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Follow Your Passion is Bad Advice Unless…


Follow Your Passion is Bad Advice Unless...Is ‘follow your passion’ a relatively new concept? I never heard this when I was a high school student in the late 80s. My parents wanted me to study engineering or medicine. These careers will support a family. Their advice was to follow a good steady paycheck because life will be easier. They worked minimum wage jobs for years and became small business owners when I was in high school. Our family finances were unstable for most of my youth. For them, a stable paycheck was a much higher priority than passion. Mrs. RB40 told me it was the same with her. Her parents told her to study and get a good job. I’m pretty sure no adult in my youth ever uttered the word passion.

Luckily, I was good with math and science so I studied engineering in college. It worked out well for the most part and I found a stable, well-paying job after I graduated. Engineering was never a big passion, but I was competent at the technical part of it. Personally, I think ‘do what you’re good at’ is better advice than ‘follow your passion’. At least, you have a talent base to build on. Today, we’ll explore why follow your passion is bad advice. There is an exception, of course. Read until the end to see the unless…

Passion doesn’t last

The first problem with passion is that it rarely lasts. Passion is like teenage love. It’s fleeting. I’ve been passionate about many things. Nothing really stuck, though. Here are a few of my past obsessions.

  • Video games – What kid doesn’t love video games? I used to play for hours and I loved it. Now, I only play casual games on my phone occasionally. Video games are fun, but it takes way too much time and effort for no return. Besides, my thumbs and shoulders can’t take that kind of abuse anymore.
  • Ukulele – I got into the ukulele in the early 2000s. The ukulele was having a resurgent and you heard it everywhere. I had 10 ukes at one point and even started a uke enthusiast group. Learning to play was a lot of fun, but the passion fizzled out after 5-6 years. Now I have 4 ukes and I really want to keep just 2.
  • Watching the Portland Trailblazers melt down – The year 2000, the Blazers were up 15 points in the 4th quarter against the Lakers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. For the next 10 minutes, they choked completely and missed jumper after jumper. I was watching this game with a bunch of friends and it was unbelievable. I followed the Blazers passionately for a few more years and then lost interest. They never got anywhere near the playoffs. Earlier this week, a checker at Safeway told me they’re doing pretty well, but I’m just not that interested anymore.

  • Reading Sci-Fi books – Well, I still love reading a good science fiction book, but I don’t know how you can follow that passion into a career.

These are just a few examples. I’m sure you have a bunch of passions that you left behind also. People change and our passion evolves over time. Maybe your passion is traveling the world, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be much fun once you’ve on the road nonstop for 5-6 years. It’ll get old.

Everybody has the same passion

The thing about passion is that everybody has similar ones. Most of us like these activities:

  • Sports – running, rock climbing, and other active pursuits
  • Leisure activities – listening to music, watching movies, and playing games
  • Active music – playing the guitar and other instruments
  • Reading – novels, blogs, magazines, etc…
  • Active art – painting, photography, wood working
  • Learning – taking classes, watching useful videos on YouTube, studying
  • Travel

Everybody is passionate about these things. However, there are relatively few decent paying jobs in these industries. You’d have to be a talented musician AND be very lucky to make a good living. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you can succeed in that field. The competition is fierce for those few jobs. It takes extraordinary talent, a lot of luck, and a ton of hard work.

Passion doesn’t translate well into a career

Lastly, passion just doesn’t translate well into a career. I still love reading a good book, but I have no idea how to make money with that passion. I guess I could try going to work in the publishing industry or something like that. However, that doesn’t sound fun at all. Reading for leisure is great. Reading to make a living seems much more tedious.

As for those other things on my old list, I’m just not very talented at any of them, although I recently heard there are professional computer game payers now. Elite gamers fill stadiums and fans watch them play just like any team sports. That’s insane. Apparently, it’s called eSports. Wow, I was born too early to give this a go.

Follow your success

An advice I like better is to follow your success. When you’re successful at something, you’re more likely to develop passion for it. Let’s look at blogging for example.

I started blogging about early retirement in 2010 and I spent a ton of time learning the ropes. The first 6 months were tough because I didn’t have any readers. However, I networked with other bloggers and slowly increased my readership. After a year or so, I started making a little income from blogging and this kept me motivated. Our readership peaked in 2014 and it’s been mostly flat since.


