Does this sound like you?
Whenever you start to do something in a field (that you love), you feel interested initially and you put in all your effort. But after some time, you lose interest and stop doing it although you still love it.
Today, I want to share with you:
- how to solve the dilemma of “multiple passions” and find your calling.
- why there’s massive, disproportionate reward with being the best in the world.
- how to get there without burning out because you can even if you’re passionate about it.
The Dilemma of Multiple Interests and How To Tackle It
Ever since I found about the “Follow Your Passion” movement a few years ago, I struggled because I thought I had multiple interests and believed it was a bad thing. It seemed like successful people only had one interest and focused on that interest for decades until they got rich. I was told that you have to focus on one interest because no one has ever become successful at multiple skills except for once-in-a-millenium freaks like Leonardo DaVinci, Ben Franklin, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But it was so hard to restrain myself. I had dozens of interests, like video games, YouTube, manga, anime, personal development, business economics, music, and so on.
Now, there are a couple of TED Talks that argue that people like us have their own label. We are called “multipotentialites” or “polymaths.” They argue we should be proud of who we are and the world needs us.
I respectfully disagree.
At least partially. Here’s what I believe is the truth. 100% of us have multiple interests. You don’t have to ignore these interests completely. A man can make their money in the tech industry but still have deep love for music and purchase songs from musicians he admires. These interests fuel our economy and helps everyone get rich.
We all have different interests. It would be weird if we didn’t. Don’t we all find ourselves discussing what happened in the latest sports game, what music artists we like, which recent films sucked, and which TV shows we are into?
Even the genius Warren Buffett admitted that he takes a little time to play Bridge and watch Breaking Bad.
Also, you may be able to fuse all your interests in a unique way that has never been done before. A great example would be the author of Dilbert, Scott Adams, a highly successful comic strip. Individually, the components of the comics are quite bland. The drawings are mediocre. The discussion on business topics is cliche. But combining them all creates a unique angle that no one else has.
“The secret to my success with ‘Dilbert’ involves my unique combination of skills. Can you name one other person who has average skills in writing, humor, art, and business? It’s a rare mixture. Individually, none of my skills are anywhere near world-class. But combined, they create a powerful market force.” –Scott Adams
There are multiple paths to success and wealth. Perhaps a singular process of becoming world-class at something isn’t the only answer. Try developing complementary skills.
“If you don’t have world-class skills at anything, don’t despair. You can become a powerful market force by intelligently acquiring new skills that work well with what you already know. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have pursued a similar strategy, learning one complementary skill after another, to make it easier for luck to find them. They all have one thing in common: They’re rich.” -Scott Adams
Having said that, you still need to understand which of your passions you are skilled enough to make income from. It is important to stay within your circle of competence. There is a reason the tech entrepreneur stays in his skills of business to make money rather than try to also become a musician on the side. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have both admitted that focus is the most important thing you can do. When you start getting tempted into other fields, your energy is diffused and your growth and results wane.
Feel Free to Give Up On The Wrong Things. Don’t Give Up On The Right Things.
Seth Godin argues that it’s more distinct than just “never give up” or “winners are never quitters.” He believes that successful people know how to choose which things to persevere on.
I agree with this. John Lee Dumas of The Entrepreneur on Fire Podcast is a man who quit many things in his life. Yet he is now making 7 figures a year through his podcast and products he sells.
I learned in an interview at Fizzle.co that John quit numerous jobs, commitments, and businesses. He was so committed to law school that he bought a home right next to the school. But he quit after the first semester because he realized he hated it.
He was so committed to law school that he bought a home right next to the school. But he quit after the first semester because he realized he hated it.
He started a real estate business and made six figures doing it but quit because he knew it wasn’t fulfilling enough.
He had a six-figure corporate job that he hated but he assumed that you weren’t supposed to love your job. One day, his boss made a presentation to fire up his workers. His bossed shouted that “if you don’t love your job, you shouldn’t be here!” John realized he didn’t and quit.
However, John chose to stick through with Entrepreneur on Fire. Why? Because he loved what he did. He wanted to quit numerous times because he didn’t see viral growth, but he kept at it. Over time, he consistently grew to an audience large enough for him to monetize.
