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Today I’m going out on a limb to share the growing concerns I have over the overuse of the phrase “finding your passion” in our culture.

It seems like if we’re not following our passion, searching out our passion, or devoting great amounts of time to even considering what exactly it might be, that we’re not truly fulfilled, not really living life to the fullest.

L'Wren Scott was a noted fashion designer who recently committed suicide

L’Wren Scott

What got me thinking was this week’s suicide of L’Wren Scott, a talented designer. On the outside, she had it all: wonderful career, exotic lifestyle, rock-star boyfriend, none of which was enough to keep her from taking her own life.

What seemed shining on the outside was probably very different from how Scott felt on the inside. We’ll never know, but it made me wonder about the exterior trappings of following your passion.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating in our passion-driven culture. You are not your job. Really.

It’s just my opinion here, but I think people are getting so concerned about finding their passion that they’re merging it into their identity. When passion is outward-focused, a person will never be happy. The goal can never be reached. I see this in countless young people, who change jobs like they change their shoes, trying to find a career that fits, that rewards them completely. A job will never reward you completely, nor should it, because life needs balance.

We need to back up here and ask ourselves another question first:

What kind of person

I had dinner with a friend last week, and we talked about the way people seem to be stuck on finding their passion. Self-help books sag bookstore shelves, TV shows attempt to reveal the steps involved, and magazines blare the topic from their cover pages.

I wish my grandparents were still alive, because I’d ask them if they ever worried about finding their passion. I doubt it. They lived very quiet lives. My grandpa worked at the same factory for decades. Grandma worked as the school lunch lady, which allowed her to be home when their seven kids were. They gardened, bowled, and visited with their friends. Very unpassionate stuff, and yet they seemed fulfilled.

The internet changed the game, but it didn’t come with a rule book. Sure, it made us more connected, more aware of each other’s lives, but we became more inclined to make comparisons that hold no weight, kind of like how many viewed L’Wren Scott’s glamorous life. In the glare of the internet spotlight, suddenly it doesn’t seem “enough” to go to work and come home again, to be fulfilled by a simple life outside a job.

Steve Olsher discusses this dilemma in his post “Avoid Turning Your Passions into Your Career.” We’ve gotten off track, thinking that once you find your passion, money will flow into your pockets.

It doesn’t matter what you do; first you need to figure out what kind of person you want to be.

Then you might not need to hang your hat on the fact that you’re a famous writer. Or a celebrity chef. Because if you’re still comparing your “success” to others, you’ll never get there.

Carnegie Mellon commencement '08

Carnegie Mellon commencement ’08

Hard work and a few knocks create success, and if you’re lucky, bring compassion for others. Simplicity, not job hopping, brings joy. Shannon Ables discusses this in her blog, “The Simply Luxurious Life,” and I especially enjoyed her post “How to Create Opportunities.”

It’s not that you shouldn’t be passionate – not at all! I hope you enjoy what you do, and go after what makes you fulfilled. Just don’t look outside yourself for the answer to “what kind of person do you want to be?” Then it won’t matter so much what you do; it’ll matter more who you are when you do it.