How many times has someone told you, you just need to follow your passion to achieve success?
Too many times to count right.
Yeah, I’ve heard it all. Passion seems to be the miracle to everyone’s answers.
It’s the cure all and do all for the lack of motivation, progress and resolve in your life.
All you are lacking is passion.
Well, I’m here to say that has to be the biggest lie in humanity.
It’s about time someone writes a post on this because it’s giving too many people the wrong impression of what success requires.
We (society) seem to think passion is the key variable to determining success, but I’m here to argue that it’s just simply not true. Passion is just another word for enthusiasm and as much as that is helpful to have, it doesn’t mean much.
Enthusiasm doesn’t last the long run. Enthusiasm doesn’t let you focus. Passion doesn’t last the long run. Passion doesn’t let you focus.
The problem I have is when I followed this advice in my own life. I was young and impressionable.
And the word passion was thrown at me in all directions. So why wouldn’t I accept this to be the answer to find all of life questions.
Passion is too fleeting
I put it into action and I followed full heartedly my passions in life. The big problem was, I was an undiagnosed bipolar type 2 sufferer at the time. Following my passion meant I was starting
projects left and right.
I liked something and I would go all out, but then to have my enthusiasm and passion fizzle out. The project will be left abandoned or worse, unfinished.
You would think it wouldn’t take me too long to notice the pattern going on. But unfortunately this went on for years. The big reason for it was because I was actually able to get somewhere most of the time.
That moment of “passion” made me a quick learner and I would achieve noticeable success in my endeavours. All of this just meant that I got away with this impulsive behaviour because everyone else just thought I got bored easily.
Yes, I did get bored, but it’s obvious to see that following my passion wasn’t actually working for me.
Once I got diagnosed and I put some serious effort into managing myself, and passion was placed on the backseat. I replaced it with discipline.
And I am very happy to say that I’ve managed to achieve a lot more with discipline than passion alone.
Discipline is the most unsexy and unwanted answer to success, but it’s the truth and it’s my truth. Discipline is the key determinant to success, not passion.
I know it’s not what you want to hear. And some of you will be so put off that you might have just bounced off my site all-together, but this blog was never made to give you sugar coated runofthemill answers.
This blog exists to give you an uncensored look on the road to creating a life you can call your own with the help from entrepreneurship.
Discipline allows me to keep working during tough times. It allows me to find tough answers for tough questions. Novel solutions for uncommon problems. Discipline, not passion has allowed me to stick with my entrepreneurial goals for the longest time yet.
It’s the longest project I’ve had. Ever.
Some of you might be thinking “yeah, well I don’t have bipolar disorder so this doesn’t apply to me.” Fair point, but my experience with passion is just simply a magnified experience of what the average joe experiences.
That means. Although you might not be passion hopping as frequently; you are experiencing the same fickle nature of passion keeping you motivated on a project or goal. Have you ever started something enthusiastically and then you wake up one morning feeling bleh about the whole affair?
Don’t lie. We’ve all been there.
Passion is too specific for success
Have you had a long loved hobby and tried to make it into a business, but found yourself increasingly disliking the activity?
Yeah, most of us have been there too.
The reason why following your passion is bad advice is because passion normally only applies to a very specific activity. Life on the other hand requires a more well-rounded approach to make it work. Follow your passion for an activity conveniently ignores all the other activities needed for your passion to work.
I love to write so finding blog content and topics is a breeze, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t days where I find myself unmotivated to do all the other activities blogging requires of me.
Keyword research, networking, image editing, social media outreach etc etc. I don’t actually enjoy any of those activities, but if I didn’t do them then my content wouldn’t be able to reach you. And there would be little point in writing a blog without readers.
Every definition of success involves a whole basket of skills you need to excel in. It’s never only one skill or craft to master.
People who are successful in their passions are not just good at what they love but also all the other things they aren’t as well. And people conveniently don’t talk about this.
It’s why there are so many underrated singers in this world. So many under appreciated artists. So many failed hobby businesses. Just so many passions fail.