He chose to not give up on the thing he loved because this time, it was fulfilling and lucrative. He chose to quit on the right things.
Another great example I came across is Matthew Santoro. For people who aren’t as plugged into the Youtube space as I am, he is a Youtuber who gets tens of millions of views per month on his videos. His journey to where he is now was not an overnight success.
His journey to where he is now was not an overnight success. It took him over 5 years. He had to pivot a few times because the content he was putting out wasn’t getting views. He tested different things. He pivoted from comedic skits to “Top 10 Fact” videos because the latter was performing better.
Based on an interview from Behind the Brand, he wanted to quit numerous times but he didn’t because he loved it. He realized there wasn’t anything else he would do if he quit. According to an interview with Youtube Creators (a channel run by YouTube itself), Matthew never had a viral hit. It was all consistent growth.
Because he loved it enough, he didn’t quit when others did. He worked on his videos on the side as he worked as an Accountant. He finally made enough to quit his full-time job.
Now, let’s examine Steve Job’s advice on passion. He has started a company that is now the largest company in the world. During an interview with Bill Gates, he has said that the ones who succeeded in society were the ones who loved it so much that they didn’t give up no matter how tough it got. Everyone else quit because they were sane.
I think my own life is a constant reflection of this as well.
I’ve learned quite a few times that an overall interest in a topic is more important than productivity tips or discipline. Have you ever got mad at yourself because you didn’t have the time management or willpower to stay focused?
Have you ever got mad at yourself because you didn’t have the time management or willpower to stay focused? There were many courses in school that I just wasn’t interested enough. I had all sorts of reasons behind it such as I had too many distractions or people who took away my time. But when I eliminated all those, I realized I just wasn’t interested enough.
I would get mad at myself and wish that I had better willpower to concentrate. But it wasn’t my fault. I remember one time, I had to read 80 pages of a thick textbook. I lost focus so many times and thought it was my own fault. Looking back, I wish I could have told myself it’s OK.
- John Legend was a management consultant but he quit to become a musician.
- Ray Kroc was a milkshake salesman who quit to build McDonald’s.
- Jeff Bezos quit his stable full-time job to seize the chance to get into the rising dominance of the Internet.
- Martha Stewart quit her job as a stock broker because she hated it to start a business empire.
- Suze Orman was one of ten thousand VPs. She quit that to become a personal finance authority.
Why the Wait is Worth It: The Disproportionate Rewards of Being #1 Versus #2
The world’s most successful people have gotten there by persevering when others quit. They don’t give up.
Elon Musk failed 3 rocket launches and was almost out of cash. He barely succeeded on his final attempt. When asked if he would have given up if the 4th failed. He said he never gives up unless he was dead or completely physically incapacitated.
That brings up the question of how do you keep going while others cannot?
I want to share with you what I learned from the most well-known book on this topic: The Dip by Seth Godin.
Get Close Enough To See The Finish Line Because You’re Less Likely To Quit
No one quits on the last mile of a marathon. They quit halfway through because they can’t see the end.
If you can get close to seeing the end, you’re going to be motivated to get through.
Realize There is Massive Reward In Being the Best
Seth makes a great point that the best in a world at a specialized skill makes a disproportionately large amount of money compared to everyone else.
This applies to all sorts of things in life.
- The #1 flavor of ice cream gets 4 times the purchases as #2.
- The #1 movie of the week gets more sales than the others combined.
- The most well known champagne gets much more sales than the rest.
- The best lawyer in the world makes a lot more than the average, replaceable lawyer.
- The best horse ballet instructor gets more inquiries for her services than everyone else.
- You will pay more for the best foot surgeon in the world rather than the best doctor or an average doctor.
Most people quit before getting to the end goal. Seth argues that this is because they don’t know the huge benefit and potential of getting there. He asserts that this is all the more reason to persevere.
I believe people do for some things that are obvious, like being a doctor. They don’t for lesser known things like flavor of ice cream or being the #1 garbage collecting brand in the world versus #2.
I suggest specializing and finding something you’re naturally good in to increase your chances. There’s less competition and the specifics will really speak out to you. For instance, do you want the generalized doctor or the specialist who has worked for 10 years studying your specific illness?