Blogging was a fun hobby that turned into a passion after I had some success at it. If the readership didn’t improve, I probably would’ve lost interest and moved on to something else. Interestingly, I never liked writing essays when I was in school. English was my second language and I still have some trouble with grammar. That’s why I need Mrs. RB40 to edit every post before I publish it. I’m a lot better writer now because I had a lot more practice.

Coincidently, I haven’t looked at the stats in a long time. Retire by 40 has been viewed over 8 million times. That’s amazing!

*If you’re curious about blogging check out my tutorial – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should.

Anyway, I think it’s better to try a few different things. If you’re successful, then stick with it. If not, then move on to something else. I had a graduate degree in engineering and working with computers was fun for a while. However, I moved on when the career wasn’t a good fit anymore.

So here is the ‘unless’. ‘Follow your passion’ is bad advice unless you succeed. Success trumps everything. 🙂

Another alternative

Alternatively, it is much easier to follow your passion if you’ve reached financial independence already. Money doesn’t matter as much at that point. You can pursue your passion and do whatever you want.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about the ‘follow your passion’ advice? Did you get this advice when you were young?

Image credit Florian Schneider. Thank you! This is the perfect image for this post. The musician looks like he’s having fun.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 90 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako March 22, 2018, 12:30 am

    A lot of employers want prospective employees to be “passionate” about a given job now. I don’t get it.

    Apparently you have to show that passion in a job interview — but how do you show passion for jobs like DB Administration or being a Janitor?

    Personally, I’m with you Joe — do what comes naturally. If you’re really good at your job you’ll be successful.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 10:03 am

      I don’t get it either. If you’re competent at your job, that’s pretty good. Being passionate about a regular job seems disingenuous. The only time I was genuinely excited about a job was with my first job out of college. After that, it was just a way to make money.

      • Cubert March 23, 2018, 4:15 am

        Agree. There are very few people out there who truly have a passion for their employed-at-will positions. Entrepreneurs may have a little more going for them. Thinking of Elon Musk, Oprah, Steve Jobs. Tyrannical, but a lot of passion there!

        I remember similar passions too, Joe. Was really into the Beatles for a while. Like, what a discovery, man!!! Video games too – until I reckoned with how much a time waster that was. Similarly, I’m about to give up on sports viewing after the dismal performance of my Spartans this past Sunday. Terrible waste of time, watching 13 consecutive shots clank off the rim.

    • ThinkingAhead March 22, 2018, 3:15 pm

      I’ve seen passionate DBAs and I’ve seen DBAs that were just collecting a paycheck. There’s a big difference. You don’t show passion in the job itself, but you show passion in using the technology to add value to the organization and improve things.

  • Pennypincher March 22, 2018, 12:58 am

    I can count on one hand people I know lucky enough to find and follow their passion. People change, life changes. There are dedicated people out there, enjoying work, for sure. But is it their true passion? I think having kids is a game changer. Having a passion is easier when you are younger and have less real life responsibilities. I mean, how do all those top notch snowboarders pay the rent?? Lucky dogs, living it up!
    Following your success makes much more sense. Do what you are good at, enjoy it. Save your passions for the weekends!

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:20 pm

      I only know a few people as well. Mrs. RB40’s uncle loves being a drama teacher. I need to ask him if he grew into this passion or was it already what he was interested in. I think that’s the only one I know that’s passionate about their job.
      I saw a story on the winter Olympic athletes. Many of them work part time gig to support themselves because of the training schedule. It’s tough to make money even if you’re an elite athelete.

  • Olivia March 22, 2018, 1:20 am

    I definitely didn’t follow my passion. I figured I could make money first, and then be passionate about something else once I earned enough money. Lucky enough, I learned about FIRE a few years out of college. Looking forward to pursuing all those passions after :).

    BTW, the DOTA 1st prize last year was $11M. This year it’s set to be higher. If your sons want to grow up playing video games, maybe they’ll quote this statistic :P.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:21 pm

      Whoa! $11M? That’s crazy, but it’s a growing industry. It can get big here in the US too. I don’t know if I want my son to get into competitive gaming, though. Sounds like a tough life except for the very few elites. Just like anything in the entertainment industry.

      • StockboyP March 22, 2018, 8:19 pm

        Its already a pretty big thing even here in the USA, there was a story on CNBC about this game fortt night? and people are making money off of it. There is also twitch which has a partnership with Amazon, people seem to make money off of people watching them play games.

        I think you missed out on being a gamer ?.

        • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:36 am

          I just haven’t paid attention much since I started blogging. Blogging took up a lot of my time. I don’t have time to play games anymore, but that’s okay. It wasn’t productive for me.

