How To Find Your Passion: The Ultimate Guide

how to find your passion the ultimate guide

Fun fact: 80% of people hate their jobs (source).

Okay, maybe not so “fun”… but how insane is that?

Considering the fact that the average person spends—at a minimum—a third of their life working, this means that most people hate at least one third of their life.

WTF!!

Even if only 50% of people hated their jobs, that’d still be completely insane to me.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The last thing the world needs is another article about “how to find your passion.”

But I promise you, this isn’t just another article. Oh no.

This epic guide is more than 10,000+ words long and could probably be a book.

I spent 35 hours making this guide for you with the single goal of making it the BEST free resource on the Internet to help you actually find your passion.

You won’t be able to find a single resource on finding passion this comprehensive anywhere else on the Internet. My hope is that this will be the last article you’ll ever have to read on this topic.

In this guide, I’m going to show you exactly how to stop overthinking, figure out what you really want, and FINALLY start doing something you’re passionate about. Even if:

  • You have no idea what your passion is
  • You have a few interests, but you don’t feel completely passionate about any one of them
  • You want to start learning new things but you’re scared of putting in the hard work and then realizing you worked hard for the wrong thing
  • You’re just too indecisive and can’t figure out what you really want

Plus, I’ve also included a special BONUS for you at the very end so you can start applying all of this information today.

Now, in case you’re wondering why I’m doing this, the simple answer is this:

Because I now how frustrating it can be to not know what you’re doing with your life. And if I can help reduce that 80% of people who hate a third of their life down to just 79.9999%, I will die a happy man.

You see, I spent my entire life doing all the things I was “supposed” to do…

I graduated from high school at the top of my class, went on to study at the amazing University of Southern California (USC), and landed a “good” (salaried with benefits) job straight out of college—a job that I had lined up before I even started my senior year.

Goofy engineers
Quite possibly the best looking group of engineers there ever was… #BlueSteel #USC #Classof2015 #ArrogantNation #FightOn

But through it all I knew that something was missing.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast at USC, but something always felt a little off.

Of course, looking back now, it’s obvious—I had no passion.

I was going through the motions of day-to-day life, but I was lacking purpose, and it sort of felt like I was half asleep through it all.

But now that I finally feel passionate about what I’m doing and I finally have a reason to wake up EXCITED about my life every day, I want YOU to feel that way too.

And I’m confident that you can, because I believe that finding and following your passion is a skill that can be learned, just like any other skill.

The problem is that no one ever teaches us this skill. Everyone sort of just assumes that you’ll figure it out.

But if you’re reading this, I’m guessing it’s because you haven’t figured it out yet.

And whether you’re still a college student or you’ve already graduated, you probably feel like you’re supposed to have this stuff all figured it out by now.

But let me assure you, whether you realize it or not, the vast majority of people haven’t figured it out.

After reading just about every single book and article on this topic, talking to and working with dozens and dozens of my peers, and spending hours and hours thinking and reflecting on my own personal experiences…

I’ve realized that this “I have no idea what the hell to do with my life” syndrome is one of the biggest problems—if not THE biggest problem—our generation is currently facing.

And this is why I feel so obligated to share everything I’ve learned with you.

This is the guide I wish someone had given me back when I was starting college, or even back in high school.

It would have saved me years of frustration and put me years ahead of where I am today.

But let me warn you now right now: this stuff isn’t easy.

You’re not going to finish reading this guide and suddenly know exactly what your passion is and never have to think about it again.

That’s just not how it works.

Passion takes work—just like anything else in life that’s worth having.

I can only show you what to do (and what not to do), but YOU are still going to have to go out and do the work yourself.

The good news is that if you are willing to put in the work, I promise it’ll be worth it—it’ll be SO worth it.

If you think you’re ready, then grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started.

Table Of Contents

I recommend reading this guide from beginning to end, but because there’s a LOT of information in here, I’ve included a table of contents below so that you can quickly and easily pick up wherever you left off in case you don’t have time to read it all in one sitting.

If you’re short on time right now, I recommend bookmarking this page so you can come back to it later.

1. Getting To The Root Of The Passion Problem

2. Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Actually Terrible Advice

3. The Most Common Mistake People Make When Trying To Find Their Passion (& How To Avoid It)

4. Overcoming Fear Of Picking The ‘Wrong’ Thing

5. The Most Important Ingredient To Creating A Passionate Life

6. The Real Meaning Of Passion (& The Most Important Question Of Your Life)

7. An Unconventional Thought Experiment That Will Trump All Other Passion-Finding Exercises

8. The Fastest Way To Start Living A Passionate Life

9. What If I Just Don’t Have Enough Time To Pursue A Passion?

10. How Can I Stay Motivated To Finish What I Start?

11. What If I Fail?

12. How Long Should I Stick With Something Before Giving Up On It?

13. What If I’m Just Too Indecisive?

14. BONUS: How To Put This Guide Into Action (& Start Creating Your Passion) RIGHT NOW

Getting To The Root Of The Passion Problem

In the season finale episode of Master of None, the episode begins with the main character, Dev, trying to decide what to eat for lunch.

After spending a few minutes deciding on tacos, Dev spends the next half an hour on Yelp and Google trying to find where he can get the best tacos. Once he finally finds a taco truck that’s supposed to have the best tacos in town, he’s then faced with the dilemma of deciding which of the best tacos is the best of the best tacos.

Eventually he decides to go with carnitas, but by the time he finally makes it to the taco truck and places his order (hours later from when he first began this quest for the perfect lunch…), he’s devastated to find out that they’re all sold out.

EPIC. FAIL.

Only clip I could find. Quality is crap, but it’s still hilarious.

I was cracking up throughout this whole scene, especially during the Yelp part, because I used to do this all the time. Apps like Yelp are supposed to make it easier to find a place to eat, but more often than not, they actually end up making it more difficult because there are simply too many options to choose from.

