By John Sonmez March 15, 2018

Follow Your Passion Is WRONG? (What About MONEY?)

I've talked about following your passion several times before, and, I've changed opinions about this A LOT over the years.

Recently I've gone through a BIG change in my life that has shifted my views around following your passion. A few years ago I would've said that you shouldn't do it. You should be as pragmatic as possible. Make money. That's what matters.

However, lately, I came to realize that things are not supposed to be like that. In today's video, I'm going to explain WHY you should follow your passion and why this is definitely important if you want to succeed and inspire people.

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Hey, what's up, John Sonmez here. So I've got a question to ask and answer that is a question I've gotten quite a few times, and my opinion on this has actually changed over time. And it may change in the future. But, as I've considered this particular question, which is a very common question, I'll get to it in a second, I have basically come to different conclusions. And basically what I want to say about this is that there's more than one answer. Often, there's more than one path in life. And what's really important is picking a definite path, rather than wandering down multiple paths.
And so sometimes you can reach the same destination, or even different destinations, which can be equally good, as long as you continue to flow down the same path. So many times in life the reason why people don't make progress is because they're spending so much time trying to find the right answer to a question that they don't actually execute, and actually do something, and go down that path, and that's the biggest danger. The biggest danger that you face in action, is not wrong … or the biggest danger you face in life, is not wrong answer, but inaction. It's better to take wrong actions. It's better to take lesser actions, and follow them through, than it is to just contemplate and to never do anything. At least if you take some kind of action, then you'll have a story to tell. You'll learn something, you'll experience life, you'll have lived, even if you don't necessarily succeed or get what you want, and sometimes you might find something other than what you want.
So that's a pretty big intro for this question. But this is a pretty important question, and I wanted to caveat it by giving you that information ahead of time. So, the question is, should I follow my passion? And this question, as it was asked to me, says, “This career decision has been bothering me forever. Is it advisable to follow passion and make a career out of it to stay happy? I have been a voice artist performing at events, not paid, and the fame and claps I get make me think I should do it as a career. Should I do a career in this, or is it fine if I continue to teach myself programming, which I have just now started, and I am loving it. Will I regret?”
And so this is interesting. Again, the reason why I set this question up so much is because I want you to realize that the answer that I'm going to give here, and I'm going to give actually two answers here. There's no right answer to this question. And I think in the past, like I said, I've fallen on the side of answering this in a very practical and pragmatic terms, and I still am very practical and pragmatic, but I've fallen on the side in the past of saying, “No, don't follow your passion, absolutely not, do what's practical, do what's pragmatic, do what makes sense, what's going to make you money, and what you're going to be most successful at.”
But since the last probably, I'd say, two or three years, I've recanted a bit on that, and I still think that that's one path. So there's a really good book called So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport. I'm not sure if I did a review on this channel, if so we'll put the review up, if not, just a link to the book. And in that book the author, Cal Newport, talks about the idea of not following your passion. He says that people that say follow your passion, it's bad advice, because you can't rely on passion, right? That's not the practical thing, that's not the best thing to do. And said you should pursue something, especially something that you're good at, or something that's going to be profitable or something that's going to be a good choice in life, and passion comes from the executing on that. And I have to say that I 100% agree with Cal Newport on this. And I 100% support that decision. And I would say go down that path, that makes a lot of sense, right.
But, lately I've come to realize that, also, it's correct to follow your passion. And let me explain what I mean by this. What I mean by this is that it's also correct to say, you know what, you want to be a voice, a singer, you want to be an actor, you want to be a musician, it's a long shot, it's fine, you might be a starving artist, but go for it, man, just fucking go for it. Go balls to the wall and just go down that path, and just live your life that way. And don't worry. Don't worry about making a fortune, don't worry about if it's the most successful, or most practical thing to do with your life, do it because that's what you want to do. And a lot of times, when you do that, and you fully embrace that path, and wholeheartedly pursue your passion, you'll find that you do find a way to make a living, and to do really well, and to become successful.
And so I know those are two different answers. Those are two completely different answers, but I do believe that both of those paths can lead you to happiness and fulfillment in life. It's a choice that you have to make. But here's the thing, this is the only thing that I would caution you on, which is if half heartedly pursuing each path. So, if you're going to do the practical and pragmatic thing, put all your resources into it. And if you want to sing, and you want to do some acting, or whatever it is, as a hobby, go ahead and do that as a hobby, but don't take it seriously, and put your full passion, if you want to be a programmer, into programming. And make that your passion, and work at it, and work hard at it. And decide, what is your goal in life? Is your goal to make money and to retire, and to build up wealth or passive income in life? Or become financially independent? Then go and become an investment banker, or go and do the thing that's going to pragmatically and practically move you towards that goal. That makes sense, forget about your fucking passion. That's fine.