  • Accidental FIRE March 22, 2018, 1:39 am

    Great timing for this post Joe as I was just listening to Cal Newport on a podcast yesterday. He’s spoken about this at length and you can google his videos on it. His take is that “follow your passion” is bad advice since it puts pressure to be happy all the time at your job once you think you’ve found the right job. Bottom line, a job is still a job, and it’s called work for a reason.

    He also thinks you can be passionate about many things and that you should find something that you’re good at and that you can be the best at by building talent and praticing. Or as Cal says, “be so good they can’t ignore you”

    • Pennypincher March 22, 2018, 5:49 am

      This is a very interesting reply Acc. FIRE. When it comes right down to it, work is work, a job’s a job. We all have bills to pay. : )

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:24 pm

      I read a bit of that on the internet. I’ll check out the YouTube video. Thanks!
      Yeap, a job is still a job. I think it depends on the working environment much more than passion. If you’re surrounded by people you like and do things you’re good at, then working is much better.

  • Chris Urbaniak @ deliberatechange.ca March 22, 2018, 3:10 am

    Good morning, Joe.

    I love the topic and your perspective. I’m personally in the camp of “develop a marketable skill.” That skill should be something you become good at, but also that you hopefully enjoy (not necessarily passionately, but at least some middle ground). Then if following your passion does not lead to success, you can fall back on your marketable skill until you’re financially sound enough to move to whatever your interests happen to be at the time.

    Wanderer over at Millennial Revolution also published a great post a couple of years ago on the topic if anybody is interested in further related reading:

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:27 pm

      I think the middle ground idea is a great one. That’s what I’ll tell my kid. Hopefully, he’ll read this someday. 🙂
      That’s what I did with engineering. It was interesting and enjoyable, but I wasn’t passionate about it. That was good enough for a long time.
      I’ll check out Wanderer’s post. Thanks!

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene March 22, 2018, 3:14 am

    Strong points Joe. I haven’t thought much about how everyone likes to those things but yes that does make it harder to find success. Naturally we’re going the FI route first before betting on passion. I have plenty of passions – you can’t sell that. You need greens. I heard follow your dreams a lot when I was a preteen. Millennials heard it…alot. But even then I knew if I choose art, I’d probably end up homeless.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:29 pm

      FI first is the way to go if you can pull it off.
      Thanks for sharing your millennial perspective. That’s quite different that my experience.
      Good thing you didn’t drink that Kool-aid. 😉

  • Dave @ Married with Money March 22, 2018, 4:36 am

    Totally agree. “Reading for leisure is great. Reading to make a living seems much more tedious.” this is how I feel about basically any job, to be honest. I still really enjoy playing video games. But the thought of making them? No thanks. Just not what sparks interest for me.

    I like blogging but haven’t seen the success I was hoping for – I’ll stick with it for a while longer because I like it, but at some point I’ll probably have to decide if I want to stick with it and give it more effort (to be honest given I haven’t really done things ‘right’ in a lot of ways, I’m still happy with my results…I think I underestimated how tough it’d be!) or hang up the towel.

    I find that what I do in my normal day job follows the ‘if you’re successful, you’ll become passionate about something’ mantra. Never had any interest in doing what I do for a living, but now I really enjoy it (on good days, anyway).

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:30 pm

      Keep at it. At least, blogging is fun and you can network with your tribe. It’s a good thing in general.
      If it’s too much work, I suggest you cut it down to once per week or even once per month. Write long posts.
      Good luck!

  • Mr. Freaky Frugal March 22, 2018, 5:32 am

    I’m with ya, Joe!

    I always tell people that ask for career advice that you need to find something:

    1) You like doing (or at least don’t hate)
    2) You are good at
    3) You can make a living at

    You have an excellent point about FI – you can follow any fickle passion you want after you hit FI. I do that now. 🙂

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 12:57 pm

      Thanks! These are great advice for kids. I’ll make sure RB40Jr reads this when he’s old enough.
      Kids never listen to their parents at that age. Maybe they’ll listen to strangers. 🙂

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify March 22, 2018, 5:33 am

    Hi Joe, Our parents generation was more in survival mode. It wasn’t about passion, but putting food on the table and paying the bills. I think following your passion or being passionate about what you do came into vogue as our society became more wealthy. Tom

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:07 pm

      You’re right about that. When you’re working to put food on the table, you don’t care much about passion. Feeding your family is more important. Kids need to learn that too, though.

