How can you find passion if you don’t try, even if you don’t know where to try?

February 27, 2016 by Joshua
in Choosing/Decision-Making, Education, Entrepreneurship, Exercises

Everyone wants to find a passion—something that engages them so much they love doing it and working on it doesn’t feel like work.

Most of us hold back from trying because we aren’t sure what we might feel passion for. We know we don’t feel passion for anything now. Maybe this, maybe that. Unsure which, and afraid of picking something we’ll later learn we don’t feel passion for, we don’t try.

Teaching people to behave entrepreneurially, I see people hold back a lot. They don’t realize they’re holding back, protecting their vulnerabilities. They just feel like they don’t know what they want.

One of the students in my online entrepreneurship course, after doing all but the last exercise, realized he wanted to take a different path.

After teaching hundreds of students, I know that his realizing he wanted to do something different wasn’t a problem. Realizing he wanted a different path was a main outcome of the course: to raise his sensitivity to subtle clues to his dormant passions.

The only way you can learn what you want or not is to try. You can’t learn what you’re willing to commit to and what you’re willing to cut out from reading about them.

If you aren’t sure what to commit to or to cut out, the advice I gave him may help you, so I copied it below.

By the way, if you’re interested in my online entrepreneurship course, I’m releasing it soon and will discount early users, so contact me. The early users as well as my students from the in-person version of the course love it, as the student feedback on this page show.

Many students restart their projects in this course. I find doing so productive and effective.

Usually it results from students learning important things about themselves. Or rather unlearning things, like that they were pursuing dreams they thought they should have, that were popular, or other forms of adopting other people’s values without questioning them that ultimately didn’t resonate with their values.

Other times it results from learning things about their field, or, again, unlearning things, like that they liked the field because of its prestige but didn’t like its culture. Only by working in the new area could they learn what they like or dislike about it. I consider it better to find out you don’t like something you dreamed about than always to dream without learning the details, risking regret. Learning that the fantasy doesn’t match your expectations frees you to pursue a dream that does. There is no shortage of projects you can create that will fill you with joy, satisfaction, and emotional reward.

In your case, if I read you right, it sounds like your view of entrepreneurship is maturing — that it’s more nuanced than you expected and you want more experience starting projects in a more modest context (where you don’t have to start a company from scratch, worry about making payroll, file with the state, etc), and still get experience identifying a problem, conceiving of and iterating a solution, and leading the project.

People usually can’t tell what hurdles they have before doing the process of these exercises. It often takes facing the challenges of starting a project to learn about yourself and your field. Many people live their whole lives never learning these things.

In every case of someone redoing these exercises I’ve seen, because of their experience doing them once, the student does them

  • faster
  • more thoroughly
  • with more enjoyment
  • further

It looks like you plan to redo the process step by step in a week. That’s aggressive, but doable for a second time. After that second time, I expect you’ll be able to do the process automatically when you spot potential new projects, opportunities to advance, opportunities to lead, etc.

For now, I look forward to your taking on the challenge and seeing the results.

Lastly, I’m glad you switched in this reflection from saying “I was possibly reaching too high for my first go at entrepreneurship” to “I can always come back to my current project to apply what I’ve learned.”

That perspective reminded me of another student who redid the exercises. Her first project was to serve a group in her home country, which was halfway around the world. She wouldn’t be back there full-time for a few years and couldn’t work effectively on the project from New York. So she started a new, related project in New York, which she saw as her first step in working on her long-term project back home.

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