3 Reasons it's so Hard to Follow Your Passion

Photo by Jade Stephens on Unsplash

Follow your passion is the most common career advice you will hear these days.

It’s a nice idea, but how easy it to actually do? And how much does it actually help?

An article on HBR explained that passions are made not found, passions are more about your values than what you enjoy, and passion can only take you so far.

Don’t Wait to “Find” Your Passion

People aren’t born with a passion.

Think about your favourite hobby. Did you start doing it in the womb? Or did you start it and gradually get better with practice and start to love it. You may have started so young you can’t remember, but you did start.

Passions are developed.

So if you don’t like something the first time you try it, that doesn’t mean you will never like it. If you care about the results your work produces, keep practising. You can get better bit by bit and you will find yourself starting to enjoy it more and more.

Focus on Meaning, not Fun

Your preferences change all the time, think about your hobbies now, the TV shows you watch, the books you read.

How many are the same from your childhood? or even 5 years ago?

Pleasure is short-lived. You are not going to love doing the same things your whole life, because you as a person change so much throughout your life.

Meaning however, deepens with time.

If you love making someone’s day or knowing that something you taught someone could make their life just a little easier, this feeling will last much longer than the pleasure of a massage.

Passion Can Work Against You

There are two big situations where passion can work against you:

For and Against

Imagine you are trying to convince your friend of all the benefits of Android. You can talk all day about the features, the lower cost and wider choice of phones. But if the person you are talking to is a strong Apple supporter, you are more likely to make them support their side more strongly.

Passion in something we disagree with actually makes us push back and think of all the reason that person is wrong. So beware how passionately you speak when trying to persuade someone before you know which side they’re on.

Sacrifices of Passion

If you love your job so much that you would secretly do it for free, you may think you’ve found yourself the best deal in the world.

The problem is when immoral managers start to notice just how much you love your job.

They may start asking you to do unpaid overtime, because they know you love it enough to keep going.

They may ask you to work a few weekends, just to get this project done.

They may ask you just to help them for 10 minutes, which turns into 2 hours, so you miss your lunch-break.

A few months or years later, you will find you have no time and no energy to do anything but work. You will forget why you loved this job so much as now it is just an endless mountain of work and waterfall of stress.

So remember, passion is better developed than “found”, passion lasts longer when it appeals to your deeply held values and passion can be used against you.

Why People Become Terrorists

If you understand a problem you can solve it. I don’t expect this post to be used to train Intelligence service officers, but it was a question I was interested in. NewScientist answered this question in their Collection – 17 MORE Ideas You Need To Understand.

What is a Terrorist?

Marc Sageman, of the CIA, says you can’t reduce terrorism down to ideology, religious motivations or personality disorders. In fact you can’t point to a pattern of actions and say “that’s a terrorist”, the same way you can point to types of serial killer like organised and disorganised killers, there is no terrorist type, just people who commit acts of terror.

From a terrorism prevention point-of-view, this makes things difficult as we can’t categorise potential terrorists.

In a 1981 paper by Martha Crenshaw (Causes of Terrorism), she found that what most terrorists have in common, is they are all really normal. They aren’t the Lex Luthors of the world, they’re the Average Joes.

Terrorism Depends on Whose Side You’re On

People who commit terrorist acts are usually part of a group, like a shared religion or country. This group will fear that another group will kill them or destroy their way of life. This is the same motivation many people have for the leave campaign in Brexit and that doesn’t make them terrorists.

A normal person who feels threatened will eventually lash out. Inside the group, the people who commit terrorist acts are seen good people, who are just providing a warning to the outside group to leave your group alone. They are heroes, protecting their families.

Someone in the west may see these bombers as evil people who just want to cause us harm, but suicide bombers consider themselves the victims to western military power.

Terrorism as PR

The author of the NewScientist article, Peter Byrne, says that for the terrorist, their act of terror is just a military public relations scheme to make a political point. It’s not a day job or an inbuilt ideology. These people don’t wake up a terrorist, go to work a terrorist and go to bed a terrorist. It’s just a tactic to make a point.

People Don’t Always Know Their Motivations

Criminologist Andrew Silke, at the University of East London, has interviewed people who have committed acts of terror and most of them say that they did it for their beliefs. The characters we see on TV shows and the videos that accompany horrific violent acts would back this up.