  • Budget on a Stick March 22, 2018, 5:38 am

    I think my parents were happy that I was following my passion…since my passion was video games/computers and I wanted to go to school for software engineering :).

    It all depends on what the passion is and how you can find a career that will pay well enough.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:09 pm

      I’m sure a lot of kids went into software because they like video games. Too bad, most jobs doesn’t have anything to do with video games. But, being an engineer is pretty good. You make good money and the technical work is fun if you’re competent. I didn’t like the corporate culture, though.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance March 22, 2018, 5:39 am

    Oh my I just loved this post! I agree with every single thing you mentioned here
    I have been thinking about passion a lot, especially in the context of our son. We want him to be happy, but we also don’t want him to be jobless or rely on us financially for the rest of his life. I want our kids to have a stable and well paid job while pursuing their passion. Once they reach FI, then they can just quit their steady pay check if they want.

    When I was growing up, my parents and extended family never encouraged me to do into arts and whatnot. The only thing they wanted me to do was to do well in school. If I do, I will have a bright future, which turned out to be true.

    So one of my burning passions was to become a model lol. It never panned out since I’m neither tall or photogenic enough. Also, my parents would kill me if I even tried out modelling (plus, I’m pretty sure no one would hire me anyway).

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:10 pm

      I was thinking about my son too. Do I really want him to go into STEM? He’s not interested at all right now. We’ll see what he’s good at in a few years. Interesting tidbit about modeling. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance March 23, 2018, 10:36 am

        I want my son to go into STEM too! He doesn’t have to be a software engineer. But being good at numbers will always give him an advantage no matter what career track he pursues. I wish I had realized that earlier when I was in high school and college.

  • adumbby March 22, 2018, 5:40 am

    that’s why when going to college it’s not the school you choose that matters, it’s the major you choose to study

  • Mike Drak March 22, 2018, 5:44 am

    Many people myself included had to defer following their passion until after achieving FI. But once that was done they were free to do whatever they wanted and when you can connect what you do with what you are passionate about it’s hard to lose. Is what you do work or is it play? When the line is blurry life is pretty good!
    The rolling stones are still rocking hard in their seventies and I don’t think it’s about the money.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:12 pm

      FI is great in that regard. You can do the things you’ve always wanted to try. Money isn’t a problem anymore.
      Glad to hear you’re doing so well after retirement.

      • Mike Drak March 23, 2018, 10:27 am

        Just finishing up my second book and I will send you a copy. No more books after that, I plan on going on a lot of adventures with the family similar to what you do.

  • Eclipse On Fire March 22, 2018, 5:52 am

    That’s a very pragmatic approach. But I wouldn’t say passion is a bad thing. It just need to be translated into something real right? For me, I liked building computers and was fascinated by special effects in movies. I got an engineering job now to get me to FI, which keeps me somewhat close to what I wanted to do as a kid. But after FI I have my sites set on part time museum exhibit design and maintenance work. Probably not nearly as lucrative, but a lot more focused on what I love to do, and after over a decade of full time work, I think I can manage part time easy.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:18 pm

      Yes, you’re 100% right. I think special effects is probably a good field to get into. It sounds like a lot of fun. You’d have to be very technically competent to do it too.
      Part time museum exhibit design? That sounds like you need some experience and credential to get into. Good luck!

  • Lazy Man and Money March 22, 2018, 6:15 am

    Mark Cuban has an article on his website that’s similar to this. He suggests that you don’t follow your passion, but follow your effort: http://blogmaverick.com/2012/03/18/dont-follow-your-passion-follow-your-effort/.

    I think the “follow your passion” comes from realizing that if you don’t like something you are probably not going to be very good at it.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:21 pm

      Cool. I saw a story about this, but didn’t see the original post. I’ll check it out.
      That’s actually pretty short. I’m not sure if follow your effort is the right way to go either.
      You could pour a ton of effort into something and not succeed. At some point, you’ve got to move on. Success is where it’s at. 🙂

    • jim March 22, 2018, 1:36 pm

      “I think the “follow your passion” comes from realizing that if you don’t like something you are probably not going to be very good at it.”

      Yes I think thats the logic behind the idea. And yes I agree generally that if you don’t like your job you won’t do as well. But the keyword there is “like” not “passion”. I don’t think its true at all that lacking “passion” for a job means you won’t do it well, thats just going too far.

