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Follow Your Passion? The Blogger Roundup

Follow your passion and the money will follow?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the financial payoff of following your passion. If you deliberately take steps to do the work you love instead of the work you don’t enjoy, most of us would agree that you’ll feel a lot better about yourself.

But will you also make more money?

This is a controversial issue, so I asked some of the writers I read on a regular basis to chime in with their thoughts. The list of respondents includes:

First of all, I follow what each of these people have to say on a regular basis, and I have learned a lot from them… so if you are interested in any of their topics, go and check out their sites.

I asked each writer what they thought about the original essay, and also about the concept of “following your passion” in general.

Here’s what they had to say about each subject:

Mignon Fogarty, AKA Grammar Girl:

On financial success following you-

I think it is much harder to be successful if you aren’t doing something you love because success takes time and commitment, and those are easier to give if you’re happy and engaged in your job.

On following your passion to the bank-

I think it’s a myth. There are all kinds of people who follow their passion and don’t make a lot of money. Some even go bankrupt. Having passion and loving something don’t guarantee that you’re good at it or that it will make a successful business.

A personal story-

Before I launched the successful Grammar Girl podcast, I was the host of a science podcast called Absolute Science. I loved doing that show and I was passionate about it. I actually put more effort into promoting that show than I did for the Grammar Girl podcast, and although Absolute Science was well-received, after doing it for nearly a year it was clear that the show was never going to make enough money to make it worth the time required to produce it.

***

Darren Rowse, ProBlogger Extraordinaire:

On financial success following you-

It’s a tough one – I’d like to answer that it’s a secret to financial success to do something you love but I can think of plenty of people who are financially successful who hate what they do. For me it’s certainly true – I can’t believe that I get paid to do what I’d do (and what I did for ages) for free but there’s plenty of people making good money by doing work that they don’t enjoy.

On following your passion to the bank-

I think it can be true – but what if you love doing something that there is just no economic sense in?

(Update: Darren’s book about problogging is now available on Amazon)

***

John Wesley, self-improvement guru:

On financial success following you-

I think it makes perfect sense, but it took me a while to realize why. The better you are at what you do, the more financial success you’ll achieve. For example, the world’s best artist makes much more money than a mediocre banker, although on average, banking is a much more lucrative profession.

The key to financial success is being absolutely great at what you do, and you’ll never be great at something you don’t love.

On following your passion to the bank-

I think there is truth to it, but it’s also a bit dangerous. Simply following a passion won’t help you build income unless you develop it as a business. You need to actively look for opportunities to create value with your passions. You need to use them to help others, instead of just indulging yourself.

A personal story-

With PickTheBrain there was definitely a turning point where it went from being about what I wanted to what the readers wanted. This attitude has been a big part of our success in growing the site.

***

Gretchen Rubin, Happiness Scholar:

On financial success following you-

Studies show us that perhaps the KEY to true mastery is the will to practice and to persist. In other words, if you want to be good at something, it helps a lot if you enjoy it and want to stick to it! I started out my work life as a lawyer, and I was successful. I was editor-in-chief of Yale Law School’s law review, and I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But in my free time, though, I was writing books “for fun,” not studying caselaw. Finally it hit me: I should do as my JOB what I did for FUN, because I’d be willing to put in the enormous amount of hours necessary to achieve the greatest mastery I could.

On following your passion to the bank-

The problem with pursuing a job for the money is that in most cases, the big money comes only if you achieve a certain stature or goal. If you don’t hit that target, you don’t get the money – and you haven’t much enjoyed the time you’ve spent in pursuit. If you follow a passion, you’ll enjoy your life as you’re working to achieve your goal, so if you don’t hit it, you won’t have spent all that time in vain.

Also, I’ve noticed something. When people are doing something they enjoy, they figure things out more easily. They challenge themselves more. They’re more curious. They remember information better. They make social connections more easily. These things tend to make success more likely, and therefore, they make money more likely.

