Why I Don’t Follow My Passion Full-Time

I wrote a post a while back about my Golden Handcuffs. I went into detail about how I’m not in love with my job but it offers some decent pay and flexibility, I don’t actually hate it, and it’s most likely my fastest way to financial independence, so I stick with it. I’ve been on a podcast listening spree lately and was listening to an interview with Kevin Kelly (I recommend checking this guy out – he is extremely interesting to say the least) and he mentioned following a path for something you are good at instead of going full bore into a passion which you may not be. He used the fact that he enjoys singing, but couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. Our ERE friend Jacob has said something similar as well in his book, “…pursue something you’re good at rather than something you’re passionate about.”

Now it may come as a surprise to some but my day job, which is accounting, is not my passion. Freshman accounting class came extremely easy to me. I aced it actually, with little effort, and couldn’t believe that others struggled with it. Debits have to equal credits, and assets have to equal liabilities plus equity – how hard is that?? It clicked after some research about the profession and discussions with a professor that it would most likely be a good fit for me. Numbers, decent pay, defined career progression, low cyclicality, etc., all seemed like a “smart” profession to get into.

Fast forward to now, and 27 year old me is still in the same profession. Has it evolved into a passion? Hell no! But I don’t hate it. It more than pays the bills, and is helping me reach my biggest goal of financial independence.

Personally, there are four main reasons why I don’t follow my passion full-time:

  1. Passions can change. When I was 16 years old my passion was girls and cars. At 18 it was girls, guitar, and poker. At 21 it was beer, partying, and money. Now it’s traveling, lifting, and financial independence. I think I’d be a pretty pissed off today if I had tried to make a living following around girls, while drinking beer. Maybe for others they have been passionate about the piano since age 5, and still til this day play at least an hour a day. But that’s just not me, and I’m okay with that. I like trying new things, and once I discover a new hobby I like, I dive into it head first and research it as much as possible (hello lifting and financial independence). Maybe once I become financially independent my new passion will be woodworking, or guitar again, or helping people get their financial lives in order. I don’t know, and that’s what makes the future exciting.
  2. Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make a living drinking beer, or even playing guitar. Poker pays the bills for some, but seems like you have to be the best of the best to support yourself on that career path. Living in NYC I can only imagine how many struggling entertainers, artists, musicians, etc., there are that have tried to make their passions into a career, and are just coming up short. I’d rather go down the accounting path, something I’m really good at and build up a nice nest egg that can finance my passions in the future, and not at the expense of my retirement or a future family that may depend on me.
  3. Relying on your passion to make a living may lead to losing that passion. If you do anything full-time, it can get old after a while. Especially relying on a passion that might not pay well. You’re going to have to do whatever that passion is, A LOT, and it might not bear the fruits you have expected it to. Do I love ice cream? Hell yes. But would I still love it as much as I do if I ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every night? I don’t think so. Moderation is key. I believe we enjoy many things in life because we aren’t privy to them 24/7. Your brain becomes unphased by the constant interaction with that food or passion, and it might lose its luster. I love reading and blogging about financial independence, but if I had to consult with others for 40 or 50 hours a week on their financial lives, and then at night blog and research the topic, maybe I would run out of steam and get bored with financial independence – nah.. I don’t think I would either.
  4. You might not be good at it. Just because I loved playing the guitar when I was 18, does NOT mean I was good at it. Like I mentioned above, Kevin Kelly loves singing but doesn’t really think he would get paid to do it. Coming to terms with this early is important, before you quit it all to follow that passion, when in reality you stink at it and no one has told you yet (or you ignore them). I was not fooling myself at all with the guitar, I knew I’d never be the next Eddie Van Halen.
  5. I just don’t actual know what my passion is! In all honesty, if my passion changes – do I really know what my passion is? Or even have one? Maybe these are just things I enjoy. The dictionary definition of passion is “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something.” Maybe I just haven’t found my passion yet, or maybe I don’t have one. But I know the things I enjoy, and I’m more than happy to use my free time to explore those things.

Now I’m not saying this is the right path for everyone. I don’t doubt that some people have a deep fire burning inside them for something, and are willing to exert all their effort and give all their time for that one thing. But personally for me, I think I’ve made the right decision to apply my time to something I’m good at, and explore my “passions” in my free time.