  • Felipe March 22, 2018, 6:33 am

    Great post! Your passion at age 18 is very likely to be different than your passion at 25 or 50. Plus if your passion involves physical stamina, that will change with age so you may need to develop other interests. I still jog at 54, but not as far or as fast as I did at 16. It’s still a part of my life, but not center stage.
    The “follow your passion” deal isn’t new. I did hear it in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. But people that listened to that too closely often went from job to job and career to career looking for perfection and enlightenment in their work. I just saw work as work. It had to be relatively tolerable, which it hasn’t been but I’ve just done it anyway if it wasn’t immoral or illegal. Now, FI has arrived! Some people can’t delay gratification.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:23 pm

      Exactly! People change. The things I was interested in when I was 18 doesn’t mean that much anymore.
      Really? Thanks for sharing your experience. I didn’t hear it at all when I was young. That’s probably due to the circle of friends and acquaintance I had.

  • Adam March 22, 2018, 6:37 am

    25 years ago I was a high school freshman. I played trumpet in the band and was kind of coasting through when the director asked if I’d consider switching to French horn. “Well,” I thought to myself, “the range is greater, it sounds nicer, there’s less competition, and the gender ratio is 50:50 — sign me up!” I skyrocketed. All-State within two years of switching, a performance degree in college, and sure enough I dated a couple other horn players along the way.

    Passion? Absolutely. Was I ever gonna make a living at it? Heh. NOPE. In the last 25 years I’ve made enough money performing to afford about half of the value of my current instrument.

    But I picked up a few things along the way. Teamwork, the incredible value of nonverbal communication, clarity and precision and accuracy, how to deal with failure and grow from it, how to focus my development on what needs work rather than coast through doing what I do well. My professional career has had nothing to do with music — but the lessons I’ve learned, and especially the people I’ve met? I wouldn’t trade those for a winning powerball ticket.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing. The 50:50 ratio is very important. 🙂
      I think it’s great that your passion for music remains. That’s really cool.

  • Steve @ familyonfire.org March 22, 2018, 6:49 am

    Following your passion is tough. You need as you say to be both good at something and lucky. Now with FI we can spend some time finding out what our passion actually is.

    Oh, and from looking at your stats I don’t feel so bad about my 10 visitors a day as I’ve only been blogging for 5 months!

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:26 pm

      Yeah, no worries. It’s slow in the beginning for almost everybody. You probably need to network a little more if you want more visitors.
      Good luck!

  • BusyMom @ CountdownToTranquility March 22, 2018, 6:52 am

    “Luckily, I was good with math and science so I studied engineering in college. It worked out well for the most part and I found a stable, well-paying job after I graduated. Engineering was never a big passion, but I was competent at the technical part of it.” Hey, that is my story!

    I still haven’t figured out what my passion is. Could it be that I have too many, and don’t recognize them as passions because I am looking for the one thing that will make me feel something much more than what I feel with a lot of things?

    One day, my husband asked me to describe my best possible hour, ever. When I thought about it, it is curling up with a good book and a packet of chips 🙂 Right now, life is such that I don’t have a lot of time for the books, and I limit the chips because it is not healthy.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:32 pm

      I’m with you on a good book. I’ve loved reading a good story since I was a little kid. It’s great.
      I’d like to try a few other things too. Photography and woodworking sound like fun.

  • Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early March 22, 2018, 7:45 am

    I actually DID follow my passion. And while it pays reasonably well, other fields woukd have paid way more and my FI journey would be a lot faster. On the other hand, I wouldn’t quit my job even if I won the lottery, so I’d say I don’t regret my decision even a little.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:33 pm

      Very cool! Thanks for sharing. Do you have a post about this? You should write about following your passion. That’s awesome.

  • Gene March 22, 2018, 9:32 am

    That Blazers game in 2000 killed me too

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:35 pm

      It was ridiculous. That game was a heart breaker. The management kept making stupid mistakes after that too. We could have had Kevin Durant! Jeez. I’m not going to get excited until they’re one game away from a championship.

  • David @iretiredyoung March 22, 2018, 9:55 am

    Oh no, I feel like I’m in the minority looking at the comments so far. Perhaps passion is too strong a word, but I definitely would advise people to do something that they enjoy. Even those who get to FI early will spend a large portion of their adult waking hours at work, and for this to be something that you do just for the money, or just because you happen to be good at it, doesn’t sound like the best life.
    Yes, if success does happen to lead to passion, then that’s great, but it seems to be a risky strategy for an enjoyably balanced life. What if it doesn’t?
    I’d much rather work 20 or 25 years doing something that I enjoy, than 10 or 15 years at something that might feel more like a chore.
    Anyway, as I’m in the minority, I’ll now get back in my box ?