While choosing what to eat for lunch is obviously a trivial decision, it’s a perfect example of the bigger issue we are faced with today — we live in a world with TOO MANY OPTIONS.

Thanks to the Internet, we now have more information than we could ever possibly need right at our fingertips, and as a result, we never want to settle for anything less than the best. The best tacos, the best university, the best career, etc…

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting the best. After all, this entire blog is about helping you become your best self. I believe that you should always strive for the best, because why would you want to settle for anything less?

However, the problem arises when your desire for the best prevents you from making decisions and moving on with your life.

And this is exactly what’s at the root of the problem when it comes to this whole “I have no idea what to do with my life” syndrome, which I’ll be referring to as “The Passion Problem” from here on out.

We live in a day and age where we have more career opportunities than ever before. And growing up, we’ve been made well aware of this (we’ll get more into that in the next section).

While you’d think more options would be a good thing, the result is that we’re now faced with so many more choices than ever before. And it is this abundance of choice that has led to an epidemic that’s currently crippling millions of millennials around the world…

An epidemic of CHRONIC ANALYSIS PARALYSIS.

It’s a very legitimate and understandable problem. The “Paradox of Choice” is a very real and widely known phenomena.

In the book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, for example, psychologist Barry Schwartz says the following:

Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

Whether you’re simply trying to decide what to eat for lunch, or you’re trying to decide what career path (or passion) to pursue, you’re faced with the same dilemma…

How’re you supposed to know what you really want when there are so many options and you haven’t tried any of them?

And when you combine this extreme abundance of choice with a society that’s obsessed with always wanting the best, you end up with millions of perpetually lost souls.

So, that’s the main problem.

But there’s also another problem. A problem that stems from a message we’ve all heard a million times:

Follow your passion.

While I’m all for encouraging people to do what they’re passionate about, in the following section I’ll explain why the age-old “follow your passion” advice might actually be doing you more harm than good.

Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Actually Terrible Advice

We’ve established that part of the Passion Problem stems from the fact that we live in a society that creates the perfect conditions for chronic analysis paralysis (due to an extreme abundance of choice).

But the other part of the problem stems from the fact that we’ve grown up in a society that has romanticized the shit out of this idea following your passion.

You’ve been told that the only way to be happy and successful is to “find your passion.” They say that if you just follow your passion and do what you love, the money will follow. Even Steve Jobs once said:

You’ve got to find what you love…. [T]he only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.”

So, it’s no wonder most people get stuck trying to figure out what their passion is, thinking that once they figure it out, then they’ll be off to the races.

But what’s interesting is that if you look at how passionate people—people like Steve Jobs, for example—really got started in their careers, what you find might surprise you.

Most of the people you look up to who are doing things they’re passionate about did not start their careers by simply following their passion.

In the years leading up to his founding of Apple, for example, Steve Jobs was anything but passionate about starting a technology company. In the months leading up to the start of his visionary company, Jobs was nothing more than a conflicted young man. He had dropped out of college, gone to India on a spiritual journey, and then spent some time living at a commune.

There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs was a brilliant man and it’s clear that he eventually ended up loving what he did. But how he got there is less clear.

And whether it was by luck or intelligence or hard work is beyond the point. The point is that it wasn’t by following his passion.

The only thing that’s clear from Jobs’ story is that simply following his passion (traveling? spiritual enlightenment? something else?) never would’ve gotten him to where he ended up.

And this is exactly why “follow your passion” advice is—more often than not—terrible advice.

Not only is “follow your passion” vague and unhelpful, but it also makes a very big assumption—that we all have a single, pre-existing passion (or some sort of “life calling”) in the first place.

While there’s no way for me to concretely prove this one way or the other, I’m not convinced this is true. I simply can’t believe that there’s just one single path we’re destined to take in our lives.

I mean, sure, there might be a small portion of the population that has found their life’s calling at an early age (e.g. most athletes), but they’re the anomalies. And even if we were all born with some pre-existing life calling, then what the hell are we supposed to do until we figure out what that calling is?

Instead of floating around aimlessly until you find your life’s calling, I think it’s more productive to assume you can have multiple callings throughout your life and there are multiple paths you can take.

Who wants to do one thing for the rest of their life, anyway?

So, if you’re banging your head trying to decide what to major in, or what career path to pursue, just remember this: you’re not deciding your fate.

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life, and instead just focus on getting started on something—anything—for now.

I know that’s easier said than done, and we’ll talk more about how to make sure you’re at least moving forward in the right direction in the next few sections, but first, let’s make sure you’re not making the most common mistake people make when trying to find their passion.

The Most Common Mistake People Make When Trying To Find Their Passion (& How To Avoid It)

Imagine it’s a Friday night.

You had a long week and you’re ready to unwind. So you and a couple friends decide to hit up the bars. Boys’ night out.

As you’re heading out the door, one of your friends turns to you and says, “That’s it. I’m tired of being single. I’m going to fall passionately in love with a girl tonight and I’m going to marry her and it’s going to be perfect.”

Obviously, nobody ever actually says this, but just imagine if they did. How would you react?

You’d probably laugh and either ask your friend if he’s joking or if he’s lost his mind. Everybody knows that you can’t force something like finding your future wife (or husband). You might meet them, but you can’t (well, you shouldn’t) fall in love and get married all in one night.

That’s just not how it works. Building a relationship with someone takes time.

And if you were to go out to a bar with the intention of finding your future spouse, it probably wouldn’t go too well. Chances are every conversation you have would probably end up going very poorly because you’d be trying way too hard.

It’s obvious when someone is trying too hard, and it’s a huge turn off. Nobody likes a try-hard.

On the other hand, when you go into conversations without any intentions or expectations, that’s when your conversations flow a lot better and that’s when you might actually end up meeting your future spouse. But again, that’ll never happen if you go into every conversation with that expectation from the beginning.

This is one of life’s many paradoxes and it carries with it an important lesson that applies to any situation in life:

The way you approach things will define your experience.

When you set things up the right way, good things happen. But when you rush into things, or when you go into a situation expecting a particular result, that’s when things don’t work out the way you want them to.

And this is exactly why so many millennials are perpetually conflicted when trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

The most common mistake people make when trying to “find” their passion is that they’re trying to force something that can’t be forced.

Their approach is just as futile as the man hoping to fall passionately in love and get married to the perfect woman the first night he meets her. At a bar.

It’s just a bad approach.

And so, if you approach every single new project or hobby with the single goal of determining whether or not it’s your “one true passion,” I promise you will never find your passion.

You can’t expect to feel some sort of deep, burning passion for something right from the get-go.

Developing a passion for something, just like developing a relationship with someone, takes time (and a lot of hard work).

No one just woke up one day and suddenly knew, “This is the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life!”

That’s just not how it works (at least not for 99% of the population).

If you’ve been making this mistake, here’s what you need to do…

Step #1: Relax.

I know you probably feel like you’re supposed to have figured everything figured out by now, but I like I said before, you are not alone.

The vast majority of people have no idea what they’re doing with their lives.

What you’re going through right now is completely normal.

So you need to relax. If you need some help with this, I highly recommend looking into meditation.

meditation
If you’ve never meditated before, I highly encourage you give it a try.

Aside from the fact that life is simply more enjoyable when you’re relaxed, studies also show that you’re a better decision maker when you’re relaxed.

The problem is that you’re so caught up trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life, that you can’t even take a step in the first place.

But it doesn’t need to be this big scary decision…

Step #2: Forget about “passion” and just start following your curiosities.

Whether you’re currently stuck in a job that you hate or you’re a student trying to figure out what career parth to pursue after graduating, here’s my advice:

Start a side project.

I’m a huge fan of side projects because starting something on the side gives you the freedom to try something new (or take a deep dive into your current field of work/study) before fully committing to it.

And even if you end up choosing the “wrong” thing at first and you realize that you’re not as interested in it as you thought, at least you will have had the opportunity to learn some new skills and weed out one more option before committing to what you really love.

At the end of the day, finding what you love comes down to a process of eliminationand you probably won’t get it right on the first try. 

But that’s okay, because with each attempt you will learn something new from which you’ll be able to iterate.

It’s about taking action, and then correcting course.

So, instead of trying to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life, my advice is to just focus on getting started on something.

You’ll never find out what you really love (and what you don’t) if you never give anything a try in the first place.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • What gets you excited?
  • What types of blogs and websites do you read in your free time?
  • What type of content do you tend to share on social media?
  • What makes you “forget to eat and poop”?

Move towards those things that you already find yourself naturally drawn to.

Start a blog, learn how to code, sign up for a dance class. Whatever.

Just start doing something and see where that takes you.

The passion will come later.

Overcoming Fear Of Picking The Wrong Thing

Let me tell you a quick story I heard on a podcast the other day.

There’s a donkey standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. The donkey looks left to the hay, then right to the water, trying to decide… Hay… Or water? Hay… Or water? Unable to decide, he eventually falls over and dies of both hunger and thirst.

The problem most of us face is that we want to do everything, all at once, and then we end up doing nothing.

But as demonstrated by the donkey story, when you try to pursue many different directions at once, you won’t make progress in any of them.

donkey
Don’t be like this guy.

If you’re you’re scared of choosing the “wrong” thing and being stuck with it for the rest of your life, you’re being a donkey. The point of the donkey story is that a donkey can’t think of the future. If he could, he’d realize that he could just go drink the water first and then eat the hay after.

Similarly, you can do everything you want to do in your life, just not all at once.

The solution is to think long-term and focus on one direction at a time.

If it frustrates you that you have to pick one thing to focus on at a time, realize that this frustration is a result of short-term thinking.

If you have multiple interests or passions that you want to pursue, know that just because you have to pick one thing right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to the other ones later.

By thinking long-term, you’re able to fully focus on one direction at the time without feeling conflicted or distracted because you know you can get to the others in the future.

So don’t worry about getting “stuck” with any one thing for the rest of your life.

Think long-term and remember that you can focus one thing for a few years, and then another thing for another few years, and so on.

In fact, this is the only way to create a passionate life.

Because if you can’t commit to one direction at a time, you’re never going to be able to improve your craft, and if you never improve your craft, you’ll never become passionate about your work.

Which leads me to my next point…

The Most Important Ingredient To Creating A Passionate Life

Okay, so we’ve established that instead of trying to find your “passion,” you should simply start following your curiosities.

You should pick one thing to focus on (for now), work hard, and the passion will follow.

Well, this is true, but it’s only half of the equation.

The other half is to develop what Cal Newport—author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You—calls a “craftsman mindset.”

This book should be required reading for all college students IMO.
Fantastic book. This book should be required reading for all college students IMO.

Simply put, the craftsman mindset is an obsessive focus on the quality of work you produce.

The craftsman mindset forces you to stop asking whether or not you’ve found your passion, and instead to put your head down and focus on honing your craft.

It is the single most important ingredient to creating a passionate life because with a craftsman mindset, you could, hypothetically, turn anything into your passion.

As Newport outlines in his book, however, there are a few exceptions, or “disqualifiers,” for applying the craftsman mindset.

Disqualifiers for Applying The Craftsman Mindset
[As Outlined in So Good They Can’t Ignore You]

  1. The job presents few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing rare and valuable skills.
  2. The job focuses on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world.
  3. The job forces you to work with people you really dislike.

So just to be 100% clear here, if any of the above criteria are met—whether evaluating a job or a side project—then it is NOT a good option for applying the craftsman mindset.

(And if you’re currently stuck in a job that you hate, it’s probably because it meets at least one of these three disqualifiers.)

But as long as you can find a job (or side project) that doesn’t meet any of the above 3 criteria, then it is a good candidate for applying the craftsman mindset and potentially turning it into your passion.

Quick side note: of all the potential paths you could take your life, I do think that there is a subset of paths you’re likely better suited for than others given your unique personality traits, interests, strengths, etc., and I do think it’s important to take that into consideration. We’ll talk more about later, but first, I want to make sure you understand the implications of adopting a craftsman mindset…

Becoming a craftsman is about more than just putting in the hours.

You will have to put in the hours, regardless, but what’s more important than how long you practice is what type of practice you do.

Because if you just show up and work hard, you’ll eventually hit a performance plateau. You’ll be better than someone with no experience at all, and you’ll probably reach an “acceptable” level, but you’ll never become truly great.

In order to become truly great at something, you must practice deliberately, which requires you to constantly challenge your own abilities and to seek feedback from others.

While amateurs choose to stick to what’s familiar when they practice, pros know that it’s only through systematically stretching their abilities and receiving feedback that they’ll continue to improve their craft.

If you want to become great at what you do (and consequently, passionate about what you do), you have to learn to embrace the mental strain of deliberate practice.

No matter what you do, anytime you start something new, eventually the novelty and enthusiasm will wear off. This is where most people plateau.

But if you want to become truly great, you have to push through this, even when it’s not fun anymore.

Because once you get past that plateau and you separate yourself from the herd, that’s when good things start to happen. And when good things start to happen, that’s when things start to get really fun…

That’s when people will start to notice you and recognize you for your work.

That’s when new opportunities and possibilities will open up that you didn’t even know existed before.

That’s when you’ll have the skill and ability to do things that most people can’t.

And that, my friend, is when you’ll become extremely passionate about your work.

So, moral of the story:

Working right often trumps finding the right work.

Or, in other words, it’s skill development and success that fuel passion, not the other way around.

The Real Meaning Of Passion (& The Most Important Question Of Your Life)

People think passion means “fun” and “effortless.”

But the word passion comes from Latin root “pati,” which means “to suffer.”

There's a reason why it's called the "Passion" of Christ...
There’s a reason why it’s called the “Passion” of Christ and not the “Happy Fun Times” of Christ…

If you’re serious about developing a passion for something, you have to be willing to put in the work and suffer for it.

Pursuing a passion is not easy. It takes hard work.

If you only want the benefits without the costs, then what you actually want is a fantasy.

As Mark Manson once said:

What determines your success isn’t ‘What do you want to enjoy?’ The question is, ‘What pain do you want to sustain?’ … Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you must also want the costs.”

Be honest with yourself. How badly do you want this?

Do you actually want to live a passionate life, or do you just like the idea of it? Are you actually willing to struggle for it, or do you just enjoy wanting it?

If you’re not willing to struggle for it, then you need to ask yourself, what are you willing to struggle for?

Developing a passion requires you to work on your craft every single day. It takes hours and hours of mentally-straining deliberate practice. And above all, it takes patience.

As we’ve already discussed in the previous sections, you’re not going to “find” your passion overnight. Developing a passion could take a few months, years, or even decades. But if you’re serious about becoming passionate about something, you have to be willing to commit to it—however long it takes.

The good news is that while it’s impossible to live both a passionate and pain-free life, you can learn to use the pain to your advantage by simply reframing the way you think about pain.

Tony Robbins once said:

The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”

The reason most people fail to take action is because they associate more pain with taking action than not taking action.

But if you reverse this—start associating more pain with not taking action—then it will become nearly impossible to not go after what you really want in life.

Because then it’s simply a matter of choosing between:

a) Voluntary short-term pain (doing what’s hard) and enjoying long-term life satisfaction and happiness.
b) Short-term comfort (doing what’s easy) and suffering from long-term involuntary pain – the eternal pain of regret.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty easy choice for me.

An Unconventional Thought Experiment That Will Trump All Other Passion-Finding Exercises

Now that I’ve explained why you need to stop trying to find your passion (because you never will), the single most important ingredient to creating a passionate life (developing a craftsman mindset), and how to reframe the way you think of pain (short-term pain vs. long-term pain), it’s time to start figuring out what you actually want to do with your life.

But in order to figure out what you actually want to do with your life, you have to first be able to answer the following question:

Who do you want to be in this world?

You can’t decide what you want to do if you don’t know who you want to be.

The problem is that most of us have such a poor understanding of who we actually are and what we actually want because we’ve lived our entire lives based on the expectations of our society, our parents, our education system, etc.

So when I ask you who do you want to be, I mean who do YOU want to be—not who society, or your parents, or your friends, want you to be. 

Chances are you haven’t really given this much thought. But today, we’re going to fix that.

My engineering background has taught me that one of the most effective ways to duplicate a particular outcome is to start with the end in mind and then reverse engineer the process. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

We’re going to reverse engineer your life by creating a vision of who you want to be in this world.

Now, you might already have a vague idea of who you want to be in this world, but you need more than just a vague idea. You need a clear and powerful vision that will not only help dictate what paths are worth pursuing, but that will also help guide every single decision you make in your life from now on.

The exercise I’m about to share with you is an exercise I first did when I was a freshman at USC, and it changed my life. Not overnight, but over the next four years I became obsessed with becoming the person that I wanted to be.

It gave me a whole new way to look at my life because suddenly I realized that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by aiming to be nothing but the absolute BEST version of myself, every single day.

