There was a lively discussion on BigFatPurse.com when I posted an article, Why Following Your Passion is Bad Advice. Most readers disagreed with what I talked about – you should only pursue your passion as a career if you are good in it and people will pay you for it. The main disagreement was that passion should not require monetary incentive. I supposed I did not explain how I see passion and this post is to add clarity by defining ‘passion’ in my context.
There were many things I have pursued but given up. One of them was soccer. Since Primary 4, I was very passionate about soccer, despite my mother’s discouragement. I played many hours of football on a daily basis. I continued to play excessively through my Secondary and Junior College days, only to reduce the commitment to the activity in University and beyond. I was good enough to be in school teams, but wasn’t good enough to be champions and a professional footballer.
When I was in Primary 2, I managed to persuade my mum to allow me to take violin classes. I am not talented in music except being very methodical and mechanical about it. It enabled me to attain my Grade 3 but much more flair and ‘feel’ were required at Grade 6, and I flung the exam. I made use of ‘O’ levels exams as an excuse to stop my violin classes. After 6 years of hiatus, I joined the University’s String Orchestra. I was made the President of the club in the following year. It was because the ex-President saw my potential to lead the club and not because I was good in violin. I had so much interest in violin that I spent weekends after weekends in practice sessions. We weren’t that good as an orchestra to dazzle the crowd. The crowd was there because they were friends and family who wanted to show their support.
I had brief periods of intense interests in cycling and photography. But they were like crushes which came and gone very fast. Despite owning 2 bicycles and 3 DSLR cameras, I given up all of them.
Here's our mistakes. Don't do the same.
We asked 14 Singapore finance bloggers to share what they would do if they could go back in time and invest their first $20,000. They can no longer rewind time, but you can learn from their experience and hopefully start with a better footing.
I started BigFatPurse.com near the end of 2007. It was an avenue for me to share what I have learned from the investment world. I wrote articles on a weekly basis up till today. I didn’t do it for money because my job pays much more than this website. It does not make economic sense to spend time sharing all these information for free.
I reflected about the things I have given up while pondering what kept me going on BigFatPurse.com. For the things I have given up, I realised the reason was because I could not be better than most people. I felt I could not contribute further in these areas and I should redirect my effort elsewhere. However, I found something on BigFatPurse.com which was missing in all these activities. I get a sense of achievement whenever my sharing had helped someone in his finances and he recognised it. The more I learned, the more I shared, and the more recognition I received. This led me to see passion very differently and I created the Passion Virtuous Cycle to explain it.
Creation of Passion
Passion is not something you can decide right from the start. It has to be discovered and continuously nurtured. You have to try things out for a while before knowing whether you like it or not, and if you can sustain it.
You are on the right track once you found something that you are good at, or an area where you can progress much faster than most people. You should continue to do it and provide a lot of value to others. Do not worry about the money yet. Just keep giving first. Once people recognised the value you have given them, you will start to feel accomplished. Naturally, it will propel you to continue to do what you are good at and you will also want to improve and provide better value to others. A virtuous cycle is formed and passion is created and nurtured in the process. When you become so good, you can create a product or a service and charge for it. This is where your passion becomes your career.
I will use a professional footballer as an example. Luis Suarez is the hottest striker in the Premier League right now. He is definitely good in soccer and no one will doubt it. He provides a lot of value to football fans in terms of excitement and inspiration. Suarez finds great achievement when the fans adore him for his spectacular performances. This will motivate him to improve his skills and perform better in future matches. He receives both monetary and intangible rewards by being passionate about delivering great football performance.
The process of discovering your passion will take a very long time and some people never find it in their lives. It is a pity because their full potential remains hidden. Some may know what they are good at but but they could not find an avenue to express and apply their talents in the society. Some may have inhibitions to do it because of disapproval or fear.
My Passion, My Career
When I say I have found my passion, I meant I have found a way to pursue it as a career. Passion has to be pursued full-time where one puts 100% commitment to do his best. Anything less is compromising his ability or potential to give. Anything less is not passion, it is an interest. While he pursues his passion full-time, he still needs to survive and put bread on the table. Hence, he must find an avenue to charge for his passion. This is not an easy task and it takes a lot of courage, entrepreneurial spirit and risk taking to find a place in the marketplace. But money is not what keeps this passionate guy going. It is the intangible part of finding meaning and getting recognition in what he does that mattered.
In 2014, I am going to apply and share my investment knowledge full time. If you asked me to quit my job and follow my passion a few years ago, that would be a wrong advice. I wasn’t ready and I would have struggled and possibly given up this passion. The previous article missed out this clarification. I will never ask someone to pursue their passion if they are not good enough to be paid. It will harm them more than doing them good. Interests can, and should be pursued while keeping a job. Remember passion needs to be discovered and nurtured. The discovery has to be done at the lowest cost possible.
What am I going to do? My passion is about investing and helping people invest better. Besides trading for income and investing my own money, I will be conducting courses and free talks, writing books, writing free quality articles on this website, start a private fund with my partners and potentially go into investment advisory. It will be a suite of complimentary products and services that are aligned to my passion. I will be happily stuck in the Passion Virtuous Cycle! I will have a lot more to offer in 2014 and beyond so look out for this space!