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:37 pm

      No worries. Thanks for your perspective. I think doing something you enjoy is good too. It’s just hard to make money at it.
      I hope our kid can find something that he’s good at and enjoys doing.

  • W2BZ March 22, 2018, 10:18 am

    Very thought-provoking.
    I think people who bleed a certain vocation chase it despite any advice to the contrary. I would never try to stop a person with undaunted passion from pursuing it – they are likely to be happy with the process, not relying on success or failure for fulfillment.

    I think this article is spot on for people who have to ask if pursuit of a passion is wise. If it’s even a question for you, then keep your passion as a hobby and get a pragmatic job.

    On a personal level, I always struggle with wanting to leave my accounting career to be a teacher. Most people are encouraging and say I should go for it, but I struggle with the very issue you mentioned – what if it’s a false desire or fades quickly. I could lock myself into a 20 year career before hitting FI as a teacher. Or conversely I can stay in accounting for another 7 and FIRE.

    So meeting your “unless” criteria… I can give teaching a shot post-FI. In this way teaching can be structured however I want, money wouldn’t matter. And if I do hate it, oh well, nice try, bye see-yah.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:40 pm

      That’s a good point. If you have a burning passion for something, then go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always try something else.
      I like your plan. You probably can cut 7 years down to much less because you still plan to go into teaching. You’ll have income so you don’t need to be 100% financial independence before pulling the trigger. I quit a few years earlier than expected because I had some income from blogging. Good luck!

  • FullTimeFinance March 22, 2018, 11:34 am

    I followed my passion in college. Then my passion changed and so did my career. It looks nothing like where I started.

    Passions changed. While I don’t think choices should be solely on a paycheck, or don’t do something you hate for thirty years, paycheck needs to be in the discussion.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:44 pm

      Do you have a post about this topic? That would be a fun read.

  • Michelle March 22, 2018, 12:16 pm

    My dad gave me his version of the “follow your passion” advice when I was deciding on a college. I was sort of freaking out and told him that I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to go. He grumbled something along the lines of “You don’t have to go to college. No one is making you.” He’s sort of a curmudgeonly old fellow so I think that was his version of “do what makes you happy”.
    I think sometimes passions don’t translate into careers, even when there is a field for them. For example, I played very competitive softball in high school and college and had the opportunity on many occasions to coach. I tried it for one year, hated it (even though I was very passionate about actually playing) and never did it again.

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:54 pm

      Oh wow, that’s interesting about coaching. It must be a lot different than playing. You have to deal with inter personality issues, teach, and all that. Sounds hard. I’d make a terrible coach or teacher because I’m so impatient.
      Heh heh, your dad was just trying to help.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire March 22, 2018, 12:29 pm

    Seems like good, sensible advice, but I think you nailed it by saying that it’s generally only going to be a passion for a little while if you’re unsuccessful at it.

    Since you mentioned that still love reading good science fiction books, I’ll throw a recommendation your way. Hugh Howey wrote a 3 book series that started with a book called “Wool.” I read it on a whim and it turned out to be the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read. Fantastic author.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty March 22, 2018, 1:55 pm

      I read the Wool series last year. It was pretty good. Although, the short release format made it a bit funny to read in a book. I enjoyed those books for the most part. Thanks!

  • jim March 22, 2018, 12:51 pm

    I agree with you totally on this topic. The “follow your passion” advice has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time.

    One thing I particularly dislike about the “follow your passion” advice is it gives people unrealistic high expectations for careers and work. 1) it makes people think that somehow following a passion will lead to career success. But the world doesn’t work that way. 2) If people accept this advice that you should “follow your passion” then anything less than a job they’re passionate about will be unmet expectations.

    passion = success is not a good formula.

    Try this :
    (Passion + Value + Novelty + Demand + Risk + Capital + Time + Luck + Timing ) / ( Competition + Costs) = Success

  • jim March 22, 2018, 1:21 pm

    I would add that I think the problem is that “passion” is simply too strong of a word / emotion.

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:31 am

      I think you’re right. The word passion is too strong. How many of us really have the passion for our work. As long as you don’t hate it, it’s good enough.

