The Passion Trap

Whear it all the time, and see it adorning coffee mugs, t-shirts, and walls at kitsch coworking spaces across the globe.

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

And while there is truth to this statement, passion alone is not enough.

Passion can leave us both broke, and broken down.


When we pursue what we love, our rational mind can become subservient to our emotions.

We can become blinded by rose-colored glasses and the dopamine high that comes from doing what we enjoy.

Whether it be podcasting, writing, music, photography, martial arts, or insert *domain of your choice here*, all can leave us riding a neurochemical cocktail high, yet facing all-time lows in our bank accounts.

And this can apply to entire industries such as crypto, sports, music, design, fashion, and so on.

Working on things we’re passionate about can force us to turn a blind eye to red flags and all the what-could-go-wrongs, fall victim to the optimism bias and halo effect, and see nothing but green lights…for a while.

But eventually, the amber and red lights become more apparent, as come to the realization that perhaps passion is not enough.

Do what you love, but…

Don’t get me wrong. Given the choice, we should always work on things we love, but this must be complemented by:

  • Things we’re good at: I’m passionate about surfing, but Kelly Slater I am not. In fact, we’re 6-times more engaged at work when we’re playing to our strengths.
  • Things that serve a genuine purpose: I might be into NFT PFPs but is a collection of 10,000 AI-generated pictures of monkeys really solving problems in the world or purposeful? If it’s not purposeful, at least to you, you’re likely to give up when the going gets tough.
  • Things that make enough money: I spend a lot of time writing, but it is more of a labor of love that covers my grocery bills. I earn a living consulting to large companies on innovation and incubating startups — both pursuits I enjoy.

Only when we find alignment across passion, purpose, profit, and strengths can we truly play the long game required to be successful in almost every field. This is especially the case when it comes to creative and startup pursuits, where the rewards tend to flow to the top 1–2% of players.

The other downside to working on something you love is risking falling out of love with it. It is no longer something you do for fun, but something you do to make a living. Your brain might start associating it with your J.O.B. and the neurochemical high you once enjoyed might become numbed.

Questions to ask yourself

So, if you’re thinking about pursuing a line of work, or already in a line of work, guided by passion alone, perhaps it’s time to stop and reflect.

Is the passion blinding you to reality?

Can you make enough money doing this?

Is it solving a genuine problem in the world?

Are you actually good enough at this job to become successful?