Seth states that you are more successful if you are more specialized rather than a jack-of-all-trades. I think the “success” he means is referring to making money, fame, and reputation.
I don’t think specialization works for other things like dating. Dating is more of a balancing act. Being really wealthy but horrible at social skills, confidence, grooming, fitness, or health doesn’t work.
Seth argues that it’s more important than ever to be the best in the modern world because the internet and search engines make information more accessible.
It’s easier to sniff out people who aren’t as great as they appear. Being partially good or 2nd best won’t cut it anymore.
Once You Get A Little Ahead, You Get More Ahead
The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the population accounts for 80% of the results. For example, 20% of the workforce makes 80% of the money. 20% of the customers pay for 80% of the products. 20% of the tree species in the forest make up 80% of the volume. Why?
One possible reason, as blogger James Clears argues, is that if you achieve a little bit more success than your competition, you gradually outpace your competition. A snowball effect begins.
If a flower grows a little taller than its competitor, it gets a little more sunlight, which lets it grow even taller. If a singer gets her first big break and a few radio stations start playing a song, more and more people will keep playing the song. And you get farther ahead of others.
Don’t take this as discouragement if you’re already behind. Just take it as an opportunity to get ahead of others when they don’t realize this secret. Seize this opportunity and you’re off to the races.
Lean In To The Dip
“The dip” is a concept Godin uses to coin the period where you want to quit but you shouldn’t. He says successful people don’t just stick it through but lean into this tough time. They embrace it, and push through it with vigor.
“Anything worth doing has a dip.” -Seth Godin
From my own observations of successful people, they do this by finding something they love and are passionate about. They love it so that it’s not as painful to not give up.
The best example is Steve Jobs who said in an interview with Bill Gates that he kept going because he loved it so much while everyone else quit because they were insane.
We only see the overnight success. We never acknowledge the hidden decade of hard work that came before it.
We always celebrate the great successes in the world without realizing the hidden 10+ dark years of work that got them there.
Media loves to celebrate and share the success story on the internet to make it look “quick and easy” when there’s a lot more behind the scenes.
Psy spent over 10 years as a Korean rapper before his song Gangnam Style become a viral sensation and reached billions. He repeated his freshman year of college three times and got kicked out without graduating. There’s a lot more to the story.
The actor who succeeded had 10+ years of waiting tables before that.
You Can Never Over Invest in the Right Thing
Seth argues that all the top business market leaders from Nike to Amazon to Starbucks never failed by over investing in becoming the market leader because once you’re the leader, the money is overflowing.
This is the one that makes sense but I’d take with a grain of salt — Seth has never built a company to that scale and it’s easy to stay in theory land. Who knows if it’s actually true?
Choose The Right Thing
Seth mentions that it’s important to choose the right thing to be good at. Choosing the wrong thing can lead to failure.
I believe failure is ok. It requires some stumbling to feel out what your true strengths and weaknesses are. I suggest you test things out and slowly start moving towards something you have the potential to be really great at.
I used to be really hyped about this “best in the world” self-help advice before I even found out about this book or Seth Godin. However, someone pointed out to me that you can make a healthy amount of money and achieve your goals even if you’re not the best in the world.
You just need to be above average.
By all means, you still want to strive to be the best in the world at something you have the potential to. However, I thought this message was helpful because it helped me relax and not stress out.
Only a select few can be the best in the world. It’s OK if you’re not.
Most People Give Up Too Soon. Use That To Your Advantage.
Most people give up when things get somewhat difficult.
Most businesses fail in their first year. But most of these people immediately quit and never start a 2nd business.
If you realize this, you can gain an advantage by not giving up when everyone else does. By just persevering longer, you will all of a sudden have a lot less competition.
Pushing farther during that time dramatically increases your chances. Consider Com Mirza who failed dozens of businesses before he got it right. He had multiple more tries to succeed than the business owner simply because he didn’t quit. Now he’s worth $500 million.
How to Keep Going When Burn Out or Writer’s Block Sets In
What’s the secret to burn out. According to the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s about finding something you’re 100% passionate about to the point where none of it ever feels like work. Well, that much we know; it’s completely true but beaten to death so much it’s become a cliche. What else can we do?