Or, I want you to go full into this passion that you have. If you want to … for example, you want to do YouTube channel, fucking do a YouTube channel. But go all the way into that. Don't just say, “Well, I'm going to try and do this, and I'm going to try to make my way, and hopefully I'll be able to pay the bills doing this.” Just go for it. If you're going to go down this route as a singer, or voice actor, or whatever it is, and yeah, there's a small chance that you're going to make it, but the people who do make it, they're the people who just go 100%, they burn the boats.
And whenever I talk about burning the boats, and it relates to exactly to this, I say that the worst possible thing is like you can burn the boats, or you can not burn the boats, but don't set the boats on fire and then fucking sail on them. Once you set the boats on fire, that's it, you've burned the boats, you're going, you're fully committed, you're going down this path. The worst possible thing, and this is what most people do in their life, is they set the boats on fire, and then they have a second thought, they get cold feet, and they try to climb back into the boat and try to sail it, and that boat is on fire, and it sinks, or they spend their whole life trying to put out the fire that they created on this boat, trying to sail somewhere they don't even know where.
So, pick one of those. Pick one and go down it. And you're not going to go wrong, in my opinion, if you pick one of those paths, because you'll be happy with the decision, and that's what it really comes down to. This is really what it comes down to. You've got to decide what you want out of life, and what is important to you. If you want to become financially independent, and you want those type of things out of life, those are your goals, then you probably should pick something that's going to be more pragmatic and practical, if that's really, really important to you. But if being happy, and being fulfilled is your goal, either one of those could lead to that, but and you don't care so much about making so much money, and you just want to do something that means something to you, then go for that. That's fine. But you've got to make that choice, and you've got to live with that choice. You see what I'm saying?
And again, so like I said at the beginning, my opinion on this has changed. Because I've come to realize this, because I've come to realize, as I've seen people become successful, I really believe that if you pursue something doggedly, if you take that bulldog mindset, we can put up the bulldog, becoming a bulldog video, if you have that bulldog mindset, and you go after something like a fucking bulldog, and you're willing to put in the time, and you're willing to put in the effort, even if it's a long shot, I really believe you can make it. I believe you can do it, and you can find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it's going to take a lot of work, it's going to take a lot of passion, it's going to take a whole lot of commitment, as long as you're willing to go down that road.
The problem is, the reason why most people that quote “follow their passion” never make it, it's not because they're following their passion, it's not that. It's because they're hedging their bets. It's because they're following their passion, but they're getting a real job just in case. They want to be an astronaut, but maybe I should become an accountant just in case. If you actually go and you go all the way in, it's scary, it's dangerous, it's risky. But you have a lot more chance of success. But if you can't do that, and you're not willing to do that, then fuck it, do the practical thing. Do the smart thing, and the sensible thing, and I'll give you plenty of advice on that, you can find plenty of advice of that on my channel, you can read plenty of business books and practical books that will give you solid advice.
But it's not always about that. Life is not always about making the most pragmatic and practical choice. I'm going to give you my thoughts on that subject, for a lot of the questions that you guys ask me, but I'll also say that, ultimately, the most important thing is that you do what is important to you and what you believe in, and then that you're willing to stand by those consequences. I'd rather … and I'll end by saying this, I'd rather live a life, my life, and live it the way I want to live it, even if there's some consequences, even if things don't turn out perfectly, even if maybe I'm not as rich or successful as I want to be, but knowing that I made my decisions, and that I live my life passionately, and that I did what I wanted to do, and that I didn't put my life on hold and wait until I reached some financial goal, or sacrificed all of this time and effort for something I didn't really want anyway. I'd rather live like that, than to live a life where I am successful by everyone else's metric but my own. Where everyone else says, “John, you're really successful.” But I know that I didn't do what I wanted to do. That I didn't accomplish what I wanted out of life.
And again, some of this is perspective, because you look at what I'm going now, I'm spending time doing these YouTube videos, and that's not the most profitable thing, it definitely is not. I could spend my time making a lot more money. But there's a reason why I'm doing what I'm doing, it's because I want to do this, because this something that is important to me now, and I'm putting my passion into this. This is what my life is about. And I'm much more fulfilled by doing this, than the success and money that I can make by doing something else. And some of you might say, “That's not practical, that doesn't make sense.” And that's fine, but you've got to make that choice, and you've got to make that choice for yourself.
So I hope that answers your question. And if you've got more questions about this, this is a really, really interesting topic to talk about, and discuss, and like I said, I've been on both sides of the fence. But, there's not perfectly right answer here. Either leave a comment below, let me know what you think, are you following your passion, are you doing what's practical and pragmatic? What is it? What are you doing and why? Leave a comment below and let me know, and if you haven't subscribed already, click that subscribe button below, click the bell, so you don't miss any videos. I'll talk to you next time, take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."