How to find your passion

Coftea , , 8 Comments

Since starting work a number of years ago, I have been on the search for my passion but to no avail. Things I have tried taught me what I dislike, but what I like is few and short lived. This elusive passion I want is the passion in work, a career I could spent half my life building, be excited for and proud of. The search has so far been a needle in a haystack. Despite the lack of passion, I think I’m surviving okay in this rat race. A shelter over my head, ample food, occasional splurges and yearly vacations. I could continue to be okay, climbing the corporate ladder one step at a time. But the thought of going through life without knowing what I’m really good at scares me. Essentially, what we are good at defines us, and I will not stop searching until I discover who I really am.

I picked up a book recently which sheds light into my passion hunt. ‘So good they can’t ignore you’ written by Cal Newport, promises to debunk the ‘follow your passion’ career advice and spells out what led people to have great passionate careers. Does everyone has a passion? Is passion something innate in us? And most important, for people still lost in their search, can passion be developed? Not only it questioned the idea of chasing your passion, it reaffirms my belief that when you’re good at something, people can’t help but notice.


Passion is about being good at something

It is common perception that passion is something innate in all of us and we should keep searching until we find our passion. And in all likelihood, we wouldn’t say that our not so sexy day job is our passion. As such, we stop improving after attaining a level of competency, believing that our lack of passion causes us to reach our career plateau. But the book suggests that passion might not be innate and can be developed in each of us. Can one who is not trained to play any instrument ‘thinks’ he is passionate about music, yet drops everything, pursue a music career and be a superstar? Highly unlikely. On the other hand, can one who learned music at a young age, earns a living in a band, rough it out everyday to become successful and finally proclaims music is his passion? This I think is a more realistic story, which illustrates it is okay to start out without any idea what is our passion is. It will develop when we keep doing and become good at what we do. So, don’t stop at the plateau, climb higher, be above most people and get the prize called passion.

The 3 traits of great jobs

So we established that if we keep doing what we are good at, passion can be developed. It is especially important for people who are paid for their own crafts, like sportsmen, artists, musicians or even lawyers. But for normal office workers like myself, the idea of focusing on a single trait we want to be exceptional at is tough, since we are loaded with multiple responsibilities which require different skillset. Do I have to job hop around to find something that I like? But if I were to move around, I would never develop an expertise to be great at my work. What then should I lookout for? The book suggests 3 traits that passionate people possess. Autonomy, creativity and impact. To explain them in one sentence, these people exercise their autonomy to be creative, in order to create greater impact in their work. It boils down to a nurturing work environment that empowers their employees. The caveat though, is that the 3 traits is not something junior employees can have, but a privilege given to people in higher level positions who have proved themselves. And how to be like them? It comes back to being good at what you do.
3 traits that passionate people possess. AUTONOMY, CREATIVITY and IMPACT.

Improving is not just practicing

To be good, we need to improve. Conventional wisdom taught us to keep practicing, like the way we memorise the timetable in our math classes. The rule of 10,000 hours, popularised by Malcolm Galdwell in his book titled ‘Outlier’, affirms the idea that 10,000 hours of practice can make an amateur into a master in any field. It made sense, but ‘So good they can’t ignore you’ gave me a new dimension, where practising does elevate us to being good, but if we want to move from good to great, deliberate practice is needed. By deliberate practice, we do not keep practising the familiar things, but allocate time to study and think about new ways to achieve better results. As an ex-DOTA player, this can’t be more true. The time I spent reading up on unfamiliar heroes and tactics employed by professional players made me a much better player than just playing my set of tried and tested heroes again and again. So be conscious of how we want to improve our craft. If we can get from good to great, passion is not the only reward. I believe opportunities and possibilities like we never imagine would open up.

In conclusion

I try not to wonder what is my passion nowadays. If something interesting pops up, instead of asking myself if that is my passion, I would just go ahead and try. And with work, I avoid the nagging voice that says ‘this can’t be a passion’, but the encouraging voice that says ‘do it and do it better than others’. I want to keep doing, constantly improving and be so good that I have the ability to choose a workplace that has the 3 traits of great work. If your story is similar to mine, pick up the book and start to be ‘So good they can’t ignore you’.

Photo Credits
Cover picture adapted from iSteve - wallpaper 3 by abd-ELRAHMAN.


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  1. Coffee, tea, or me?

    Is that you writing?


    If its you, Coftea is a lucky guy!

    A girl friend that can play DOTA with us will make all 宅男 drool with envy ;)

    My ex always nags at me when I lock myself in my dungeon playing Diablo or Warcraft...


    1. Hi Jared,

      Hor hor, you need a new pair of specs, the footer so big put Coftea's name, you never see. Plus, I am offended leh, I not as loso as him what... style also so different :P

      Oh, but I did indeed play DOTA even before Coftea. So tomboy, not many know how to appreciate haha. That's why your ex becomes ex right? Hope your next gf is a gamer chick then!

    2. Wah pian eh!

      You call that a footer!!!???

      I know its not your writing style, but I can't find Coftea nick anywhere around the post.

      That's why I wrote to "verify".

      Even after your comment above, I still can't find the nick!

      Then I saw it...


      I thought that was an ad lah!

      In the past, his posts has a "Coftea" label on it at the top.

      I just saw you or him amending it ;)

      You cheater!

    3. Hey SMOL,
      I was a guest writing guest post then, but I've upgraded myself to co-writer so bye bye to the label at the top.

      Doing it just for you, I added in the author name just below the post, so you wouldn't wonder you want coffee tea or me :)

      And now I'm thinking to replace the footer with an actual AD! Thanks for the idea!

      Finally, before you get all envy, it is tough when you need to cast that one spell to bring her down. And when you're the one being brought down, that kenna beaten feeling is tough to stomach. So tread your path carefully!

  2. Hi Jes,

    I see some truth in having interest in something we are good at. Passion can or not be innate.

    I remember when we are writing our thesis in university. My lecturer ask me to write a topic that interest me.

    I think about it, and shortlisted a few. Then I realized those I shortlist are simply those which I have did some work earlier on.

    So I told my lecturer my view and said it means I am ok with any topic as long as I dig deep enough. She smiled and she said I Think I got something for u.

    The topic is something new yet not alien to me. She said, this part is rather missing in research, u game? I said onz!

    After learning and reading, I cannot stop ...

    1. Hi Sillyinvestor,
      I think there is not hard and fast rule to passion, but a positive correlation between how good you're and passion definitely exists. And the beauty of our work can be appreciated when we dig deep enough.

      Your lecturer sounds like a great lady, not only she doesn't force something on you, but guided you to a topic that you will enjoy. That must have resulted in some fine piece of work :)

  3. Hi Jes,

    Interest and being good at something does help but without perseverance and motivation, it could end up nowhere. I've found my passion after a long time through constant searching since I wasn't satisfied at work. It wasn't work that wasn't interesting but it was everything else that I wasn't a big fan of. Funnily, past work experiences have aided my maybe I was unknowingly drawn to it and in a way building up my competence to be good at it.

    1. Hi Joyce,
      Absolutely! Perseverance to overcome obstacles and motivation to learn are things we need to improve and be good. There are many stories of successful people who found a turning point when they are at their lowest. Of cos there are abit of drama, but the truth is don't give up.

      And congrats on doing what you love now! I think past experiences is sort of an exploration phase. A little more knowledge here, a little more exposure there, and we might have found something we like. Then move around to find a place where majority of work is what we like and everything else is kept at minimal, and tada! Our work is our passion :)