Are you able to follow your passion full-time? Would you advise someone to follow their passion, or do something they’re good at which pays the bills and follow their passion in their free time?

57 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Follow My Passion Full-Time

  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline

    I guess it really depends on what your passion is and if there is a market for it. I don’t think you necessarily need to follow a passion, as long as it meets your needs. Sounds like you found a sweet spot, something you are good at and offers a good work/life balance.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Locus of ControlMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Agreed Brian. If someone was passionate about something they were good at, and could make a paycheck from, I would 100% do that.

      Reply
  2. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    Accounting isn’t your passion?! And you don’t want to pursue girls, cars, and poker full time?! 🙂 This rings so true for us as well. Mr. T is an artist, but he doesn’t want to rely on that. What if no one wants to buy his stuff? He wants to create for the sake of creating and he doesn’t want it to turn into his job. So, he too embraces the golden handcuffs so he can enjoy freedom later!
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…How We Turned Unemployment Into a Game. And Won!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I know – crazy isn’t it? He’ll have plenty of time to do as much (or as little) art as he wants in FIRE!

      Reply
  3. Jim Wang

    I think pursuing your passion is an easy thing to tell folks – you’re giving them permission to do the very thing they love. They’ll love you for telling them that!

    The reality is that it’s usually a bad idea because you may not be good at the things you love and so you may find it extremely challenging to succeed at your other goals, financial or otherwise, pursuing your passions.

    Plus, if you love something and are forced to do it (like when you’re tired, stressed, frustrated, etc.), a thing you love could quickly turn into something you hate.
    Jim Wang recently posted…The Secret Santa Hack – Save thousands this year with this one gift giving hackMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Haha everyone would love that advice! “Hey mom I’m passionate about poker, so I’m picking up and moving to Vegas to do it full-time.” “Sure honey that’s a GREAT idea!”

      Reply
  4. Alyssa @ GenerationYRA

    Absolutely – I am much more a proponent of following your passion in your free time. I grew up dancing a vast majority of my life (competitive teams, studios, performance groups) and without a doubt thought that was my passion I needed to pursue. Until I started learning how many people face a starving artist lifestyle by moving to cities like LA & NYC that are hot spots for professional dancing. I slowly let the thought of turning this passion into a profession go, and take on more of a career oriented path. The sad reality (like most sport professionals will face) is that they become injured early, have to retire faster than anticipated, and have no skills to fall back on afterwards. Finding my balance of a career & dancing in my free time has created the perfect balance. My passion of dance still serves as my outlet to release stress, express myself, etc. and not create it. I look forward to in my financial independence/retirement days to then take my savings & create my passion as more of a volunteer experience to help others – not as a means of living.
    Alyssa @ GenerationYRA recently posted…Financially Audacious Series: Maggie at Northern ExpenditureMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Alyssa. That’s awesome that you have been able to find the right balance for a career and dance. For me, juggling a career, working out, and the blog can be a bit of a pain, but I just have had to learn to prioritize.

      Reply
  5. Matt @ The Resume Gap

    >> “I think I’d be pretty pissed off today if I had tried to make a living following around girls, while drinking beer.”

    I don’t know… that sure sounds like living the dream!

    I thought Mark Manson put it perfectly in his “Screw Finding Your Passion” post a few weeks back: “…who says you need to make money doing what you love? Since when does everyone feel entitled to love every fucking second of their job? Really, what is so wrong with working an OK normal job with some cool people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time on the side? Has the world turned upside-down or is this not suddenly a novel idea to people?” — http://markmanson.net/passion
    Matt @ The Resume Gap recently posted…An IntroductionMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks for the share Matt. That exactly explains my career right now. I work an OK job, with decent pay, and currently work with some pretty cool people, with a healthy PTO allotment. I need to stop complaining about it!

      Reply
  6. Norm

    So true, Fervent. I’m in the same boat, but a few years later. I’m 33 and in accounting, and my hobbies have changed almost reliably bi-annually since I graduated. I made paintings for a few years. I played curling for a few years. I made music for a few years. I’ve been building things around the house for a few years now. I’m glad I chose the safe path of accounting. In high school I thought for a moment of getting into music production and I can see that would’ve turned out terribly.

