I believe that our greatest enemies to living our passions are time, comfort, and challenge.
As I have asked myself this question more over the past months – am I persistent in my passion – I have thought about the role these ideas play in preventing the fully realized potential that comes from a career, a cause, or a project fueled by passion.
It’s not because these things are undesirable. We can always take our time, and slow and steady is definitely a solid approach and philosophy. It’s human nature to avoid the things that cause us discomfort. And the spirit of competition within our culture as Americans tells us to always be ready to rise to the challenge and to embrace the growth that comes from it. (Cue Lose Yourself by Eminem)
What happens though if slow and steady transforms into procrastination? Or comfort morphs into complacency? Or a challenge seems insurmountable?
The answer should be – persist.
With all of the challenges we face today with a recovering economy, increasingly competitive and global markets for pretty much any industry, and – particularly to millennials – a narrative that paints us as self-centered, unmotivated, or unfocused, I feel it can be easy to let these enemies exploit the doubt, uncertainty, and sometime discomfort of pursuing our passions.
Maybe we embrace tomorrow because today has not presented the right conditions to pursue passion we enjoy most. However, as I think more about my life, “time is your most precious gift” becomes more than an inspirational idiom to read on Instagram. When it comes to doing the things you enjoy doing most, today is never too early, and tomorrow is never too late. Time is precious, and I certainly don’t want to spend time on something that doesn’t reflect time’s value. I want to spend my time, a valuable commodity, on a valuable idea, project or cause – something rooted in passion.
Perhaps we look at our lives and like where we are and what we have achieved. To step outside of that comfort to pursue something we have dreamed of doing will rock that boat. I have a strong stomach, but I definitely can feel the discomfort that sometimes accompany the waves of change. However, as I reflect on experiences I have had in life, the most memorable and most impactful came when I was outside the boat. And being in the boat doesn’t guarantee you will never have to experience the discomfort that the waves bring. I don’t want to see myself five years from now wondering “what if I got out the boat, and braved the waves?” The waves will come, for better or worse, so if that’s the case, I’d rather be the one making them, rather than capsize in an effort to avoid them.
Challenges are by definition hurdles that impede our progress. Too often, it’s easy to accept the hurdle as a sign that the path we have been traveling is the wrong one, or the pursuit of a passion may be foolhardy. It’s easy to quit, because its uncertain whether overcoming the hurdle will even be worth it. It’s easy to give up, because the light may be a long way down the tunnel. However, we can all point to moments where persisting through difficulties made the victory that much sweeter. This is no less true in the pursuit of our passions.
One of the fears that I have from time to time is that truly pursuing my passions may paint the perception to others that my focus is ephemeral. That true strength of character, persistence, and confidence comes from enduring where you are, making any situation you’re in the best for you and those around you, and the craving stability in your circumstances. However, the trap in this thinking is the acceptance that cultivating and growing a passion is just “icing on the cake”.
The determination to persist in your passion beyond any obstacle or challenge says more to me about grit and tenacity than any stability achieved by accepting our circumstances. The dedication to a goal we are passionate about says more about strength of character than persisting in complacency. And embracing the unknown journey that comes with pursuing a passion says more about confidence than accepting a situation where the journey is predictable.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge