Passion might be fine for romantic relationships – but for success in the law, maybe not so much.
“Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort,” advises billionaire and pro basketball owner Mark Cuban. “It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.”
Cuban is far from alone in discounting the importance of professional passion. These days, career counselors from California to Connecticut are stressing perspiration over inspiration, nuts and bolts over nirvana and bliss.
In so doing, they are veering from the ancient wisdom of Confucius – “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – as well as more recent advice from Steve Jobs – “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”
Following your bliss might be a sound strategy in a booming economy, experts say. But when jobs are scarce and the market is tight it makes more sense to develop skills that are most likely to get you hired. Such as understanding social media. Or being proficient in cloud technology.
“All of the self-awareness in the world is of little use if you can’t pitch your passion to a buyer,” writes Monique Valcour in the Harvard Business Review blog. “A sustainable career is built upon the ability to show that you can fill a need that someone is willing to pay for.”
Calling all Learned Hands
Most of us were attracted to the law for good and noble reasons. We were inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird. We wanted to help people. We dreamed of being Perry Mason or Ally McBeal.
Then we landed our first law job and our bubble burst. The hours were long, the demands heavy, the stress high. The work was often more grinding than glorious.
Our blissful ideals got snagged on the jagged edges of reality.
9 Tips for Turning Passion into Profits
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some suggestions for keeping the passion burning – while making sure the bills get paid:
No passion? No sweat. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what your passion is, or if you can’t identify a single, overriding passion in your life. Most gifted people love doing lots of things, according to Forbes online. This is good. It makes for an interesting and balanced life.
Think process, not results. A Zen koan says, “When you’re picking grapes, pick grapes.” Place your full attention and best energy on the task at hand, no matter how mundane. This will create space for beauty and creativity.
Keep learning and improving. Make it a goal to learn one new thing at work every day. That way, your job will never be boring – and your professional skillset will always be growing.
Consider how you can add value to your employer. Having trouble finding a job that is a perfect match for you? Try a different approach. Research prospective employers. Get a good sense of how the firm operates and what personal skills might best improve those operations. Then go out and sell yourself.
Stay on the cutting edge. “Pay close attention to developments in your industry,” says Valcour. “Look for ways to get involved in growth areas.”
Be enthusiastic about what you do. If you are energetic, eager and have a positive attitude, you will never have trouble finding a job. The passion will take care of itself.
Choose your colleagues wisely. Search for opportunities to work with people who inspire you, says Valcour. Try to surround yourself with intelligent, creative folks who are genuinely interested in your professional growth.
Recognize that passion can become a pain if you have to do it for money. Having a love for cooking is one thing. Running a restaurant is another thing altogether.
Adopt Mark Cuban’s four-point plan for moving from effort to excellence. (a) When you work hard at something you become good at it. (b) When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more. (c) When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good chance you will become passionate or more passionate about it. (d) When you are good at something, passionate and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen.
Take a Bite of the Apple
And finally, remember that even Steve Jobs didn’t exactly follow his own advice.
Early in life, the Apple visionary was dreamy, unfocused and lacked follow-through. He variously considered becoming a musician, poet, teacher or wandering sage.
Almost by accident, he fell into computers and marketing. He worked hard. He picked lots of grapes.
The result: profits, prominence and posterity. And plenty of passion too.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact email@example.com phone 919-619-2441.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.