Follow your passion can be misleading
This phrase is thrown around way too often that it’s made itself a “cheat code” to success. Or at least gives off the impression that it is.
The statement alone gives people the false impression that as long as you enjoy it, you will succeed. And I understand how this has come to being. I mean most people don’t enjoy their current jobs and feel stuck in life.
So it only makes sense you won’t feel stuck in life if you did something you enjoyed.
But that’s misleading, it makes success sound trivial and easy to achieve. It makes the whole endeavour seem like playtime.
You see it everywhere, countless articles, videos and people telling you how wonderful life is, if only you followed your passion and did what you loved.
The digital nomad community is absolutely guilty of this. A lot of digital nomads paint a picture of travelling and doing what their heart desires to have the money naturally follow. They don’t talk about the hustle involved or the amount of effort that’s needed.
Only perfect instagram shots and cool adventure stories are shared.
It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when I see those posts that are too sugar-coated, and thus, misleading. I always feel you have to be upfront to your audience because I would hate to have someone make a big life changing decision without knowing all the facts.
Yes, it’s easier to get followers when you make it seem like this success is effortless to achieve. But it’s simply not true and that’s why there’s so many people angry and bitter towards internet marketers. These people forked out their hard earn cash for a promise of effortless success.
(okay, so those people are at fault for wanting above average results with below average effort, BUT these internet marketers, digital nomad gurus shouldn’t be preying on these individuals either)
But that’s the point guys.
A lot of people who tell you to follow your passion might not gain anything from it, but there are some that will. Be aware of that. The people who gain, want something from you and the people who don’t gain are probably not following their own passion.
The real key to success
Now it’s time to talk about what the real key to success is. Discipline.
Discipline is the trait people need to reach long term goals. It’s the superpower every successful person has in some shape or form. I say “shape or form” because being disciplined in one area of your life doesn’t mean you’re disciplined in every area of your life.
I hope you were paying attention, because I said two important points.
- Discipline is important for long term goals
- Discipline is not a blanket statement to describe a person, it’s contextual
Why do you need to take note of the two above points? Because it’s going to help you find success and meaningful work in life.
Why discipline is important for long term goals
If passion is a sprinter, discipline is a marathon runner. Discipline is in it for the long run, it’s the ability to do something without fail no matter the situation.
It let’s you wake up early to go running everyday. It’s what makes you take care of your health by eating properly. It helps you meet deadlines by organising your time better. Discipline keeps you on track for steady progress.
That’s important because most often than not, humans have ideas of success that require long term effort to achieve.
Most goals in life are not short or temporary in nature. Like, I have a goal of learning how to make pancakes. You can probably do that within an hour.
Most goals in life that give us the sense of success are a lot more time consuming to achieve. And not only to achieve, but to also maintain that state of success as well.
A business requires long-term skill building to be successful.
A blog requires long-term skill building to be successful.
A relationship requires long-term skill building to be successful.
Discipline is great for achieving long term goals because it’s stable and not influenced by the external environment as much. Raining outside? You still go for your morning run. Having a party? You’re still not going to over indulge yourself in unhealthy food. It’s the holiday season? You’re still going to make sure you give yourself enough time to finish your work.
Discipline maintains consistency in behaviour so you can make gradual progress and improvements needed for achieving long term goals.
The Japanese have this ideology called “Kaizen” where you’re suppose to practice something for one minute a day. One minute doesn’t sound like anything, but by doing it everyday you’ll see improvements from the consistency.
Discipline can be taught
The best thing about discipline is that it can be a taught. In fact, it’s human nature to not have discipline by default. We like to take the path of least resistance, a.k.a we’re naturally lazy and that’s great when we were living in caves and still had to worry about being eaten.
There’s no point in doing more than you need to survive because anything more would increase your risk of death.
But we’re not living in caves anymore and so taking the path of least resistance is detrimental to your success in life. Why? because being disciplined and going the extra mile isn’t going to increase your chance of death.
