New Year’s Resolution: Rule, Rather Than Follow, Your Passion

Career_VennAny day now, along with the year’s top-of-everything lists (movies, blogs, apps, etc.) we’ll start to see blog posts regarding New Year’s resolutions.

And, without fail, many of these lists will include some version of this phrase:

“I will follow my passion more.”

Unfortunately, by the time the Super Bowl is over… these (and many other) resolutions are already forgotten. We often remain in the same position throughout the year, so we write another resolution… and the cycle goes on and on… every January 1st.


Following Your Passion is Passive

By definition, “follow” implies a certain level of passive, even reactive, behavior. Accordingly, far too many of us use “I just haven’t found my passion” as an excuse not to take action – the exact opposite of passion.

This is procrastination… in the name of passion.

Those too deep into this seemingly never-ending cycle do not seem to be able to break free; they can’t get an interview; they can’t secure a job offer; they can’t even start networking because they don’t know what to say when asked the “What do you do?” question we all get when meeting someone new.

Time for a new strategy.

Rather than follow your passion… aggressively, with firm purpose… rule your passion. How? By taking a hard look at the diagram above – and placing your skills, knowledge of compensation within your industry and passions in the big circles.

First, let’s quickly look at each section…

What Pays Well

This section, for many, is the most difficult to touch; we know what pays well but don’t have the skills or experience set to earn money doing that, whatever “that” is. We just can’t get there, yet.

For others, “What Pays Well” is a prison. Perhaps brainwashed by parents and higher education into thinking (as our friends at More Than Money Careers say) “job security equals success”, we labor inside this circle, too afraid to let go of that artificial measurement of success.

For these reasons, this circle – when ruling our passion – should be saved for last.

What You Do Well

We’re all good at something. Maybe it’s a trade-related skill. Maybe your marketable skill set is more business-oriented such as sales or customer service. Perhaps you’re a good writer or designer; maybe you can code a new game in your sleep. Maybe, in these days of social media, you’re a good networker; a connector; an organizer. Or, maybe just for now, you’re good at pushing a broom, driving a truck or entering data into a spreadsheet.

You need to identify your “good at” skill set – without assigning an earning potential to it, and without deciding how much you like doing the work.

What You Love

On the surface, this is the easy one; the no-brainer. However, we all know teachers that get their dream job as educators only to find out they hate kids. And the world is full of business majors who can’t stand corporate life. Many, many of us think we know what we love… only to find out that once you do it for a while, it becomes a chore… a passionless job.

A great way to determine what you love: Whatever you do while you are procrastinating… whatever you do when you should be doing your work… that is what you love.

Going for Center Red

Venn_KaitlinNow that you know what you’re good at, what you love and what pays well – make your own diagram; important: be sure to place a star on where you are now. Your diagram may look something like the example to the right…

In this very real example, Kaitlin already works – and has a degree in – Public Relations. Her job pays well, but she is bored to death in account management and has come to despise the repetitive nature of writing press releases.

She considers herself very good at networking, connecting and building relationships. Her absolute passion is social media; on the train, during dinner, before she goes to bed and as soon as she wakes up… she’s on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and LinkedIn. Already an influencer of many, if she could work in social media she would be in her version of career heaven.

Kaitlin must go for center red.

The “New” New Year’s Resolution

For three years, ever since she graduated, Kaitlin’s New Year’s resolution has been “I will follow my passion.”

This year will be different.

This year, she will rule her passion… which may look something like this:

  • To get experience as a Community Manager, I will volunteer or intern for a local non-profit
  • While maintaining quality, I will grow my personal network by 2x on social media channels
  • I will build mutually-beneficial relationships with two diverse mentors in the social media field
  • By summer of 2013, I will have significant experience in social media strategy and execution; my personal network will be notable enough to thoroughly impress my current employer… or my next employer

Instead of some vague resolution that cannot be measured, Kaitlin now has an actionable, defined plan. Kaitlin is now accountable.

In just 6 months, she will be living her dream job. She will love the work, will be damn good at it and will be compensated very well. Kaitlin will be “center red”… in large part because she ruled her passion, now.

Rule your passion. Do it now, before you’re tempted to make another inspiring, yet ultimately disappointing, list of resolutions.

Then, you will have a Happy New Year.


Mark_AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post,, The Daily Muse, Alltop, and Intern Advocate.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2011”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!

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