***

Naomi Dunford from IttyBiz:

On financial success following you-

I believe that passion and money belong in the same sentence, but not quite so close together. Do what you love, do it very well, be prepared to accept appropriate payment for it, let people know what you’re doing and that you’re excellent at it, and then — at the very least — a sustenance level of money will follow.

On following your passion to the bank-

This might make me the bad guy, but I don’t believe that passion inherently begets money. I believe that passion makes it far easier to navigate the hurdles that come between you and money. The mountain standing in your way is a lot easier to climb when you’re passionate. If you’re not passionate you look at the mountain, realize how big it is, say “Screw it, I don’t give a shit anymore,” and then tell your friends and family that the mountain was too high. Uh, no.

A personal story-

I got into marketing because I can’t not be in marketing — I’m totally unemployable in every other capacity. Long before I even considered consulting I read marketing books on the bus, in the bath, in bed. I would rant and rage and scream about lousy marketing and bad copy and how I could have done it better myself. Then I read some more books. Lo and behold, if you read every marketing book in print, you tend to get pretty good at it. When I got good people started paying me. Now I make far more than my husband and I made combined when we were out in day jobs. So yeah, in my case, B followed A.

***

Leo Babuata from Zen Habits:

On financial success following you-

Well, it’s definitely possible to gain financial success without doing what you love. Many people have. However, I think your odds go up greatly if you do love what you do — you’re more likely to do it with passion, to put all of your energy into it, to stick to it longer than you would doing something you don’t enjoy. So if I were to put odds on financial success, I’d pick the guy who loves what he does and works with great passion.

On following your passion to the bank-

It sounds a bit too much like a guaranteed statement. I don’t agree that it’s a sure thing, but as I said, you have better odds if you follow your passion. I’d change it to something like, “Follow your passion, and don’t worry about the money. You’ll be happier, and you’ll give yourself a better chance at the money.” It’s not as catchy, though.

A personal story-

My blogging is an example. I didn’t start blogging so that I could make money. I thought that would be nice, but I did it because I love it. And I still do, and I still blog with passion. However, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to make a living doing what I love–I did it for passion, and the money did follow.

J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly:

On financial success following you-

Well, I’m not convinced there’s a strong correlation. I think that financial success can be related to doing what you love, but it’s not always the case. I have friends who love to teach, but they’re never going to get rich at it. I have friends who hate their jobs but make a killing.

I think it’s more apt to say that happiness is related to doing what you love. My friends who teach are happy; my friends who hate their high-paying jobs are not. I’m a strong proponent of “following your bliss,” but it does take some creativity to make it pay off sometimes.

On following your passion to the bank-

‘Do what you love and the money will follow’ sounds good, and I certainly encourage people to give it a shot, but I don’t think it’s a given. If I hadn’t done what I loved with Get Rich Slowly (and my other blogs), I would never have known if there were money there or not. I’m glad I gave it a shot. I think other people should pursue their dreams, too.

A personal story-

Get Rich Slowly is a perfect example of the principle in action. I’ve always loved writing. I’ve been blogging regularly for seven years (and writing on the web for more than that). I’ve kept at it with passion, and now I make enough to support myself full-time. Blogging is no way to get rich — slowly or otherwise — but it is a way for me to live a fulfilling life.

Tim Clark from Soul Shelter:

Financial success is related to passion, and passion derives from doing what we love. But the world isn’t entirely under our control, so we’ll do well to modify our definition of “financial success” as we pursue what we love.

I choose to believe it, with the eyes-open caveat that the amount of money that comes may be quite modest!

(Update: Tim’s post on Opting Out of the Deferred Life Plan will go up later today. Good stuff there.)

***

And here’s some final thoughts from Naomi at IttyBiz:

“I am thoroughly convinced of one thing — if you do what you love, happiness and a better life will follow. You will have financial security, but it might not come in the flavor you’re used to.

Maybe you’ll sell paintings for a hundred grand a pop. Maybe you’ll rustle yourself up a patroness. Maybe you’ll spend the morning in your loft teaching three-year-olds how to finger paint, enabling yourself to spend the next 10 hours channeling your inner Pollock and not worrying about selling out. Maybe you’ll be happy eating brown rice on your brother’s couch because it’s better than working for The Man. Whatever. It all gets figured out in the end.”

That’s a great wrap-up—thank you, Naomi. I had my own ending ready to go, but I like yours better.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the roundup! Participants and readers, I welcome your further comments below.

###

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46 Comments

  • Great post. I’m in the Lee-Naomi camp; doing something you’re passionate about makes it far more likely you’ll make money doing it, but at the very least, you’ll be far happier and feel like your life has some meaning.

  • JBlee says:

    I believe that following your passion will lead to better chances at achieving BOTH (financial success and higher-income), but it would be naive to think it’s the only essential thing.

    Becoming financially independent is a mix of a lot of factors. Passion, attitude, frugality, smart investments etc. these are all essential things. One may pursue his passion and make a lot of money out of it, but if he doesn’t spend less than his earnings and/or make smart investments, he will never be financially independent or free.

    I do believe that following your passion is a very, very important ingredient in becoming a financial success, but I must say it’s not the only component in the equation.

  • Qrystal says:

    [Moved from the earlier article]

    I’m about to leap into the big scary unknown “after university” world, and I’m totally gung ho about pursuing my passion and working from home. I’m just scared about it sometimes, and need to read more reassuring articles like this. I’m commenting mostly so I can receive followups from other people who are inspired by the above article!

  • Chris says:

    Just a quick note to say I really appreciated all the A-list bloggers contributing to this article.

    Oh, and Twitter users, you can find my updates at “chrisguillebeau”.

  • James says:

    Great list of top notch bloggers. Hearing it from them makes it so much more clear.

    We all fight the fight but the more people say it, the more I want to belive that without passion you cannot make it.

    Thanks for the insight everyone!

  • Great post– I enjoyed the personal insights on this topic.

  • Dwight says:

    Great post. Worthwhile just to get the links to other great bloggers…

    My occupation is rather intense. I find that I HATE it if I work full time. I LOVE it on a part-time basis. So, I made the decision to earn less and love what I do.

  • Mark Hayward says:

    Hi Chris – Nice job with the post and what a great angle to come from!

    I would just add that those of us that are freely able to pursue our passion are extremely lucky. There are many out there who do not have the luxury due too poverty, repression, etc…

    All the best,
    Mark H.
    Lifestyle Design Consultant

  • budgie says:

    Hi, I can’t see any quote from Gretchen Rubin? (I’m using IE7 to view the page.)

  • Suzyn says:

    I came here from Gretchen’s blog – what happened to her input?

  • Chris says:

    @Suzyn and @budgie-

    Sorry, I lost two authors’ quotes when I updated this post while traveling. They’re back now; see above. 🙂

  • Maria Palma says:

    Hi Chris,

    What a great round-up of thoughts…

    I firmly believe that if you have a passion for something and you believe that the money will follow, then it will happen for you!

    I think what it boils down to is belief. I’m one of those people who believes that “thoughts become things”.

  • Thanks for such a great subject to ponder. I’m not certain if I’m fickle or just flexible, but have found my passions changing over time. This makes for a more zig-zag approach to pursuing them for financial success, but traveling that path has been endlessly entertaining. Currently, I’m sitting in a home office in a restored Colonial in a small town in Vermont with a view of the moutains and blogging for fun and profit. I’m getting there….

  • Jeff Rothe says:

    Am I going to be the only one who leaves a slightly negative comment here?

    I think there were a lot of great responses above. I appreciate the honesty, that not just because you are passionate does that mean that riches will follow. Specifically for blogging, what if your target audience for your blog isn’t large enough to support you?

    I followed this article from Darren Rowse’s Pro-blogger website, and felt his answer could have been a lot better and well rounded and that he kind of took the fifth on the question about making money. He just wrote a book on making money at blogging, it just arrived on my doorstep, but there is no hook to demonstrate that he can teach anyone how to analyze what topics will actually make money. He could have also said something like “Well, if we don’t know, check out the book and I’ll will help you better decide if your passion can make you money.”

    I know this wasn’t an advertisement for him, but maybe some middle ground. I love Darren’s writing creativity and insight, I just wished he would have taken this interview as an opportunity, and would have explained his comment a little bit.

  • Chris, as you rightly said – its a controversial topic… and furthermore, the answer is skewed for the simple reason that you’re asking only bloggers. There are many people out in the world beyond the Internet who make money from NOT selling (rehashed) information.

    Jeff, agree with your point… i came across a blog post on dailytips (i believe) where Darren was asked about the number of feeds he reads – SURPRISE – he doesn’t read a lot – I don’t blame him he’s an A-list Blogger – but then again no body has enough time, though I am surprised about how much he spews out on a daily basis!

    How obsessed we are with RSS feed counts – hmm… the real good guys are smart – they don’t read them, they only ask others to subscribe to theirs!

  • What a very interesting, thought-provoking article detailing thoughts of others about whether or not passion leads to financial freedom.

    I agree that having a passion doesn’t always lead you to financial freedom (i.e. teachers) but I do think that being passionate about something makes all the obstacles seem less of a giant. That’s how I became the world’s first deaf instrument rated pilot in 2006 and a successful stockbroker during the early 90’s. There were unbelievable obstacles I had to deal with but being passionate about flying and being a stockbroker helped me get through the difficult pursuit of the dream(s).

  • LL says:

    Following your passion and doing what you love are absolutely the way to live. But it does not necessarily mean that you are goining to achieve financial independence.

    The reason is very simple. Even though you’re at your best when you do things you love it does not necessarily mean that there are enough people that are willing to exchange your passion to money. For example, many writers are passionated and love what they are doing but if you happen to be a philosophical writer or in other marginal niches there is very little chance of hitting a bestseller. Your target marget is too narrow to support a massive success.

    I think it was Scott Adams who recently mentioned that you have to combine at least two skills where you are above average and then you can have a home-run. He loved drawing and had many business jobs/careers and thus combined those uniquely in Dilbert.

  • Hi Nice Post, I have also written some thoughts about “How to follow your passion?” here.

  • Julie perry says:

    Chris,

    I really enjoyed reading this post — thank you for compiling it. Very inspirational, as is keeping up with your personal version of “Amazing Race.” I currently live vicariously through the details of your journeys. Travel on!

  • GRUMPYWHITE says:

    I just happened upon this website and love it!!! I’m reading everything while I’m supposed to be working at my unfulfilling job. 🙂 My biggest problem right now (and for quite awhile) is that I don’t know what my passion is. Any advice on how to get to that point? My fear is that I’m actually an extremely talented bassoonist but will never get the chance to learn how to play the bassoon.

  • Sean Sulistio says:

    A great read. I’ll have to stick around here. I just searched for passion and money in google and came up with this.. I’ve read a fair few books about wealth, success, happiness and they’re all different things. It comes down to the individual. Everyone wants happiness. For some, hating the job but knowing it generates good money makes them happy because they tie money to happiness. Some people can’t do that and prefer to be doing something they like evey day regardless of the money. Both are extreme examples. It’s hard to say if following your passion will definitely lead you to financial success. The hard part is knowing what your passion is in the first place and to take that first step to try many different things to find out what that is.

    Happiness and money are maybe words that can’t be put together. We all have different definitions of happiness. We all have to figure out what is more important to us at our particular point in life. Happiness or money. Some go for money first even if they hate it, so that they don’t have to worry about it in the future and so they can follow their passions. If you’re a short term thinker this may be difficult. Others follow their passion first, maybe hope it leads them to financial security and keep getting better and better at what they do.