The exercise is called the “Eulogy Exercise.” It only takes 5 minutes to do and it goes like this:

  1. Get out a pen and paper (a word doc or some other electronic note taking app works just as well).
  2. Imagine you’re at a funeral. You look around, and you see all your friends and family are gathered. Suddenly, you realize you’re at your funeral. One by one, your family, friends, and loved ones go up to the stage to make their eulogy to you. They talk about all the great memories they have of you, the adventurous life you lived, and the wonderful legacy you have left behind. Now, come back to the present, and think about what you actually want people to say about you when you’re dead. How do you want to be remembered? How do you want to be described? What kind of a life do you want to have lived?
  3. Spend 5–10 minutes right now to write everything down. Don’t hold back. (Actually writing it down–from a 3rd person perspective–instead of just thinking about it will make this exercise 100x more powerful. You can see what I want people to say about me when I’m dead here.)

Once you’ve written everything down, ask yourself:

Are you currently living a life that’s aligned with your vision?

Then, ask yourself:

What’s one small thing you can do today to start becoming that person?

And then actually GO DO that thing (after you finish reading this).

The secret to LIVING is remembering that one day you're going to DIE.
The secret to LIVING is remembering that one day you’re going to DIE.

Once you know who you want to be in this world, then it’s a whole lot easier to make decisions about how you should be spending your time.

This should help you start narrowing down your options in deciding what career paths, side projects, etc. are worth pursuing. If a path doesn’t align with your vision, what’s the point in pursuing it?

By the way, don’t worry if what you wrote about how you want to remembered seems very broad. It’s actually a good thing if it’s broad, because remember, there is no single path you are destined to take (refer back to Section #2 for more on this).

There are many different paths that will ultimately lead you to you where you want to go.

The primary purpose of this vision is simply to help you determine whether or not you’re at least moving forward in the right direction. As you begin taking more action to close that gap between where you are now and where you want to be, your path will only become clearer and clearer with each step you take.

The Fastest Way To Start Living A Passionate Life

I’m sure you’ve heard before that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Well… who are the 5 people you spend the most time with?

What are they doing with their lives? Do they inspire you? Do they support you and encourage you to pursue your passions?

If they don’t, then it’s time to find new friends.

If you’re serious about creating a passionate life yourself, you have to make it a priority to surround yourself with other passionate people.

The people who surround you influence you much more than you realize. And they will either fuel your passion or they will drain your passion. There is no in between.

The biggest single predictor of success (however you want to define it) is the people who surround you… Those who think something’s impossible generally don’t spend enough time around crazy people who know it can be done.” – Scott Dinsmore

I feel like this is one of those cliches that we hear time and time again, but we don’t really take to heart. At least, that’s how it was for me.

It took me a looonggg time to finally start making an active effort to connect with other bloggers in my space (and honestly, it’s still an area where I have a lot of room for improvement).

But once I finally started building relationships with other people who were passionate about the same ideas and lifestyle as me, it made all the difference.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 12.47.12 AM
A “mastermind” group I’m a part of with Zachary Sexton, Stephen Warley, and Thomas Frank. It’s hard to even describe how helpful this group has been for me.

And every day, as I continue to build more and more of these types of relationships, the more I realize how necessary these relationships are.

Without the help and support of other people, I would not have made it as far as I am today.

I would not be sitting here writing this right now, and you would not be sitting here reading this right now.

Because I would’ve given up a long time ago.

Remember, there’s a reason why most people don’t have a passion—because living a passionate life isn’t easy.

That’s why you NEED to surround yourself with other likeminded people who will support you, encourage you, and help you out when times get tough (because trust me, the times will get tough).

Passionate people will literally change your reality and what you believe is possible.

I cannot emphasize this enough.

As Scott Dinsmore said, if you think something is impossible, it’s because you’re not spending enough time around people who know it can be done (and who have already done it).

So if your current friends don’t inspire you, it’s time to start making an active effort to surround yourself with people who do.

If you’re an introvert like me and this whole “networking” thing doesn’t come to you naturally, I wrote another super in-depth guide (just like this one) for College Info Geek with step-by-step instructions showing you exactly how to find mentors, set up a system for managing your relationships, and much more: The Ultimate Networking Guide For Introverts.

What If I just Don’t Have Enough Time To Pursue A Passion?

Look, I get it. Everyone wishes they had more time to do all the things they want to do.

But the reality is that we all have have the same 24 hours in a day, and while it’s easy to blame time for not being able to do the things you want to do, blaming time isn’t going to change anything.

We can’t change how many hours we have in a day. What we can change, is how we use those hours.

The first step to making better use of your time is realizing that what’s more important than efficiency (doing things quickly), is maximizing efficacy (doing the right things).

There’s no point in trying to do things faster that shouldn’t be done in the first place.

The main reason why most people are constantly stressed out and overwhelmed with all there is to do is because they never spend the time to prioritize the things that actually matter, and eliminate the things that don’t.

If you feel like there just isn’t enough time to do everything you want to do, you’re right – it’s because there isn’t.

I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear, but I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear. I’m here to tell you what you need to hear.

The secret to getting more done in less time is very simple (but not easy)… Do LESS.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but here’s the harsh truth: You can’t do it all. At least, not all at once (see previous section).

Stop trying to be a Renaissance man/woman and stop saying “Yes” to everything.

Saying “Yes” to everything means you’re not setting priorities. It means you’re not making any serious commitments and you’re not being conscious about how you’re spending your time.

Most people aren’t failing because of their potential. They’re failing because their potential is spread in too many directions… pulling yourself in too many directions is the single quickest way to ensure failure. And putting your all into a single direction is the quickest way to ensure success.”
– Oliver Emberton

If you want to develop a passion for something, you have to be ruthless with how you spend your time. You’ll never get good at your craft, and consequently, you’ll never develop a passion for it, if you don’t devote enough time to it.

You need to ask yourself, do you want to be mediocre at many things, good at a few things, or the best at one thing?

Assuming you don’t want to be mediocre, you’re going to have to learn how to start saying “No” to things. Stop trying to do everything and focus in on the few things that matter most.

If you feel like you’re being stretched too thin, I recommend going through each of your commitments and asking yourself why you’re doing each one. Ask yourself how it supports what you believe in and why it’s so important to you.

