think about how hard that was to answer.  Or, think about the answers you gave when you were 5, 15, and 25.  They were likely wildly different.  I wanted to be a zoologist and work with animals when I as a kid, then I wanted to be a journalist in my teen years, then a marketer in my 20’s.  None of those careers fulfilled me long-term.

Listen to the clues around you.

My mother always told, “you are meant to help women.”  I had no idea what she meant.  Then, five years ago, I got to design a business to do just that.  I honed it based on what I am good at – speaking, training, and writing.

In order to do my work well, I must have the skills to do it well.  While some skills can be learned, and some are transferable, it is critical that you are suited to do the work you love.  This means that you also have the skills or can learn the skills to do the work productively with a high level of quality.

You have to have the skill AND the will.

Skills are the things you are good at, and wills are your passions and motivators.  It is the intersection of the skill and will where the magic happens.  It is the sweet spot.  I often use the example of project management – while I have the skills, I seriously lack the will to do this type of work.  Conversely, I am super passionate about measuring equality, yet getting knee deep in a spreadsheet analyzing data is not something I am naturally good at.  I would have to really concentrate and it would be hard for me.  I often advise my clients to pay attention to your energy and align 80% of what you do with your skills and wills.

Reflect often on your skills and wills.

You will likely experience many “pivot points” in your career.  Those that win do work that they are passionate about and are good at.  They shift careers over time.  Pay attention to your energy and reflect often on what drives it and where you excel.  I offer these questions to help guide you through your successful “pivot points.”

  •   What are the tasks/goals that get you most excited? (will)
  •   What are the tasks/goals that you are doing on your very best days? (will)
  •   What are the tasks/goals that people continuously praise you for? (skill)
  •   What are the tasks/goals that you seem to be most effective at? (skill)

May the force be with you.

I am a equality, leadership, and career development trainer and speaker.  If you are interested in learning more, simply connect with me at

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