    One thing is for sure, happy people are great to be around with. Why they are happy (money or passion), it doesn’t matter.

  • Carl Muller says:

    I love books and publish school books for a living. Then.. I facilitate a wonderful self empowerment program to disadvantaged people. The joy on their faces makes me want to do it all over again. I do that for free. I supply the manuals and myself for 3 days. They only have to give the venue and the beverages.
    I wish I had the money to facilitate fulltime.
    Never will I forget when I trained 32 disabled people about 12 years ago. They sang songs of joy and psalms to me for nearly 3 hours.
    That was a day I cried. I love what I do.

  • JenChicago says:

    I have been asking myself this question for a long time now. I worked in Corporate Marketing for 10 years after I graduated college and I hated it. Well, I liked the money, the golden handcuffs as I like to call it, but that was about it.

    I went through an epiphany of sorts when I decided to move across the country to Chicago, and decided to make a clean start across the board of my life. I decided that I was born to have a show. (First a talk show and then maybe a sit down audience show if I ever want to settle down in one spot.) I had enough money saved up to quit corporate and start my show. I bought a camera and just started. I’ve come a long way in a short time because I didn’t ask if I could, I just did it.

    I haven’t made a ton of money yet, but I have amazed myself to see how little I really need to be happy.

    For me the quote goes something like, “Do what you love, and you will be surrounded by other super cool people that are doing what they love. And then you can meet them for coffee during the day to talk about how much happier you are even though you haven’t bought new shoes in a long while.”

  • Ernesto says:

    As many have alluded here, what one has to ask is “what is wealth”? Is it making $100K+ a year or having 100+ days a year of meaningful, blissful passion-work? Ideally, it’s both. But lucrative compensation for the lucky (and courageous) people who take the path less traveled is often only the sprinkles on the icing on the cake.

  • Orletta says:

    I think it boils down to I rather make 39000 doing something I love versus a million being an accountant.

  • Martha Roden says:

    Here’s a response from a non-blogger about following your passion … or at least doing what comes naturally and is enjoyable.

    I’ve always loved to explain things to people – verbally or in writing. Of course, family and friends might say that I just like telling people what to do. And they’d probably be right. Anyway, I’ve never understood why things have to be so complicated, especially when it comes to the high-tech gadgets and software. No wonder technical writing was a natural career for me.

    However, over time, I realized I needed more human interaction, so I started teaching technical classes to connect with students. I soon discovered that my writing and teaching skills were in great form, but people were still having serious problems with the software I was explaining. Why? Because it was badly designed.

    Quite naturally, I migrated to the field of usability. I became a user advocate for better Websites and software products. I made great money, but got tired of the stressful environment, unrealistic deadlines, and socially backward engineers. That’s when I made the difficult decision to become a free-lance agent.

    Over the past three years I’ve vastly expanded my repertoire, writing textbooks and marketing materials, designing Websites, profiling interesting people, even getting involved in editing spiritual white papers and children’s fiction. I’ve managed to continue to support myself, making about the same amount of money I made as an employee, but doing it on my terms. Sure, my income fluctuates, but my time is my own and I get to pick nice people to work with.

    I’m not rich yet, and the recession has certainly reduced my number of clients and my income. However, writing’s what I do, what I like, and what I’ll continue to do. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    Martha

  • Fantastic post (as always, Chris!)

    I’m a believer in ‘Putting Passions before Profits’ because while profits may follow your passion, the reverse is almost never true.

    Following a happiness-centric approach will bring abundance into your life – often in the form of profits but not always – but then again, waking up happy every day is worth more than millions (in fact, it can’t be bought even if you have millions anyway)

    That being said, it can be difficult to resist the lure of riches and chase money instead of dreams (trust me, I’ve been there!).

    Just like everything else, I believe that the decision and commitment to follow your passion takes persistence, dedication and hardwork… but the rewards are definitely worth it.

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