  • zhao March 22, 2018, 2:42 pm

    I know everyone has a specific passion other than what you mentioned — being filthy rich — and it is definitely a long term passion before we achieve it. So if other passions do not work out well, at least they should follow the “being rich” passion. To follow that passion, what you said is correct, follow whatever you are good at and make decent money out of it.

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:29 am

      I think only a few people are really passionate about money. Sure, I like money, but in reality, I don’t put at the top of my priority. If you really want to be filthy rich, you can probably do it. You just need to put all your effort into it. Action has to follow words.

  • Allen March 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

    Good article!

  • ThinkingAhead March 22, 2018, 4:03 pm

    I’ve been listening to the Ken Coleman Show podcast on careers. He advocates that people get into their sweet spot, defined as the intersection of your top skills and your top passions. That take sounds good to me.

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:31 am

      That’s a good approach. It worked for a while for me in engineering.

  • DocG March 22, 2018, 4:42 pm

    Can you believe both of my parents loved their jobs? My mother was an accountant and father a hospital administrator. They still work today in their 70’s with their net worth double mine. I wish being a doctor was that enjoyable!

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:32 am

      Wow, that’s great! Maybe the way they look at the job is different than the later generation. Can you ask why they love their job? It doesn’t sound exciting.

  • Lisa March 22, 2018, 7:12 pm

    Very interesting post! I was never told to follow my passion, but I was told to do what I enjoy (the 70s version of passion, I suppose ?). I’m not sure I’ve succeeded at that, but I get paid well for something I do well (and easily) and I don’t hate it. Friends are surprised when I say my job is fine – I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. But I think that’s good enough for something we get PAID to do. That’s why it’s called a job and not a hobby!

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:33 am

      Thanks for your comment. I think do what you enjoy is easier than follow your passion. Like Jim pointed about a bit earlier. Passion is too strong of a word. A job pays the bills. 🙂

  • Sam @ Financial Samurai March 22, 2018, 7:32 pm

    For me, it was the best thing I could do. I had a passion for the stock market, so I joined Wall Street. Then I had a passion for writing online, so I started with Financial Samurai.

    The difference I feel was sticking it out for 10+ years each. I think anybody who does will be successful in whatever they do.


    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:35 am

      That’s awesome. Great job following your passion. You should expand it more. What’s the quality that make you successful at your passion?
      I think it’s these.
      1. drive – You seems to have very good at self motivation.
      2. relentless work ethic – action.
      3. You have an open mind and notice a lot of things other people don’t.
      4. ?

  • GYM March 22, 2018, 9:37 pm

    I think having a side passion is okay but to keep with a job that can support your lifestyle. That’s why I started a blog too- I got a bit bored of my day job and then started a blog to learn new things.

    That’s really cool you know how to play the ukulele and had a ukulele enthusiast group! When I retire I hope to learn how to play the ukulele and guitar 🙂 I love the sound of the ukulele, we had one play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo?ole of course, for our wedding!

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:38 am

      That’s a good move. Blogging is a good hobby. You learn a lot and make connections to your tribe. It’s a great hobby.
      Sent you a PM about ukulele. 🙂

  • freebird March 23, 2018, 8:00 am

    Another exception: ‘Follow your passion’ is bad advice unless your passion is financial independence. Financial independence trumps everything!!

    Your point about passions changing over time may be why such a journey often ends up directionless over the long haul. I think it’s better to follow now what your future passion will be rather than what you are passionate about today. We can’t predict the future but those who know themselves and the world around them best are most likely to pull this off. I would point out that I don’t know of anyone who regrets having reached FI.

    • retirebyforty March 23, 2018, 11:40 am

      I should have put FI or wealth building on the passion list. Financial freedom is a great goal. It frees you up to do other things.
      You’re right about FI. I think everyone is happy to reach FI.

  • JasoninVancouver March 23, 2018, 8:18 am

    Ideally, one is able to find a reasonable paying job that is associated to their passions and even amplifies it. But, I’m also in the camp that most of your passions evolve over time as you experience different things in life.

  • LazySod March 23, 2018, 5:09 pm

    Follow your passion is bad advice. But if you dont follow it, how do you know that you can succeed and then follow your success ? Follow what you’re good at is good advice. Much like you I was taught to study to get a steady paycheck and luckily i am good with logic and algorithms. Programming is fun, but over the years i found out that the whole industry is not there for my amusement. When money talks, the fun is over. Check out the book “So good they can’t ignore you”, it’s in my bucket list. The Financial Mentor interviewed the author in his podcast. A must-listen.

