Follow Your Passion...and other cliche' crap


Despite the fact that “Dead Poets Society” is my favorite movie, and “Carpe Diem” is my all-time favorite quote, I don’t really go in for all that cliché motivational crap. And unfortunately, clichés run rampant in freelance/entrepreneurial circles. 

This is why I shared this quote on the white board at The Amory last week:

“Some people follow their dreams, others chase them down and beat them mercilessly into submission.”  -Neil Kendall

I know I’m not the only person who dislikes simple inspirational-type quotes. Remember “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” on Saturday Night Live? One little ditty I found:

If I lived back in the Wild West Days, instead of carrying a six-gun in my holster I'd carry a soldering iron. That way if some smart-aleck cowboy said something like, "Hey look, he's carrying a soldering iron." And laughed. I could just say, "That's right. It's a soldering iron. The soldering iron of justice." Then everyone would get real quiet and ashamed and I could probably hit them up for a free drink."

I get annoyed with people who say or write things like, “follow your passion,” or “do what you love,” and “quitters never win and winners never quit.”

While there are kernels of truth in these platitudes, they are also misleading. If your passion is playing Halo 2 for 22 hours a day… well, I think you get the picture. And no, I’m not making fun of video games, I think they rock, but let’s face it, some of us have passions that just don’t pay the mortgage, but this post isn’t about paying the mortgage.

My point, in this rambling post, is that entrepreneurs and freelancers should be honest with one another.  Doing your own thing is rewarding, but it isn’t a cake walk. I follow Nick Armstrong, owner of WTF Marketing, because he’s honest and doesn’t look at the world through rose colored glasses. I read his blog because he says it like it is and that’s refreshing. 

As small business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs, we don’t need to be told to follow our dreams, we’re already doing it. And most of us haven’t followed it, we’ve beat it mercilessly into submission. It’s time we start getting real about the world in which freelancers and entrepreneurs reside. It isn’t peaches and cream, it more like eating a gristly turkey leg at the Renaissance Faire - difficult and messy, but so gratifying in the end. 

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is a freelance writer, small business owner and founder of She has been coworking since 2010.


Heidi - thanks! I think "passionwashing" is a huge trap, one that some of the more wishy-washy-woo-woo business coaches are all too happy to exploit: owning a business is serious, hard-core work. There's no backing away from it. You won't be doing the thing you love every single day. The "Four Hour Work Week" is total bullshit on the face of it, not because the concept is flawed (if you can outsource and mitigate the things you dislike doing down to just 4 hours after writing a hugely successful book, that should speak volumes to the rest of us) - but because the interpretation is totally flawed. The goal isn't to START at 4 hours of "work". The goal is to identify your strengths to leverage. And so many of the woo-woos just gloss over the fact that passion is supposed to flow from doing work that's rewarding without really getting into the fact that in between the reward and the start is a mountain of hard work. Some days, that work is going to kick your butt - and last for weeks, or months, on end. It'll be depressing, it'll be emotionally painful, it'll remove you from the things you love and cherish the most. Other days, it'll seem like a cakewalk and the best thing you've ever done. It's definitely taxing, your turkey leg metaphor is apt - except drench it in hot sauce and all you have to drink is MORE hot sauce.
Hear, hear! (Avid WTF follower myself.) There's a LOT of BS out there on the interwebz (and otherwise). More people need to hear this message, Heidi -- and I bet you could say more about it, too. Being self-employed is both a blessing and a curse. I'll just leave it at that...
I'm buyin' in! Where do I sign? I'm a big Nick fan, too, Heidi (happen to love the guy more than chocolate). "Follow your passion" is overdone online -- to the point it makes my teeth hurt! Plus who wouldn't do that anyway?! Raise your hand if you've intentionally sought out a career you despise. Sheesh.
As one that never identified as one of " the more wishy-washy-woo-woo business coaches" I agree with the intent of what you and Nick are trying to communicate, but I can say that connecting with motivation is quite important. When we are given our daily dose of negative information from media, then it is regurgitated by most of our peers, it is important to keep a healthy perspective of positive thoughts, conversations and ideas flowing. Zig Ziglar said “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.” After reading your post and Nick's comment it reminded me of the Confuscious quote "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." When you truly follow your passions (and if you think playing a video game is a passion-- you don't get it) it doesn't matter how much work it takes, because you love all the difficult minutia. In fact you don't even care as much about the money, because you know down the road it will pay off. I rarely see an inspirational quote that says " follow your dreams to a million dollars" or "do what you love to do in order to live in your dream home." Those types of quotes are always trying to sell you something. Yes business, or life in general, can be hard work, but when you love what you do you really don't mind the hard work. In fact you often enjoy overcoming the obstacles. And rarely is motivation and inspiration about paying the mortgage; it is about the difference between living and being alive.
Sean, You've never met the gamers I have met. :-)

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