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Find Your Passion, Later
Mom with a View

Find Your Passion, Later

Hard work and success lead to passion. Not the other way around.


Scott Adams, the famed creator of the comic strip, “Dilbert”, has some business advice that runs contrary to the popular wisdom: “Forget about passion.” Don’t follow your bliss! He punctuates this idea with, what else, a comic of course.

There are two men wearing animals on their heads and holding a sign that says “TAXIDERMY BEER HATS $3.99”. The caption reads, “Maybe next time we don’t follow our passion.” I guess you had to see it…

People who follow their passion frequently end up doing nothing because they are waiting to be emotionally excited and engaged (one of my personal pet peeves) and even when they try, Mr. Adams contends, they frequently don’t accomplish anything either.

Success, according to Mr. Adams, is a combination of luck (or what we might call Divine intervention) and just plain old hard work. You need a business plan. You need capital. You need loyal and trustworthy employees. You need to put your nose to the grindstone. It doesn’t sound so exciting. But it’s the key to business success.

A young man I know was recently able to retire based on the proceeds from selling his company. “Wow, you really won the lottery,” said an admiring friend. The young man was offended. This windfall hadn’t come out of nowhere; it wasn’t some serendipitous gift. He had put in many long, hard hours of work at great personal sacrifice (not to mention the sacrifice of his wife and kids).

According to Scott Adams, passion doesn’t lead to hard work and success. In fact, the opposite is true. Hard work and success lead to passion. It’s a workplace variation on the seminal Jewish idea, “When you give, then you care.”

If you invest yourself in a company or an idea, if you work hard, if you think about it and strategize and develop the produce or the business, then you will come to care deeply about it. You will be passionate.

This idea works for everything in life. Invest in your marriage, in your spouse, and you will come to care deeply. Yes, your passion will increase.

It’s of course true with our children as well but it’s so instinctive we don’t need to be told; we are constantly experiencing the results.

It works for all of our relationships. We give and we care. We invest and work and hard and we become passionate. We find our “bliss.”

And it’s even true about our relationship with the Almighty. We may not feel passionate (certainly not always). We may not be in the mood to pray or do mitzvot or work on our relationship with God. We may think passion should come first. Then we’ll be excited to pray, follow the commandments, work on our relationship. But, as explained earlier, here too, it’s the other way around. When you give, then you care.

When we pray, when we do mitzvot, when we work on our relationship with our Creator, we are forging and deepening our passion. That’s the proper order of things.

And while Mr. Adams may have earned millions of dollars from his comic strips, it is his understanding of this crucial Jewish idea – that giving leads to caring, that hard work both trumps and leads to passion – that may be his biggest success.

November 3, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Pointy Haired Catbert, November 8, 2013 12:32 AM

Scott Adams is right

Now give me a status report

(5) SusanE, November 7, 2013 9:49 PM

We're all different.

What we told our kids. Follow your passion if you like. And If your passion feeds you and pays the rent ...fine! But if it doesn't ..... you have to make a living in the meantime.

(4) Anonymous, November 6, 2013 3:54 AM

Work turns into passion? Not always

I know personally of a person that as a young girl went into her mother and said, "I know what I want to be when I grow up!" Her mother asked, "What?"

"I want to be a writer!" To which her mother told her over time, "No, you're going to be a lawyer!"

Dutifully, she did. She went to Harvard Law, graduated cum laude, started in a corporate law firm, and then started seeing a therapist. They asked her, "What's the problem?"

"I hate what I'm doing."

"What do you want to do?"

"I want to write."

"Well, go do that!"

She quit the law firm and started writing. She's now in Denver doing what she loves, writing.

What if Jonathan did not follow his GIFT from G-d in the duo "Jonathan and Charlotte"? The world would have never known if he did NOT follow his gift from G-d.

Follow your gift!!

(3) MESA, November 6, 2013 12:26 AM

You left out one very important point. No matter what relationship it is, whether it's marriage or career, there has to be some small measure of excitement and passion at the starting point. You're not allowed to marry someone if you feel no physical attraction to that person. Yes, you should at least try a few dates and give the person a chance to "grow on you," but if there's still no attraction, then marriage just won't work. The same for career. No matter how much you give to your career, if you don't feel good about the content right at the beginning, you'll wind up going through the motions and waiting for retirement. No, you should not expect full-fledged love for anything right from the start, but you should have good feelings, or it won't work.

(2) Rachel, November 5, 2013 10:50 PM

Bad advice

I'm sorry, but this advice makes no sense. If you're not going to follow your passion, then how are you going to find anything into which to put all that time, hard work, money, etc?

I agree that the way the term is used sometimes can be an excuse for giving up any time an activity becomes difficult or unpleasant. But if one doesn't try to follow one's passion, one may regret it. Furthermore, in some cases (e.g. a career in the arts), sometimes even with passion, hard work, dedication, money, time, etc. one is not going to make sufficient money to live on. At that point, one may decide to keep plugging at it anyway, or to find a new career while continuing the passion as a hobby. I've known people who've never married nor had children while being true to their art; I've known others who at some point decided that their passion for other things (a spouse, children, a community, a secure home) outweighed their desire to be the next great actor/artist/musician/writer. And I don't think any less of either type of person, but I have a hard time with those who self-pityingly complain, be it about their lack of a family or their lack of career success, because of the choices they made.
Bottom line: All of life is a balancing of scarce resources like time, energy, and money. Like the poet said, "Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."

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