Silke interviewed terrorists, gathering a detailed history of their lives. These interviews usually reveal family issues, school issues or employment discrimination and wanting revenge for their people’s deaths as coming way before they were drawn into the ideologies of ISIS or the group they joined.

When Silke presented this evidence to Western Governments fighting terror, they chose to believe that terrorist threats were down to Islamic Radicalism, rather than try to understand the complex social and psychological issues that could be preventable.

Blame the Elites

In the “Causes of Terrorism” paper by Crenshaw, she found that the first people to turn to terrorism, who then convert the masses of underprivileged people, are more likely to be members of the upper middle class. The Jihadi leaders are often medical doctors and PhDs.

Before it was commonly believed that terrorist leaders were from underprivileged backgrounds.

Locals Just Want a Job

People living local to terrorist groups often are often very poor due to wars and violence destroying their neighbourhoods.

Terrorist groups offer competitive salaries, health insurance and benefits to keep sending money to your family, should you die in battle. This makes the job quite attractive to someone who is struggling to provide for their family, wives have been known to even encourage it.

It would be shameful to let your family starve when a well-paid job is readily available to you. You don’t have to join because you fully agree with the ideals, you may just want to feed your family.

Availability of good jobs is an economic problem. The kind of problem that can be much more easily solved than defeating terrorism. ISIS could be dealt a real blow, if there were just better job opportunities provided to locals.

You Can’t Fight them On The Beaches

Many experts believe that defeating ISIS in Mosul (a known hub for ISIS) through military action won’t stop the threat of terrorism.

Killing leaders of terrorist groups like Bin Laden and al-Baghdadi doesn’t stop these groups being able to carry on with their mission.Terrorist groups can easily splinter off into new groups, re-organise and carry on committing acts of terror without their previous leader.

Drone strikes that target high profile leaders have been shown to increase the number of terrorist attacks, because the threat of a drone strike gives these terrorists groups fuel for their anti-western propaganda.

How To Actually End Terrorism

Military force not being effective isn’t all doom and gloom. Terrorist groups do disband, they tend to do so because of:

  • Political solutions to the problems they face
  • Grievances that originally angered them being solved or dissipated
  • The group losing support because it displays too much brutality and the insiders don’t approve

The more we know about terrorism the sooner we can stop it. There is much more information in the original article, which doesn’t have a link available yet, but it will be on here soon and you can get a copy in stores.

This was a much more complex and sensitive topic than I usually write about, so please feel free to let me know if I was unclear or wrong below.

Is Your Passion Harmonious or Obsessive?

Choose harmony
Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

Does your work light a fire inside you or does it consume you? If you’re passionate about work, it can be the best feeling in the world, or it can burn you out.

Harmonious Passion

This is the kind of passion you want in life.

Harmonious passion will give you energy, harmonious passion will give you meaning, harmonious passion will make your life vibrant.

You will perform better at work, you will seem happier to your friends and you will be more resilient to the struggles of life.

Then there is the other kind of passion…

Obsessive Passion

Obsessive passion is always on your mind, even when you don’t want it to be.

Obsessive passion interferes with your social life, you just can’t help but check your emails over dinner. You find yourself unable to hold conversations because you’re too distracted and anything not building your dream feels like a waste of time.

If something goes wrong at work, your whole world comes crashing down. You feel like your value and self-worth comes from your work, so if you fail or get fired, you are a failure.

You are obsessed.

This is not healthy.

Choose harmony, not obsession.

A Simple 7-Step Plan to Achieving Any Goal

Get that winning feeling

Achieving goals feels good, that’s why people do horrible crazy things like marathons, climbing mountains and triathlons. They don’t love being in pain and out of breathe, probably. But they love that feeling of accomplishment when they’re done.

Now that we know why people like to achieve goals, lets find out how they do it.

Not all goals are sporting, they’re just the ones I found easiest to get examples of. Your goal could be getting your product to market, solving a business problem or passing an exam.

The Navy SEALs have a 7-step plan to achieve any goal. It’s so simple you could start using it right now.

Ask Clarifying Questions

In order to succeed, you need to know what success is. If it’s a 10k run, success could be crossing the finish line, finishing in a certain time or beating a certain individual. Find out which one is your measure of success.