Embrace the State of “Flow”
In the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I discovered incredible insights on the optimal experience state of work. Based on scientific studies, flow is specifically defined as having seven parts:
- Being completely involved and focused.
- A sense of ecstasy outside everyday reality.
- Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well you’re doing.
- Knowing that your skills are adequate to complete the task.
- A sense of serenity – no worries about yourself and a feeling of going beyond ego.
- Time flies by.
- The task becomes its own reward. You are intrinsically motivated to do it without require of money.
Mihaly coined the term, “flow” because so many of the leading writers, scientists, athletes, CEO’s, and poets he interviewed called it as flow.
By obtaining more of this “flow state”, you can enjoy your work more and learn to not lose interest so quickly. As an added benefit, you can improve your true happiness and quality of life.
You can read the details of his advice by checking out his book, but here are some of his top insights:
- Do something that is challenging, but not too challenging or easy because you will get too anxious or too bored.
- Income does not affect your happiness much once you hit a few thousand dollars above poverty.
- Have a mission beyond just making more money, like helping others.
- You must develop the required level of skills to do the task at hand adequately.
- Do what you really like to do.
Grit, Persistence, and Patience Pay Off: Embrace It
The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth set out to discover what traits made people earn more, get better grades, win competitions, and succeed better in life. After studying top salespeople, students, and employees, she found only one constant trait.
It wasn’t good looks or health. It wasn’t IQ. It wasn’t social intelligence. It was Grit.
Grit is the persistence to stick at a task for the long term. So how do you improve grit?
Angela has been skeptical of any advice out there on how to build grit. The honest answer is science hasn’t found out yet. Grit is unrelated to your talent levels. But Angela believes the best idea so far in building Grit comes from Carol Dweck. Carol discovered a mindset called the Growth Mindset during her research in Stanford University…
Develop A Growth Mindset Rather Than A Fixed Mindset
Carol Dweck has taken the personal development world by storm with her science-backed book Mindset: The Psychology of Success. Many influencers reference her often, including Bill Gates. And for good reason.
The book is full of psychological studies that prove that what a child or adult believes affects what he or she achieves. But how does this relate to how to stay interested in a skill?
Carol found for fixed mindset people, they believe that they cannot improve and their potential is fixed. Therefore, they give up earlier and don’t even try. That’s exactly why you might be losing interest.
Maybe you are losing passion because you are frustrated with your lack of progress. Because you have a fixed mindset and don’t believe you have potential for vast improvement, you give up in trying. Rather, try adopting a growth mindset. Growth-oriented people are energized with tackling more difficult changes and embrace mistakes because they know that it is a necessary stepping stone to success. They are patient with their progress because they are in it for the long game.
Check out my Mindset book summary article for more information on this.
Mastery Takes Time
Robert Greene, a best selling author, has detailed many accounts of leaders in their craft. These leaders now love what they do and make a lot of money from it. They’re respected as the best in the world at what they do, even long after death.
But his stories tel their whole story, not just their final success. You will find that many of these people took many twists and turns to finally find what they were good at and passionate with. They may have assumed they linked one passion but over time, realized it wasn’t for them and found a better one.
Also, they started out as apprentices under a mentor. They sucked at their craft, sometimes for years, before their skill started emerging.
Check out my article summarizing one of Mr. Greene’s books, Mastery.
Finding a way to make what you do fun and choosing work that you’re passionate is the way to go. Other motivators that successful people have proven to work include “to be the best in the world” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or “to spread an idea” (Will Smith). A pattern I see is that it may have to be bigger than yourself.
Finding your dream job is not easy and not guaranteed. Not every skill in the world has enough market demand to draw large numbers of people willing to pay. But try your best. Keep twisting and turning and experimenting with your passions to find out how you may be able to monetize them better. Never give up.
Avoiding burnout and having persistence is tied with enjoying what you do. I have experimented with many different motivations and some have failed time and time again. Doing it for a superficial goal, like to impress women or become rich, are fruitless because the journey is so difficult that you aren’t motivated enough to keep going. Focus first on passion and use what Seth Godin has taught about leaning into the Dip and realizing how much payoff is at the end of the Dip.
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