There’s a school-of-thought that doing what you love is important to success. In my article on the dream vs the reality of entrepreneurship, I touched on how success in entrepreneurship involved doing many things that you likely did not enjoy doing. So this may not always be the best thing to do.  What should you follow instead of your passion?

Sold a dream

Entrepreneurship has been sold as a beautifully packaged dream wrapped up in a bow and we tend to miss the important parts of this. While passion is a good tool, good is often the enemy of great. The fact pictures with entrepreneurs enjoying cocktail parties and flashy events are not the reality. In the words of Vusi Tembekwayo “if you have time to go to the J & B Met you’re not an entrepreneur”.

The reality

In the world we live in you are not rewarded based on how much you love something. If that were the case many would’ve made fortunes off their ability to consume Game of Thrones episodes. You are paid in proportion to how well you do something. Your rewards are based on how well you carry out tasks. The better you are at doing something the more you can demand doing it.

The problem with passion

Passion is a fluid concept that is largely informed by the status quo. Passion, at times, depends on the circumstances surrounding us. What were all those people who are currently passionate about digital marketing passionate about 10, 15, 20 years ago? So in addition to being fluid, it is also dependent on many outside variables. Including what is trending and acceptable. Passion is a function of what is popular and with enough time, will change.


Instead of following your passion, follow your talent. Talent is what you’re good at and have a gift for but not always what you love or love doing. There are parts of exploring and investing in your talent that you may not enjoy. Perhaps you don’t quite enjoy what you’re good at doing, as rare as this is it’s possible. First, we do what we must do we can later do what we want.

So when your friends and family point out that you really should do this or that because you have the talent perhaps you should listen to them a bit more closely. But talent alone is not enough. That’s why I made sure to say follow and invest in your talent. There is likely no greater book on this very subject than Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: the study of success. Talent performs best when nurtured through practice and iteration.

What’s the difference?

Passion is all about pleasure. It’s what you derive pleasure from and enjoys doing. Talent is really about the pleasure that others derive from your work. Ultimately it’s those others that will pay you so from a remuneration standpoint at least talent is what you should pursue and invest in. The two sometimes intersect for some people.

Don’t throw away the passion just yet

While the idea here is for you not to follow your passion do not get me wrong and throw away your passion. It has a place in your life and may one day come to the fore. As you grow older in life it is possible to see links and connections you hadn’t seen before between your passion and your talent. And you can put these together.

I’m reminded of FC Metz and Cameroon footballer Benoit Assou-Ekotto who famously publicly proclaimed that he did not enjoy football, he simply did it because he was good at it. Assou-Ekotto has enjoyed a lengthy career playing at the highest level, including playing for Tottenham Hotspurs, in a sport he did not enjoy. He followed his talent as far as it could take him.

Some people are fortunate enough to be passionate at what they are talented at but many not so. You may be sitting on the talent that the world is willing to pay you for.