Identify All Your Resources

How much will it cost? What technology can you use? What skills do you have? What can your network offer you?

Clarify Roles and Responsibilties

If you have a team, they should all know exactly what to and when to do it.

Each member of your team should know when they can and can not act and they should know how what they do will affect the mission.

Focus Relentlessly On Your Goal

There are no excuses. You must reach your goal. Finding it too hard? Push through, or lean on your teammates. Can’t solve a certain problem? Attack it from a different angle or see if someone in your team can solve it.

Think Through All Possible Contigencies

Try to predict any issues you may face. Now think of ways around them. You can avoid many problems and roadblocks by trying to predict them.

Train Until You’re Stress Proof

The more you train a skill, the less effort it takes, the faster you can do it and the fewer mistakes you will make.

After-Action Reviews

Don’t blame anyone. Everyone did their best, but some things still went wrong. Figure out what went wrong, then figure out how to do better next time.

Now you know the 7 steps to achieve any goal, try them out and let me know what goals you want to achieve below.

How Your Hobby Can Boost Your Career

Your hobby can make you a more rounded person, make you more interesting and even make you more successful. I am not talking about turning your hobby into a side-hustle, no, this is a post about how blogging can improve your performance at work.

The Many Benefits of Hobbies

Hobbies have been found to improve creativity, lower stress and prevent burnout. Work shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you, because if it is, then what happens when you leave that job or get fired? A good hobby can give you another side of your identity, so when you lose one part (your job) you still have many other parts (your family, your friends, your hobbies).

It just takes one hour a day of engaging in a hobby to make you feel refreshed and more fulfilled. The hobby can be anything that actively engages you, I can’t tell you what you liked doing. That said, I recommend anything where you can learn and improve. It can be creative like drawing, playing an instrument or writing a blog or it can be physical like running, lifting weights or playing football. The important part, is it’s something you enjoy.

Why Hobbies Help

  • Firstly hobbies break up your day from all the spreadsheets, meetings and office bullshit you have to put up with. Just taking a break is a helpful for your poor frazzled brain. It allows you to recharge, so that when you are at work, you can focus.
  • Hobbies make you more rounded as a person. You’re not just John the accountant, you’re John the guy who paints, runs and does some top notch accounting work.
  • Hobbies allow you to achieve outside of work. Once you finish that 5k you can say “Wow, I ran 5k today, that’s pretty impressive” or you can look back at the wooden ducks you whittled and feel proud of yourself.

I can say from experience these things are true, I sketched for the first time in a while the other day. It’s not my best drawing, but whilst I was doing it, time and the world around me melted away, leaving just me, the pencil and the paper.

A quick sketch of Auri from The Kingkiller Chronicle

What hobby could you restart? What hobby have you always wanted to try? Let me know in the comments below.

Facts and Figures Don’t Work: How To Persuade Someone You’re Right

I’m telling you, this phone isn’t plugged in!! Hello?! HEEELLLOO?!

It’s a tale as old as time, you are wrong, they are right. How do you make them see the truth?

It seems intuitive that if you want to win an argument, you prove the other person wrong. Logic and reason will win out, sadly this is not true. People will defend their opinion until they die once you attack their beliefs, no matter how logical your arguments.

There are 3 ways to actually convince someone though.

1) Don’t Make The Other Person An Idiot

People are prideful. Your opponent (or friend or lover) doesn’t want to look (and more importantly feel) like an idiot. So don’t make them an idiot.

When was the last time you enjoyed admitting you were wrong? When was the last time you looked forward to pointing out how stupid you have been?

If you can take the sting out of them being wrong, make them see that anyone would have thought the same given the information they had, you can let them change their mind without looking stupid. Giving a person a pain-free way out, is key to changing their opinion.

The moment you chastise them for their beliefs, you have lost them (I am very guilty of this) and you are not getting them back. They will dig in and fight you harder.

2) Look At Things From Their Point Of View

In some cases there isn’t a clear right or wrong. Sometimes you are even working towards the same goal as your opponent but you have different ideas on how to reach your goal.

If you can understand why they believe what they do, you can start to work with them.

Where I work, we recently tried to implement a new filing system. Both sides wanted to make it easier to find the file you needed, when you needed it.

We did not listen to each other, we attacked each other’s methods, rather than trying to understand each other’s points of view. As a result we got into a heated argument and never reached a solution.

