At some point in your career, you’ve probably been told to “follow your passion” or “do whatever makes you happy.” But that’s not always great advice.
Erin Condren, the founder of an eponymous $40 million stationery company, takes a different view: Save your passion for the weekend.
“You see all this messaging about ‘only do what you love!’ or ‘If you don’t love what you do, start over!’ But, wait a minute — there’s bills to pay,” she says. “To me, you can start and fuel a passion on a weekend or weeknight.”
Practicality goes a long way. Before dropping everything to do what you love, Condren believes entrepreneurs should take into account the difficulties and realities of what it would take to actually make it work. Instead of jumping in full-force, she recommends pursuing side projects in your downtime until it’s a viable enough business to operate full-time.
“Now that we’ve got the internet and social chat rooms and Pinterest boards, you can do things on the side and still work and get money and live a realistic life before you jump into a full-time business,” she explains.
Condren knows a thing or two about building a business from the ground up. Her company, known for its iconic day planners that have inspired a thriving online community, was born when Condren started selling handmade cards to friends. Today, the business just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and has seen sales double every year since its inception. Condren has expanded into everything from custom-made planners to office supplies to phone cases, and even has products available through office supply giant Staples.
Condren’s not the only one sceptical of this age-old advice. “In a world where bills must be paid, vast sums of student loans must be paid off, and competition is fierce, to neglect the more subtle nuances and practical implications of setting out to get paid to do what you love is dangerous advice,” writes Nathaniel Koloc on career advice site The Muse.
In “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” Georgetown professor and author Cal Newport argues against blindly following your passion as well, explaining that unless you’re completely sure you both know what you want to do and already like doing it as a profession, it could leave you feeling burnt out and unhappy.
“If you study how people end up passionate about their work, the most common answer is that their passion developed over time, after they built up skills that are rare and valuable,” Newport told Business Insider in 2014.
When it comes down to it, there’s nothing wrong with following your passion, according to Condren — as long as you tackle it in a sustainable way.
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