I know this might sound obvious, but the truth is that while most people know what they do and how they do it, very few have good reasons for why they do what they do.

This is a huge mistake.

As explained by Simon Sinek in one of my all-time favorite TED talks, spending the time to clearly define the “why” behind your actions triggers a response in the limbic brain – the part of the brain that controls all of human behavior and decision-making.

Therefore, the stronger your “why” is for doing something, the more willing you will be to do it (and therefore, the more likely you will actually do it).

Golden Circle
Most people think, act, and communicate from the outside in (what > how > why). But the most inspiring leaders and organizations in the world all think, act, and communicate from the inside out (why > how > what).

So be honest with yourself and stop doing things just because they “sound nice” or just because you think you it’s something you “should” be doing.

If you can’t come up with a powerful “why” for something, then stop doing it.

After going through all of your commitments, keep only the 3-5 most important ones and say “No” to the rest.

How Can I Stay Motivated To Finish What I Start?

If you have trouble finishing what you start, you might think that it’s a motivation problem.

You might think that the problem is your inconsistent levels of motivation.

You might think that if only you could stay motivated all the time, then you wouldn’t have to deal with the “I don’t feel like it” days.

Once again, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is no one is motivated 100% of the time. And if you have trouble finishing what you start, it’s not a motivation problem.

It’s a strategy problem.

We all have days when we feel super motivated, and days when we feel completely unmotivated.

The secret to being able to finish what you start is to stop relying on motivation.

As Mel Robbins once said, “your job is to make yourself do the crap you don’t want to do, so that you can be everything that you’re supposed to be.”

No matter how big and inspiring your “why” for doing something is (see previous section), there will still always be days when you “just don’t feel like it.”

Motivation is an emotion, which means that it comes and goes, just like all other emotions. Knowing this, you can’t let your emotions dictate your actions.

You have to learn how to force yourself to take action even when you don’t feel motivated. You have to learn how to take action no matter how you feel.

Instead of asking, “how can I stay more motivated?” you should be asking, “how can I force myself to take action even when I don’t feel motivated?”

That’s the better question.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few strategies and psychological principles that have helped me push through and finish every project that I start, even on the “I don’t feel like it” days (and trust me, there’s lots of those days).

So if I can do it, you can too. You just have to learn how to implement the right strategies.

Here are my top 3 strategies for finishing what you start (without relying on motivation).

1. Create leverage.

Instead of relying solely on your limited amount of willpower, create external pressures that will force you to take action.

For example, if your goal is to set up a blog by the end of the month, you can tell a friend that you will pay them $100 if you don’t follow through. With a little bit of money in the game, you’ll create massive leverage and ensure that you’ll take action.

Here's another example of leverage in action. Last year I wanted to try waking up super early at 5:30 AM every morning so that I could work on my blog before going to work. I forced myself to wake up by scheduling this tweet to go out if I didn't.
Another ex. of leverage in action: Last year I wanted to try waking up at 5:30 AM every morning so that I could work on my blog before going to work. I forced myself to wake up by scheduling this tweet to go out if I didn’t.

It doesn’t have to be money, but the point is that you have to put something on the line with a consequence that you’re not willing to pay.

This type of external accountability will take you a lot further than sheer willpower. It requires a small amount of willpower in the short-term, but will greatly reduce the amount of willpower needed over the long-term because you’re no longer relying on willpower anymore. You’re basically giving yourself no choice but to follow through.

2. Work in time blocks.

Block off chunks of time on your calendar dedicated to working on a specific task. Doing this prevents any wasted time thinking about what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, because you’ve already made these decisions beforehand. Psychology studies have shown that the simple act of putting time on your calendar makes it more likely you’ll follow through.

Then, when you actually sit down to do your work, set an alarm on your phone. This is such a simple thing to do and one of the most powerful productivity tips I know of. Seeing the countdown of the timer will force you to stay focused.

Finally, as you begin working, tell yourself, “I am going to work on this for [X amount of time]. For the next [X amount of time] this is my whole world.”

Protip: put your phone on airplane mode, close all tabs you don’t need, and use apps like Strict Workflow.

3. Remember the 40% rule.

Navy Seals are known for being the toughest soldiers on the planet and one of the mental frameworks they live by is known as the 40% rule. This scientifically proven mental framework states the following:

When your mind is telling you that you’re done and you’ve reached your limit, you’re actually only 40% done.

In other words, when you think you’re tired and you think you’re done, you still have another 60% left in your reserve tank.

I love this because it confirms what I’ve always believed–that we are all capable of doing so much more than we think we can. But you have to learn to ignore that little voice inside your head and force yourself to take action.

What If I Fail?

I heard a great quote the other day by best selling author Seth Godin in which he says, “the person who fails the most wins.”

It’s no coincidence that the most successful people in the world (athletes, entrepreneurs, artists, etc.) are also the people who have failed the most.

Just take a look at Kobe Bryant, for example.

Kobe’s one of the best basketball players in history with the third most scored points of all-time. He’s extremely talented, no doubt, but it puts things into perspective when you learn that he also holds the record for the most missed shots.

kobe bryant
“If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail.” – Kobe Bryant

What we learn from Kobe is that if you haven’t failed, it’s because haven’t taken any chances.

In order to succeed, you have to be willing to fail, a lot. The first step to success is becoming okay with failure.

Deep down, we all know that this is the truth.

There’s a reason why “fail fast, fail often” has basically become the mantra of Silicon Valley.

And yet, most of us are still too scared to take a shot when there’s a chance of failure, even though we know that the only way to succeed is through failure.

So clearly the problem isn’t that we don’t know what we need to do. It’s just that we can’t get ourselves to do it.

So, how do you get past this mental block and force yourself to take action?

Well, I think it’s about reframing, or rather, redefining “success.”

Let me explain.