The path of least resistance in today’s world just means a unfulfilled, unsatisfying and unhappy life.
So learning how to be disciplined in your life is important in achieving goals that aren’t the basic survival needs to stay alive. It’s the component of making life more than just existing.
Now that you understand why you can’t ignore discipline, it’s time to understand how you can acquire the trait.
The easiest way to develop discipline in your life is by using a simple brain hack to encourage the correct behaviour you want. Which goes back to my point above. Discipline is not a blanket trait, it’s rather contextual.
What do I mean by that?
You can be disciplined with your health, but not disciplined with your relationships. Disciplined with your work, but not disciplined with housework.
The reason for this is because discipline isn’t a trait like being optimistic or empathetic. Discipline is more a skill. So although you can learn, nurture and develop it like a trait, it doesn’t behave like one.
The way you nurture and develop discipline in your life will be how discipline materialise into your life. Discipline yourself to exercise, then discipline will most likely only materialise in the act of exercising.
Now back to the brain hack.
The simple brain hack to encourage yourself to be more discipline is to take advantage of our natural reward feedback loop.
The human body produces many hormones and one of these are called dopamine, produced by the brain. Dopamine makes us feel good and we tend to get it naturally from activities that keep us alive. Think, eating, drinking, having sex etc.
Dopamine makes us “crave” these activities and motivates us to go do it.
Now from the above you would think we need dopamine to start the reward system. Not really. We can gradually create a dopamine feedback loop for any activity we want. All we have to do is find something that already gives us a dopamine reward and connect it with the activity we want to link it to.
A lot of us do it without realising it, a common one is to reward yourself after doing a good job.
Ever heard someone or yourself say, “I’ll watch one episode of ___ once I finish this task”, people are already hacking into the dopamine reward system to make themselves do other activities.
The only problem is, most people never reach a point of having the activity itself being the dopamine reward. And here’s the trick I want to share.
I use this trick myself whenever I need to discipline myself to do something I don’t enjoy.
Part 1: Set a 60 day schedule minimum
Most people say 30 days is enough to develop a habit, but when you don’t enjoy something, 30 days isn’t enough.
I make it 60 days to give myself a fighting chance to get use to the activity I want to develop.
While creating a schedule, you will need to do the activity at the same time everyday without fail and do it for the same amount of time.
Part 2: Using an existing reward
Like the example of watching a show you enjoy, you need to decide what your reward will be to keep you motivated at the beginning.
The reward has to be possible to enjoy every time you need it to be big enough to actually motivate you to do what you want.
Part 3: Sharing your progress with others
The easiest dopamine feel good response most people get is feeling accomplished and acknowledged. You increase your chances of this by telling people what you’re doing.
This part is actually really important to eventually not need the reward from part 2. Dopamine is at it’s strongest when it is not expected and unpredictable. A small compliment or praise from someone is not what you can anticipate and this releases dopamine, which encourages you to keep doing what you’re doing.
Part 4: Keep going until your discipline observably helps you achieve a goal
This is the last part, and by this point you wont need the reward from part 2 or 3 to keep things going. Remember you’re nurturing discipline to help you achieve long term goals in your life. So the goal itself will become your reward and doing whatever activity will be rewarding.
If you wanted better health and decided running everyday is a good for you. Go get a body checkup and see how it’s improved your health.
If you wanted to wake up earlier to get more done. Write down everything you do in a day and see how much your productivity has increased.
If you wanted to improve your relationship by putting more time in. Go ask your partner how they feel and listen to how much your relationship has improved.
Before you know it, you will enjoy running, you will enjoy waking up early and you will enjoy spending more time with your partner.
And that’s it guys. That’s how you hack your own brain to create more success in life.
More resources you should check out:
- Read how the law of attraction actually works and how you can use it in your own life
- Learn the importance of making decisions in your life to avoid unhappiness
- Use this simple trick to achieve your goals more often
- Avoid this common mistake if you don’t want to get frustrated with slow progress
- Learn how you can give yourself the best chance of happiness