Why Your Passion Isn’t Making You Any Money

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When we try to create a business built solely around a passion, we oftentimes feel frustrated that we can’t put it together and earn income from it.

The reason we struggle with figuring out how to monetize our passions is that passions are by definition, selfish.

  • What do I want to do?
  • What is my passion?
  • I, I, I, I, I, me, me, me, me

For instance, I’m extremely passionate about travel. I used to talk about how I wanted to travel for a living, to which wiser people would say, “Who’s paying you to do that?” Damn. I hadn’t thought about that part.

You don’t get paid for simply doing what you want to do. You get paid by using a skill you have to create a utility which adds value to – or takes away the pain of – someone other than yourself. That’s how business works.

Period.

Yes, I am passionate about travel but I’m skilled at logistics. That led me to being a founding member of the Nomading Film Festival. I didn’t have a passion for film festivals per se, but it was a way for me to share my love of travel into a business.

We found an opportunity, namely: Wouldn’t it be cool if people making travel videos had a physical place to share those videos with others like filmmakers do? That’s the added value we started with. We also took away the pain of having to mail DVD’s in with a submission since all submissions are done online.

I’m passionate about life and understanding why we do the things we do, but I’m disciplined and am skilled at writing and teaching. I didn’t grow up dying to become an author, to coach and to facilitate workshops, but I realized that there are a lot of people in the 9-to-5 world who are yearning to gain control of their free time. I realized I could help and at the same time, it is a marvelous way for me to create a business and a life around things that interest me.

So if you’re trying to monetize a passion, figure out what value you are going to add to people, and what pain you are going to take away from people.

But before you do that, understand that you don’t have to monetize your passion for you to be able to enjoy it. When it comes to being able to enjoy your passions, you have two other choices:

1) Do something else that allows to you to pursue a passion on the side.

Maybe you are never as alive as when you whittle sticks but maybe you don’t want to create a business out of whittling sticks. You can find employment that allows you to whittle enough in your free time to keep that itch scratched.

For me, I always have a trip on the horizon, no matter how small. I know that travel is something I thoroughly enjoy so even when I had a 9-to-5, I saved my money smartly and always had a trip on the calendar that I could look forward to. Itch – scratched. I realized that I didn’t need to earn money indirectly by traveling, I just needed to make sure that I had an outlet to travel. That last sentence was a huge realization for me.

2) Get so good at something rare and useful over time that you can eventually call your own shots in life.

I’m not talking about waiting until you’re 59 ½ to take out your 401k but I’m saying, create a world where you get so good at a valued skill (something you enjoy enough) that you become indispensable. This thing that you’ve mastered might not be your passion, but you can leverage that skill to live the life you want. If it’s free time you seek, maybe you ask to work only 2-3 days a week, maybe you ask to work in a foreign office overseas for 6 months, maybe you freelance. The point is, you can now decide how to use this skill you have to continue earning income while also enjoying some other things you are passionate about. Yes, maybe it takes 5-10 years to get there, but it can be done.

Only you can decide what you’re willing to give up and sacrifice when trying to realize a passion. But understand the realities of life and how passions can be experienced in different manners depending on your commitments, desires and expectations.

In the end though, no one is going to pay you for chasing your passion, they are going to pay you if the service you have to offer is valuable to them.

Be careful of getting caught up in the romantic ideal that you have to make your life 100% about your passion. If in 1974, Steve Jobs decided to make a living on what he was passionate about, he would have opened up a zen studio or an Eastern Religion Meditation Center. The electronics part of his life was something he enjoyed and always tinkered with but it wasn’t always the thing he was most excited about.

Obviously, history is history when it comes to Steve Jobs but understand that passionsmold and change as do the opportunities to bring them to life.

How are you choosing to realize your passions in your own life?