For the last year, I’ve been publishing an article on my blog every other week on Sunday nights.

Some articles I’m more proud of than others, and some articles have performed better than others, but it doesn’t matter.

In my mind, as long as I’m hitting that publish button every other Sunday night (or Monday morning, at the latest), I have succeeded.

When you’re first starting out at something, the key is to define success as your commitment to the process, independent of the outcome.

Don’t worry about scoring every “shot” you take (remember, Kobe has the most missed shots in history). Just keep shooting, and eventually you will get the points.

It will be extremely hard and nerve-wracking at first to put yourself out there and take a chance, but the more shots you take, the easier it will get.

Just think about it… the more shots you take, the less pressure you put on yourself to make each shot. You know that if you miss this one (and you most likely will), it’s not a big deal because you’ll just try again.

On the other hand, the less shots you take, the more pressure you put on yourself to make each shot.

In other words, as you increase the number of times you try something, you decrease the pressure for each attempt to result in a success. 

So, it’s better to take more shots.

Plus, each time you take a shot (regardless of whether you “make it” or not), you increase your chances of making the next one because with each attempt, your aim gets better.

So, the more you do, the less pressure you put on yourself, which makes it easier to keep doing more. And, at the same time, the more you do, the better you get, which creates a positive feedback loop encouraging you to continue to do more.

It’s a snowball effect.

So, even when I’m not completely satisfied with an article, I hit publish anyway, and I move on. Some articles end up doing really well, others end up doing really poorly.

Either way, I keep writing because I’m committed to the process, not the outcome.

And slowly but surely, with each and every article I write, my writing continues to improve and it keeps getting easier and easier to keep taking more shots.

Not just with my blog, but also in all other aspects of my life, too.

But again, it all starts with committing to the process and not judging yourself based on the individual results of each shot you take.

Just focus on taking the shots in the first place.

How Long Should I Stick With Something Before Giving Up On It?

The short answer is: as long as it takes.

The long answer is: it depends.

Generally, I’d say that as long as you feel that whatever you’re working on is still moving you in the direction you want to be headed (and you’re still learning and improving your craft), then keep going.

On the other hand, if whatever you’re working on is no longer moving you closer to your vision and you’re not learning or improving anymore, OR if your vision has changed (and therefore, your direction has changed), then stop.

To give you an example, this blog has been the biggest driving force behind all the positive changes in my life over the last 3 years, and it continues to be to this day. So, as of right now, I don’t plan on giving up on it anytime soon.

Of course, it also helps significantly that I’ve seen the fruits of my labor begin to pay off and I’ve achieved various “successes” along the way (increased traffic to my site, increased subscribers to my newsletter, compliments on my writing, features/mentions in the Press, etc.).

All of these successes (however small they may be) create a positive feedback loop which fuels my passion and encourages me to continue working hard.

Remember, it’s skill development and success that fuel passion, not the other way around (refer back to Section #5 for more on this).

So, if you’ve been working your butt off on something and haven’t seen any signs of success, it’s completely understandable that you might start to feel a bit discouraged.

At a certain point, you’ll probably start wonder…

  • “How do I know if I’m actually going somewhere with this?”
  • “How will I know when it’s time to take a step back and switch gears?”
  • “How long should I give it before giving up? ”

These are tough questions to answer, and honestly, I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer.

I do think, however, that most people tend to give up on things too easily, too quickly.

I’d say as a good rule of thumb is to give any sort of new venture at least a 3 month trial period.

To put things into context, it took me 6 months before I started getting any traffic on my blog. And when you take into consideration the fact that most people who start a blog quit within the first 3 months, I very easily could’ve given up as well (and I had every reason to).

Obviously I didn’t, but if I had, you wouldn’t be sitting here reading this today.

The problem with our society is that everyone’s always looking for short cuts.

Most people don’t just want to succeed. They want to succeed quickly.

But no one who succeeded ever got there quickly. Nothing great was ever achieved overnight, and everything that was ever achieved overnight never lasted very long.

Good things take time.

thomas edison quote

The difficult part, of course, is determining where you draw the line. What if something’s just not working out… When is it okay to call it quits, and try something else?

When Elon Musk was asked about quitting, he said “I will have to be dead or completely incapacitated.”

At the end of the day, I think you simply have to ask yourself:

How much are you willing to sacrifice? And for how long are you willing to keep pushing?

If you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, and you’ve been fighting it for a long time now (as in, more than a couple weeks…), then it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

Here are a few questions I recommend asking yourself:

  • Why haven’t you gotten the results you want?
  • Are you working on something that you’re genuinely interested in?
  • Are you playing to your strengths?
  • Have you tried different approaches?
  • Have you asked others for feedback?
  • What would you tell someone else if they were in your shoes?
  • If you were to quit, would you be able to give an honest explanation to a loved one about why you decided to quit without feeling bad about it?

Just remember that everything can look like a failure in the middle.

What If I’m Just Too Indecisive?

I used to be a chronic over thinker.

The worst part was when I would start to overthink my overthinking, and then I’d end up stressing out even more because I’d realize how much time I’d wasted thinking about making the “right” decision instead of just making a damn decision and getting on with it.

I had a hard enough time trying to decide what cereal to eat for breakfast, let alone deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Hopefully you’ve taken the time to read the preceeding sections and didn’t just skip straight to this section… Because in the preceeding sections I’ve outlined a handful of strategies, exercises, and principles to help you figure out what you actually want to do with your life…

Now, if you have read the entire guide and you’re still having trouble figuring out what to do or where to start, then here’s my advice:

Just pick something.

The reason why I used to overthink things is because I used to put so much pressure on every single decision that I made.

But what you need to realize is that the stakes aren’t nearly as high as you think they are.

The reality is that almost every single decision we make in our day-to-day lives are extremely low-stake decisions.

