The Secret to Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession

We’ve all heard that success and fulfillment are guaranteed if only we follow our passion. But what does that really mean?  How do you follow your passion and pay your bills?  Buzzwords like “authenticity” and “purpose” begin to ring hollow as the financial realities of life settle in.  The idea of following our passion becomes even more absurd when we don’t really know what our passions are.  Here’s an example.  I love playing volleyball.  I have loved it more than anything else since I was 12 years old. I could play all day and all night. But as I got older, the opportunities to play professionally became scarce. I prefer playing indoors to beach volleyball and there is no professional indoor volleyball in the USA. So to pursue that passion, I would have had to leave my home and my family. It was a commitment I wasn’t willing to make. So that left me with a pretty big question: what would I do for my profession? 

What would I do if I could do anything?

Well, I didn’t really know.  When it comes to our professions, sometimes our passions evade us…for years.  It’s not always something we love in the way we love things that are fun or recreational – like volleyball.  If you’re lucky, maybe your hobby is marketable and you can earn a great living pursuing it. Ask any professional athlete, gamer or artist.  But for many of us, finding our professional passion may be a bit of a thornier path.

sometimes that the people who know us best, our friends, our family, our social and professional network know our passions before we do

For me, I went to law school.  I knew, at least, that I was interested in learning more about the law.  I was not one of those students who showed up at law school on day one with a fully formed passion for civil rights, or environmental protection, or some other area of the law. I was interested mostly in the study of law. It was fascinating and enlightening. But a passion? I wouldn’t say that. Having a background in engineering, I went into the field if patent law. I found the academics and policy of patent law more exciting and engaging than the practice, but it still didn’t feel quite like a passion.  

Then, one day I realized that I actually had found my passion

As it turns out, my passion was related to my interest in intellectual property law. Here’s the secret sauce to how I found my passion and how you can find yours. Sometimes the people who know us best, our friends, our family, our colleagues, know our passions before we do. So, ask yourself, what do my friends and family come to me for? What issues, questions, or skills do the people who know me best seek my advice, counsel, input and ideas about?  That’s it. It sounds so simple because it is. 

Your unique voice is heard, valued and often amplified by the people closest to you before you’re even aware of it.  

For me, I noticed that the people around me came to me with questions of social and economic justice.  I was consistently getting notes, dm’s and questions from my network about my point of view on these issues.  I would frequently get into long back-and-forths on facebook about the history of occupational health and safety, labor rights, or gender discrimination. These questions seemed to be flash points for the me, and when I spoke on the issue, it always managed to raise awareness and spark engagement. Those closest to me started to make me their go-to for my thoughts and perspectives.

So, it turns out, I didn’t just stumble into law school. 

I have always had a fierce sense of justice, and apparently, everyone around me knew it. But somehow, it was embedded so deeply within me that I wasn’t aware of it. The thing that lit a fire under me, incensed me and spurred me into action was the unequal economic value afforded to the ideas, labor and intellectual property of women.  As a patent attorney, I am well-versed in the value of ideas, and the currency of inventiveness. But as a woman deeply invested in ensuring equitable access for women to profit from their ideas, I was driven to pivot from the law and become a tech entrepreneur to create that access for women.

Ask Yourself These 2 Questions

So, my point is this – when searching for your passion, ask yourself 2 simple questions: 

  1. What gets me off my ass?, and 
  2. What gets the people around me to shut up and listen?

When you have an answer to those questions, congratulations! You’ve found your passion.  The next step is to get creative and find a way to turn that into a career. I’ve got some ideas about that too.  Stay tuned for those!

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