    “Work to live” not “Live to work” right? And like Office Space teaches us, you shouldn’t follow your dreams because “there’d be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars.”
    Norm recently posted…Rabbit Litter: The Scam!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Love me some Office Space quotes! Seems like we’re the same with our “passions”, ever-changing and evolving. I’m glad I went the accounting route as well. I graduated from undergrad in 2009 with a job offer, and a not too impressive GPA. The guys who majored in Finance or Real Estate weren’t having it that easy. In my six year career so far, I’ve never felt concerned over job security, or maybe that’s just because the damn head hunters contact us non-stop trying to earn a commission. I’ll take a secure career over a “passion” that may not pay the bills, or even be a passion.

      Reply
  7. Stockbeard

    Point 3 (the risk of losing one’s passion) is really the one that matters to me, and the reason I tend to agree: my passion is my hobby. If I turned it into my job, then it wouldn’t be a hobby anymore, it would become the thing I need to focus on in order to make money, and it would be a source of stress rather than relief.
    Maybe turning your passion into your job *after* you reach FI…
    Stockbeard recently posted…Can you retire on 1.5 million?My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I could definitely see myself resenting my hobby if I counted on it to make me money, and it just wasn’t doing that. I think you hit the nail on the head with turning a passion into a “job” after FI.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I knew someone would call me out on that! You are definitely correct, especially where I live in Manhattan. But they are busiest at night, into the morning, on the weekends. And that’s wayyyyy past my bedtime and when I hang out with my friends/family 🙂

      Reply
  8. DC @ Young Adult Money

    You and I are very alike. I feel like I could have easily written this post. I used to be extremely into poker in the 16-20(ish) year range, and honestly I am so happy I didn’t pursue it full-time like some of my friends. Some made out pretty well. One has made over a million and got out after Black Friday. He married his high school sweetheart, finished his undergrad degree, got his law degree, and now has a great life “post-poker.” He is certainly an exception to the rule.

    I started to play poker more this year and it’s been fun to pursue that passion again. What’s even better is that I don’t rely on it financially so there is less pressure and I honestly play better. I am very comfortable in corporate finance and while it’s not my passion, I sure as heck don’t have plans on leaving it anytime soon.

    Excellent post!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…8 Things to do on Black Friday Instead of ShopMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I definitely think he’s an anomaly, but good for him for recognizing when it was time to get out! I have an acquaintance that played his way through law school (can you say Rounders). I don’t know what he’s netted over the years, but he cashed in on some decent tournaments along the way (which I validated online – since I used to be an auditor). I’m with you though, I’m comfortable in my accounting role, and will leave playing cards to when buddies want to host poker night 🙂

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Totally agree Thias. I think I’m pretty close to that set-up. The time off and some what decent flexibility at my current job that I get makes it hard to leave.

      Reply
  9. Norm

    I’m in the same position as you, just a few years later. I’m 33 and I took the safe road into accounting. My interests have changed reliably almost bi-annually since I graduated. I made paintings for a few years. I played curling for a few years. I made music for a few years. I’ve been buildings things around the house for a few years now. It’s a good thing I didn’t get into music production like I was thinking for a moment in high school. That would’ve turned out terribly!

    “Work to live” not “Live to work,” right? As long as you’re following that maxim, you’re doing okay. Plus, as Office Space teaches us, not everyone can follow their passion. If everyone did the job they’d like to do if they were rich, “there’d be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars.”
    Norm recently posted…Rabbit Litter: The Scam!My Profile

    Reply
  10. Jay

    Passion definitely doesn’t always pay the bills. I think it’s good to find hobbies that you are passionate about or semi-passionate about and turn them into money making opportunities. That would be my advice for anyone who’s thinking about their passions and how it affects their life.

    Reply
  11. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    I really envy those who can follow their passion. If you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. Of course, it is often easier said than done. I honestly don’t know what my passion is right now…well at least one that would translate into a job or business. Plus, as you said…your passions change and most times, they don’t pay the bills.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Consumers BewareMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I don’t think I really know anyone that can say their job is their passion. Well, I take that back, I know a lot of people who run their own businesses claim that, but maybe it’s just the benefits of being your own boss which they love.

