When Following Your Passion Isn¬â„t Enough

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Ask any successful person for career advice and somewhere along the line they’ll tell you to follow your passion and do what you love. In general I agree with this advice and think it is useful for artists deciding what projects they will pursue and which they won’t. (Art by Bui Xuan Phai

There are some cautions though. One definition of an entrepreneur is “someone who will do anything to avoid getting a real job.” Some people pursue their passion at the expense of financial and familial responsibility not a good thing.

Others are blinded by their passion as is the case with many pet artistic projects some of which are reviewed in a fascinating piece in the NYT titled “Making a Megaflop: Curse of the Pet Project.”

In this piece Caryn James recites a litany of failed passion driven projects: [Here is a basic rule of moviegoing: when you hear about someone’s dream project, run from the box office fast. Those films branded “labors of love” more often turn out to be love’s labors lost. “It was a dream when I was a boy at film school, but in 1989 we started really trying to make it,” Oliver Stone told Charlie Rose about his recent megaflop, “Alexander.” “It all started with my mother; my mother was a huge Bobby Darin fan,” Kevin Spacey told Larry King about his acting-singing-dancing-directing-writing roles in the laughable biopic “Beyond the Sea.” Some of these long-simmering pet projects are serious: Martin Scorsese’s disappointing epic “Gangs of New York” gestated for 24 years. Some are just wacky: it took John Travolta so long to get “Battlefield Earth” off the ground that he grew too old to be the action hero and played the villain from the planet Psychlos instead. But all these films suggest that being powerful enough to get a movie made doesn’t mean you should make it.]

So how do you sort through your passions and chose the ones that make intelligent decisions? Proverbs 11:14 offers advice to national leaders that holds true for creatives as well, “ Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Listening to the advice of wise counsel is always a good idea, but especially when it comes to discerning sensibilities with ideas about which you are passionate. A simple line in John Baillie’s daily prayers fits here: “Let me be generous in my judgment of others. Let me be disinterested in my own ideas.” In an era of “express yourself” it is good to be reminded that there are ideas not worth expressing! (This is hard advice to swallow after 15 years of doing a talk show for 15 hours weekly!)

They say the challenge of a successful entrepreneur is not the generation of new or good ideas, it is knowing which of the ten new ideas is the good one and accepting that the other nine are bad!

And here is the encouraging news for those of us who have made megaflops because we followed our passion (and every successful entrepreneur has failures in their track record). If we learn from the mistakes we are more likely to avoid them in the future and our ability to discern good ideas from bad can be sharpened.

In a weird sort of way I was heartened by the news that scientists believe earthquakes and tsunamis are part of making earth more habitable. Dr. Donald J. DePaolo, a geochemist at the University of California, Berkeley said, “It’s hard to find something uplifting about 150,000 lives being lost, but the type of geological process that caused the earthquake and the tsunami is an essential characteristic of the earth. As far as we know, it doesn’t occur on any other planetary body and has something very directly to do with the fact that the earth is a habitable planet.”

For all who have followed their passion and faltered I choose to believe that our passion derives from our creation in the image of God and is part of what makes us “habitable” by God’s spirit. Follow your passion, Listen to trustworhty counsel. Make mistakes and learn from them.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in January 11, 2005 by | No Comments »

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