How Following Your Passion Can Sabotage Your Career

The following article appeared on as a follow-up to my interview with Chris Dessi.

Last week on my podcast, Remarkable You, I interviewed a passionate entrepreneur named Brandon Steiner.  Brandon is the CEO and Founder of Steiner Sports.

He took an initial investment of $4,000 and built Steiner Sports into a $50 million company holding partnerships with the most elite athletes and teams in sports.

While speaking with Brandon about passion, he explained that he thinks people look at passion all wrong. Brandon thinks in your career you must start first with understanding.

He sees the progression as a three step process:

  1. Understanding 
  2. Commitment 
  3. Passion 

Brandon explained that when he started at Syracuse, he had an understanding about what he needed to get done there as a student.

He made a commitment that he would graduate with a degree in accounting. For Steiner this was especially difficult because he's dyslexic.

Once he had the commitment he discovered a passion for accounting.

Some may feel that this opinion is a generational difference. Brandon is a baby boomer, so I asked a millennial CEO, Pete Jimison what he felt about following his passion.

Pete is CEO of a white hot ad-tech company based in New York City called F#.  Pete told me that while pursuing his dream of launching F#, "my  first goal was freedom -- freedom to choose my focus, freedom from "a job", and freedom to build my own schedule."

Pete played to his strengths while growing F#.  He focused on building a fulfilling career, rather than focusing just on passion. Sharing that "it's the commitment and sacrifices that provide the greatest level of fulfillment."

Agreeing with Steiner, that leading with passion may, for some, be a mistake.

I find these answers compelling. I have had young people, straight out of college, ask me how they can get invited to be a keynote speaker. I point out that you have to do something before people want to pay you to talk about something.

I explain that I started out at a local Chamber of Commerce in 2008 because I wanted to be a thought leader within my organization. I gave the speech for free.

I drove two hours out to Long Island -- the middle of nowhere, Long Island -- and I was just horrible.

But, that first step toward true understanding was a great one. Now I could work at honing that craft and continue working on it. That first gig was my first step toward putting in my 10,000 hours (that amount of practice necessary to master something, per Malcolm Gladwell).

I believe that success dwells at the fulcrum of passion and excellence.


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