    • retirebyforty March 24, 2018, 4:09 pm

      You can try it for a while and see. I think you find out pretty quickly if you’re going to succeed or not.
      I’ll checkout the book. It sounds familiar. Thanks!

  • FIRECracker March 23, 2018, 5:41 pm

    “to them, a stable paycheck was a much higher priority than passion.”

    Yup, that’s how my parents think and how I think as well. My priority wasn’t to follow my passion, but to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible right out of college. I was definitely NOT good at engineering in the beginning, but I got better at it over time. As an okay engineer I earned a way better salary than as a children’s author (which I did on the side). It’s not about passion (which can change), it’s about developing skills and being useful. So glad I didn’t take the author path because I would’ve made less than $5000/year and had to get a day job anyway. Now, I’m finally doing what I love–writing professionally–but no way I would’ve been able to support myself without becoming FI first.

    Great lessons in this post!

    • retirebyforty March 24, 2018, 4:13 pm

      It’s great that your goal was so clear. FIRE wasn’t a goal for me until my 30s.
      You’re living your dream now so it all worked out very well. Congrats!

  • Paul Tran DIY March 24, 2018, 4:57 am

    Just FYI you can be a professional gamer now and you can get paid lots of $$$ if you are one of the best. Or if you are an influencer and have a significant following you can make lots of ad revenue, sponsorhips, ect.. on YouTube and Twitch just playing video games for people to watch.

    I personally think you can truly follow your passion if you are inheriting a large sum from family or become financially independent early. If you are poor, generally your parents will hope you get a good education and good steady paycheck. That was the way I was taught growing up. I hit my goal of surpassing 200k a year in 2017 for the first time at the age of 30. I started work late with student loans after receiving my doctorate. I have been inspired by this blog and hope to call it quits around 40 to pursue my passions!

    • retirebyforty March 24, 2018, 4:15 pm

      Being an influencer is a great gig. 🙂
      I’d encourage my kid to try that. You have to have the right personality to be a good YouTube host, though. It’s just not for me. I’m not enthusiastic enough.
      Good luck with your goal! There are quite a few good FIRE blog for doctors.

  • Dong Liu March 24, 2018, 6:19 am

    if making money is a passion, that seems solve the passion problem ;-). People who work in wall street fit the bill

  • Troy @ Bull Markets March 24, 2018, 10:12 pm

    Following your passion is only good advice if what you’re passionate about is also what you’re exceptional at. And it really depends on your industry. You can’t be a professional soccer player just by being above average. You have to be insanely great.

    On the otherhand, you can be an online entrepreneur just by being good at what you’re doing and loving it. You don’t have to be in the top 10.

  • Mark Durrenberger March 25, 2018, 11:35 am

    Great post! It reminds me of Derek Sivers’ post on the criteria you should use for making big life decisions. It’s not enough just to do what makes you happy – you need to combine what makes you happy (passion), with what’s smart (good for you long-term) and what’s useful to others.

    Until you’re financially independent, it’s really important to do something useful to others so that you can, you know, get paid!

    – Mark

  • Damn Millennial March 25, 2018, 5:20 pm

    Solid advice something that I think my generation has a tough time grasping.

    I read “so good they can’t ignore you” when I first started working. Helped put things in perspective. I see a lot of people going back to school to do this or that. At some point we have to face the music and just earn…

    No one ever said you aren’t allowed to pursue those passions on the side. If they turn into money then great!

  • Squints April 24, 2018, 3:28 pm

    Here’s my take: if you have the guts and drive to follow your passion as a career, do it! The world needs people who follow their passions and make things happen.

    But if you’re like me (moderately risk averse) and you even have to ask if you should follow your passion as a career, you’re probably better off pursuing FIRE and following your passions part time until you can afford to do it full time.

    If something clicks and your gut tells you to take the plunge, though, I’m not going to stop you!

  • Captain Obvious May 18, 2018, 2:07 pm

    Here are the areas to be passionate about …

    1) Law enforcement, being a police officer or a fireman. These folks get a full pension in 20 years and thus, get to spend their youth, doing what they *love*. So if you *love* this line of work, then you’ll have no problems keeping your job long term.

    2) Currency trader, yes, if you are genuinely passionate about this, you will be rich.

    3) Some type of union job, like electrician, plumbing, or city contractor. In other words, let the union protect your benefits while you get to work on what you love.


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