Even the decisions that might seem like a big deal to us today (like picking a major or a career path) are relatively insignificant compared to the sort of life-or-death decisions that our ancestors had to deal with thousands of years ago. The problem is that our brains are still hardwired today the same way as they were back then.

Fortunately, most of us are not crossing paths with a ferocious grizzly bear on our way to CVS when we suddenly have to make a quick decision (fight or flight) that will determine whether or not we live to see another day.

Which means that, yes, we can take more time to think our decisions through. But, it also means that we have no reason to allow any single decision to cause us so much stress.

This is not life or death. It’s just… life

Obviously, if you’re trying to decide a major or pick a career path, you want to do your research and do your best to make an informed decision.

Try to get as much exposure to the fields you are interested in—talk to people already in those fields, take classes related to those fields, get internships, etc.

But, at a certain point more information doesn’t help.

At a certain point, more information actually makes things worse.

As I discussed in Section #1, this is the problem with our society today. We have too much information and too many options, which leads to chronic analysis paralysis and a self-destructive belief that “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

What you need to realize is that your major does not decide your fate, your first job out of college doesn’t have to be your dream job, and there is no single path you are destined to take.

You will get to where you want to get, one way or another. But, you have to start somewhere.

Oliver Emberton’s Quora answer to the question: “At age 25, would you pursue a good paying corporate job that makes you unhappy or a hobby that makes you happy but has no guarantee to pay the bills?”
Oliver Emberton’s Quora answer to the question: “At age 25, would you pursue a good paying corporate job that makes you unhappy or a hobby that makes you happy but has no guarantee to pay the bills?”

If there’s something that you’re even moderately interested in, something that seems to be calling your attention for whatever reason, it’s probably worth pursuing.

And even if you do make a “wrong” decision, it’s not the end of the world. You either correct the decision, or, you stick to with it and you make it work.

Either way, you’ll be better off than if you never made a decision at all.

Remember, it’s about taking action, and then correcting course. Any action is better than no action.

The worst thing you can do is to sit feeling paralyzed.

To make sure you don’t do that, I’ve put together a free special bonus to help you start taking action right now

BONUS: How To Put This Guide Into Action (& Start Creating Your Passion) RIGHT NOW

This is a very, very long guide.

If you actually read through the whole thing, huge props to you. Unfortunately, just reading this guide isn’t enough…

You have to start taking action. I don’t want this to become just another thing that you read but never take any action on.

That being said, I know how hard it can be to put a massive guide like this into actionwhere do you even start?

That’s why I want to give you my 3 Step Guide To Creating Your Passion. 

This quick guide will walk you through 3 easy steps for determining which ideas are worth pursuing (and which ones aren’t) based on a set of specific criteria so that you’ll know exactly what you should get started on. The best part is that it takes less than 10 minutes to complete.

Like I said before, developing a passion doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and a lot of hard workjust like everything else worth having in life. But, this guide will at least help you get started.

Whatever you do, do not put this off for a “better time.” Looking back on everything, my biggest regret is that I didn’t start my blog sooner.

So, I repeat, DO NOT put this off.

Just enter your email below and I’ll send you my 3 step guide so you can start creating your passion TODAY.

Image credit: headerfacepalm statue, meditation, donkey, passion of Christ, cemetery, Kobe Bryant

About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

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  • This is MASSIVE dude! Nice work.

    • Stefano Ganddini

      Thanks dude! 😀

  • A good organization of everything you’ve been working on for the past 6 months to a year. Solid.

    • Stefano Ganddini

      Thanks my man. And yep, this is pretty much everything I’ve learned over the past year since I’ve started tackling the topic (reading, researching, and working with people 1-on-1), combined with my personal experiences over the last 5+ years.

  • austinliang

    I didn’t get to finish the entire post in one sitting, but from the short sessions of reading, I was able to gain massive value from you! I also think that every high school (in or going to be) and aspiring college students need to read this before fully deciding on their next step!

    You are dead on when you said that there are simply TOO MANY people who just give the advice of “follow your passion”. Even though it’s a good place to start, it’s only just one of the many factors that lead to a fulfilling life.

    Keep writing and inspiring! And stay in touch!

    • Stefano Ganddini

      Thanks Austin! Appreciate the comment and glad to hear you found the article helpful!

  • Irene Fenswick

    Stefano, this is for sure the most massive guide to finding one’s passion I have ever seen in my life! Although it is long, it is not boring but is skillfully organized and flows like water. Congratulations on publishing the post! However, when I was reading it, I realized that it would be great if you could also film a video or record audio about finding one’s passion. I mean, it would be great if I could not only read this post but also have an opportunity to listen to it, for example, when I am on my morning run. Maybe you already have such a video? Please, provide the link if you do. Thanks.

    • Stefano Ganddini

      Hey Irene, glad you liked the post! Unfortunately, I don’t have any video or audio recordings to go with this post, or any other post, for that matter. I did make videos for my 30-day course “Create Your Passion” which I recently opened a few weeks ago, but registration for the course has now closed.

      As of right now, I don’t have any plans to start making video/audio recordings, but it is something I’ve been considering…

      An audio recording for this post probably wouldn’t be too difficult though, if I simply recorded myself reading the entire post. Is that what you were thinking? Or were you thinking something more supplementary, that’s not simply me reading the entire post word-for-word?

      • Irene Fenswick

        Yeah, audio with you reading the entire post is exactly what I was thinking. Or maybe the video on YouTube with simple presentation and your voice reading the post.
        It just came to my mind when I was reading your post and decided to share my thoughts with you:)

        • Stefano Ganddini

          I appreciate the suggestion! I’ll have to see if I can find the time for it, I’ve just got so many other projects going on right now. But if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know :)

  • David Verelst

    Hi, I’ve subscribed multiple times to your newsletter (including the networking tips and the other one I can’t remember). But it doesn’t seem to work. Any thoughts on how to fix this?