Is passion a principle of your life? Do you wake up feeling energized about your day? Is the first day of the week your favorite, or do you morn the end of your weekend? 

Did you answer, “No?” to any of the questions? To all of the questions? Here is a better investigative question — “What is your passion?” 

Regrettably, the questions stir a significant amount of anxiety. Why, because it appears that everyone else is pursuing their passion, but you. What is the solution to your fear? Simple — follow your passion.

Bad Advice

Family, friends, and even other successful people have given me the “follow your passion advice.” I have come to understand that “follow your passion” is terrible advice. Mark Cuban owner of the Dallas Mavericks notes, “One of the great lies of life is ‘follow your passions.’” Cuban continues, “Everybody tells you, ‘Follow your passion, follow your passion.’”

Why is that advice bad because maybe your passion is a hobby. Now you are trying to take that hobby and turn it into a business. Now your love has become a job. So what do you do if following your passion is terrible advice?

You follow your effort. Cuban writes, “The things I ended up being really good at were the things I found myself putting effort into. A lot of people talk about passion, but that’s really not what you need to focus on. You really need to evaluate and say, ‘Okay, where am I putting in my time?’”

While you might be passionate about photography, are you putting in the effort to be a world-class photographer? Or are you placing your energy into becoming a world-renowned chef?

You are taking online classes. You are trying new recipes. After work, you are running the pass at a local restaurant. Cooking energizes you. You find yourself going into what author Steven Kotler calls Flow: an optimal state of consciousness, a state where you feel your best and perform your best.

Now passion is not a bad thing. Passion is a useful tool in excavating where you spend your effort. Why because it helps you focus on those things that you find interesting. 

A Better Plan

How do you find your passion, or precisely where your effort lives? Steven Kotler recommends these steps:

Step One: Make A-List

Kotler recommends grabbing a pen a paper and make a list of 25 things you are curious about — be specific. For example: 

  • Every 26 million years we pass through a violent part of the Milky Way?
  • How do we measure iridium levels world-wide?

Step Two: Hunt for Intersections

Now look for places where the 25 curiosities intersect. When you begin to identify patterns, you begin to find ideas that impregnate you with the energy to pursue the curiosity.

Step Three: Play

Now you are having a hard time sleeping because you are excited about pursuing the idea. Now the work begins — limit your inputs and keep in mind that you are reading for understanding, not for information:

  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading books
  • Take notes in the book
  • Highlight the interesting text
  • Use a notecard system

Step Four: Go Public

I know this sounds terrifying, but it’s part of the evolution of your curiosity. By making your idea public, you are exposing yourself to public feedback. The feedback can be your litmus test — will this be a curiosity or where I will focus more effort? 

The thing about effort is that it is selfish. It’s all about your satisfaction. If you want to put a dent in the universe, then you must serve a world problem. Here are a few from the World Economic Forum:

  • Climate Crises and Biodiversity Loss
  • Digital Fragmentation
  • Economic Stability and Social Cohesion
  • An Unsettled World
  • Strained Health Systems

Kotler suggests, “Write down a list of 15 massive problems you would love to see solved. And by massive, I mean something everyone has to deal with.” If you find an intersection between your effort and a world-problem — you are now looking at a business opportunity that will keep you energized all day.