If instead we had realised we both wanted to just make finding files easier, rather than defending our own favourite methods, we could have come to the best conclusion. Then we would all have a better filing system as a result.

3) See More Of The World

You never learn anything new if you do the same things every day, talking to the same people, reading the same blogs.

Talk to people you disagree with, with the intention of listening to what they have to say. Try asking someone to explain why they believe something you don’t believe. Don’t offer your own opinion, see how it makes you feel.

If you want to change minds, be willing to change your own. Admitting mistakes isn’t fun or easy, but it’s necessary for growth.

Let me know in the comments below if anyone changed your mind or why they didn’t.

4 Simple Steps to Stop Procrastinating

This post will teach you why you procrastinate and how to stop procrastinating. It is part of my series of posts detailing what I learned on the Learning How To Learn course on Coursera.

Why We Form Habits

Habits save you energy. Your brain is only a tiny part of your total weight, yet it manages to use 20% of your energy. Sadly, this doesn’t mean that thinking really hard will help you lose weight. However, it does mean that your brain does whatever it can to save energy, like automating tasks it knows how to do. A habit is this automation.

The 4 Stages of a Habit

Habits have 4 stages, if you can understand them, you can learn to use them to your advantage, rather than letting them use you. Want to start a habit of exercising? Learn the 4 stages. Want to stop your habit of eating twenty chocolates a day? Learn the 4 stages. You have been kept in suspense long enough, these are the 4 stages:

  1. The Cue
  2. The Routine
  3. The Reward
  4. The Belief

The Cue

The cue is the thing you see, hear, smell or whatever that sends you into the automatic trance known as a habit. The Cue is the only stage where you need to exercise willpower. That’s great news, my whole life I thought people who conquered bad habits just had an iron will. Instead, they had better systems than me.

Common Cues include:

Your phone vibrating – makes you check for notifications

Seeing your to-do list – makes you watch TV instead of doing work

The smell of your favourite bakery – makes you go in and buy those pastries you love, but know you definitely can’t have

Resisting a Cue causes an actual pain response in your brain, but if you can overcome it, the pain fades very quickly. This is the time to start a better Routine.

The Routine

The Routine is very powerful. The Routine is you actually acting out a habit, it’s browsing YouTube for ten seconds, only to find out that mermaids do exist!! And that 4 hours have passed and you still haven’t done your assignment!!

Next time you see an unpleasant thing you need to do, but really don’t want to. Just work on it for the smallest amount of time you can handle. Since the pain fades so fast, you may find you actually end up doing more work than you thought you would.

The Reward

Now celebrate.

Celebrating helps you convince your brain that you did a good thing, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail. Habit changing can take time, it gets easier with each victory though.

The Reward is the immediate feeling of pleasure you get when you start your habit. It’s the warm gooey centre of your favourite chocolate cake, or that endorphin rush after a workout. Creating a good reward is key to avoiding procrastination.

Good Rewards can be a tasty treaty, some tantalising TV or telling yourself “well done, pal”.

The fun thing you do when you procrastinate is it’s own Reward, so you’re fighting a master of it’s craft. Your own brain!

If you’re struggling with rewarding yourself, try having the reward at the same time or same point in progress. This creates an expectation in your mind of reward, like you are training your brain to expect it.

The Belief

This is how you feel about a habit, if you don’t believe you can change a habit, then you can’t. If you do believe you can change a habit, then you can.

If you’re struggling with this part, then don’t worry. Beliefs can be changed. The first 3 steps will help you.

Once you have been trying to build a new habit for a while but it hasn’t become automatic yet, it can start to feel difficult and the allure of giving up becomes stronger. This is when you need to remind yourself that your system works and you are doing better with this new habit.

Process Beats Product

The Product is the thing you hope to achieve by starting a session of work, such as an item on your to-do list, a piece of homework, an assignment at work, the list goes on.

The Process is you actually doing the thing, it’s you lifting some weights, writing some words or cleaning some plates.

If you focus on the Process like “I will write for the next 20 minutes”, you never mentioned the finished Product you want to get out of it and you are less likely to produce the pain response in your brain so you have less of a Cue to procrastinate.

Let me know in the comments below if any of these ideas worked for you, or if they were total crap.