      Reply
        1. Fervent Finance Post author

          All my friends are accountants, in finance, or engineers. I need to diversify my friends like my portfolio 🙂

          Reply
          1. Claudia @ Two Cup House

            Most of our friends are in engineering, business or healthcare and have much the same to say as us. We def could use more artists and environmentalists in our lives. 😉

            I’m in the same boat you are. I enjoy what I do, but it’s not my passion. In fact, I have no idea what my passion. I’m hoping I’ll have a clearer mind at FI to really think about what I can do that doesn’t necessarily revolve around a W-2.
            Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…Thanks for Giving!My Profile

          2. Fervent Finance Post author

            I live in a small apartment, you live in a small house. We have engineering and business friends. Jobs aren’t passions but they pay the bills! So much in common 🙂 Enjoy your holiday Claudia.

  12. Red to Riches

    This is a refreshing article to read. I’m in accounting as well and it’s definitely not my passion, but like you said: decent pay, decent work-life balance, decent stability, etc.

    Maybe I’ve been listening to too many ‘feel-good’ podcasts lately, but it seems like the common theme is to follow your passion and the money will follow which is terrible advice for people, like you mentioned, that are passionate about singing but suck at it.

    I’m basically passionate about having money so I don’t have to do what I don’t like to do… I don’t like to sit in a cube over 2,000 hours a year. But I understand the next best alternative isn’t great. I could be sitting in a cube 2,000 hours a year and make less money or do something I hate.

    I enjoy writing on my blog, but if I was required to write for 8 hours a day in a cubicle village, I think that enjoyment would fade fast. Like you said, moderation seems to be the key to everything.

    I also think the freedom to choose what you do is more important than what you actually do, regardless of whether it’s your passion or not.
    Red to Riches recently posted…In Memory of Dividend Mantra – How to Kill a Blog in 10 WeeksMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Accountants unite! I know I complain a lot about my job, but it could be worse. Totally agree on a passion being able to invest money to not have to work for a living, especially doing something I don’t like.

      Reply
  13. Josh

    My advice is to pursue your passion, but avoid it if you can’t leave your job at work, especially if you work 60-70 hours per week. You need to have an interest in your profession to be successful. I’m in the middle of a career transition right now from the transportation industry. I liked the job out of college but add a wife plus newborn child & the crazy hours each week for forever & you have a good income with no life outside work. I turned 29 in July & resigned in August. It’s something we had planned for about a year before finding a different job in the service industry that paid less & but also has a regular schedule with fewer hours. Neither of these jobs are my passion. I did like working in Transportation, but the industry requires long & crazy hours, plus there’s always a “fire” to put out. The drama wasn’t worth it for a long-term career.
    Josh recently posted…Unique Christmas Gift IdeasMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I do work some 60-70 hour weeks but they are less than 10 weeks a year I’d say, so not unbearable. Those hours week in and week out just aren’t doable for my sanity. Congrats on making the transition.

      Reply
  14. Our Next Life

    I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in Big Magic: Don’t put the pressure on your passion of making it pay your bills. Seeing it put that way really helped me understand that we actually shouldn’t pursue our passions as careers — that’s only going to smother them and make us miserable. Instead, do what you’re good at for work, at least until you have enough saved to retire early, and leave your passions free to generate zero income. So stick with those golden handcuffs, my friend! 🙂
    Our Next Life recently posted…It’s Never Too Late to Define Yourself // Inspiration from Julia ChildMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I might have to give that book a read. I thank that plan works best, especially for myself. Take care!

      Reply
  15. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Yep, I actually wrote a whole post last year (?) called “Doing what you love is overrated.” One of my main points was that you might stop enjoying your passion once it becomes work. Then you’ve lost a huge chunk of enjoyment. But also because I don’t buy the saying “Do what you love and the money will follow.” It often doesn’t. Otherwise, no companies would ever go out of business.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…Make money on Black FridayMy Profile

    Reply
  16. Taylor

    This is super interesting to think about. I honestly think that I fall somewhere in the middle of the passion debate. I don’t think you should recklessly pursue it but I also don’t think you should write off the possibility of making money doing things you love. I definitely do not love my full-time “career” job either. It pays all the bills (and then some) but in order to reach financial independence and have the freedom and flexibility that I crave, it would require working 15-20 years. Not a long time in the scheme of life, but it does mean that I’ll already have kids and have new constraints by the time I’m free. So in summary, my answer is to try to create a “career” that is super flexible now, while I’m still in my early 20’s. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉 haha
    Taylor recently posted…Why I’m Thankful for My Student LoansMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      My career offers me some flexibility as well with ample PTO allotted, and some decent flexible work arrangements which I value a ton. I’ve thought about switching companies to one that pays a lot more, but in return would also bring more hours and stress, and to me that isn’t worth speeding up my FIRE date by a couple of years. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Forestry definitely sounds like a great outdoors career, but definitely agree the pay upside is much better in IT. Now with your rentals, you have plenty of time and money to go explore the outdoors.

      Reply
  17. Justin @ Root of Good

    Ha ha, exactly!

    It’s not like you can’t indulge your passions during the other 128 hours per week while you aren’t at work.

    I figured out early on that playing video games and reading books wouldn’t pay the bills (though the video game playing thing might be a viable career option for today’s youth given Twitch and other sponsorships available). So I became an engineer instead.

    It was never my passion. Sometimes interesting, sometimes boring, always paid the bills and then some. Stick it out for a decade and come out the other side with a fat portfolio and the freedom to “follow my passion” for the next 5-6 decades.
    Justin @ Root of Good recently posted…How We Reached Financial Independence In Our 30’sMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Justin. As long as you are only at your job ~40 hours a week, then yes you have plenty of time for other activities 🙂 I agree, finding something that pays the bills and lets you build a fat portfolio is the best option as long as you don’t hate it. And then hopefully you’ll be able to choose what you want to do without fear of it paying you cash dividends. Take care.

      Reply
  18. Jason @ Islands of Investing

    This post really resonates with me Fervent, I feel VERY similar about my job! It’s in finance, I’m pretty good at it, don’t hate it, there’s lots of great benefits, and pay is great, so I’d be pretty crazy to give it up – even though I’ve been tempted by the ‘follow your passion’ mantra a few times. I definitely don’t want to do this job forever though, and do want to keep a reasonably balanced life in the meantime, while I build towards becoming financially independent one (distant!) day! I don’t think there’s anything I could be that passionate about that I’d want to do it 40+ hours a week every week!
    Jason @ Islands of Investing recently posted…A Warped Perspective of ‘Normal’My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Jason. I totally agree about it being hard to find something you’d be passionate about for 40+ hours a week. Things get old after grinding with them day in and day out.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      It’s great that you’ve accepted that passions change! People sometimes are stubborn and aren’t willing to make the change since they’ve invested so much time. I love trying new things and totally understand that I’m the type of person where my passions change regularly, and I’m okay with that. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  19. The Vagabond

    As someone with a music degree, this rings especially true! Truth be told, I *did* follow my passion for a number of years after school, and did pretty well at it, but it’s all relative. Working full time as a musician is still a bare-survival income for the vast majority.

    Add to that the fact that in fields which are traditionally sustained by love/passion like music, theatre, and traditional arts, we have a bit of a culture of over-encouragement. That is, there’s a whole industry built up around taking children (with or without talent) and boosting their ego about their capabilities. Only at the very end of the educational process (grad school or beyond) are most teachers in the arts willing to say “You know what, you probably can’t make a living at this.” I think we have a responsibility to give people a realistic view of the world long before they’ve incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational loans!

    My experience, as a somewhat rare musician/instrument, was that even when you are considered a huge success, that the arts are still a place where much of your work is expected to be for love of the art, and thus, for free. It’s a messed up culture, and I’m glad I pivoted despite my “success.”

    Anyway, just an anecdote from one “passion subculture.”
    The Vagabond recently posted…Retire Abroad: December 2015 ($879)My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      That’s awesome that you at least tried to follow your passion for a while. But at the same time glad you noticed you wanted to get out before you got too far in. I’m sure on your weekends and when you’re FI, you can make music all you want.

      Reply
  20. Thehappyphilosopher

    A great book that talks about this is So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport. He argues for not following your passion. Basically just find something you don’t dislike, are good at, and become awesome at it. At the point you become awesome you can start to write your ticket. Check it out 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge