Follow Your Passion — but only if it’s the right type.

There are two types of passion, and while one can lead to success and happiness, the other can lead to the very opposite.

Steve Glaveski

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Follow your passion.

Do what you love.

If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.

These are the catch cries of the cult of passion.

It stands to reason that if you are passionate about what you do, you’re likely to wake up with a spring in your step and invest a high amount of energy and enthusiasm into your work.

But what if you’re passionate about sneakers, or early 90s NBA trading cards? Sure, you still might be able to cultivate a living in or around this space, but your chances are going to be astronomically slimmer than following a more conventional path of, say, becoming an accountant.

What if your passion is obsessive?

Is passion alone enough?

Is it sustainable?

Does passion fade when it becomes your job?

Can passion lead us down the wrong path?

Is there any substance to the above-mentioned slogans of the cult of passion, or are they, in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, convenient sounding maxims that don’t stand up to empirical testing?

Let’s find out.

On Harmonious and Obsessive Passions

When it comes to passion, psychologists differentiate between harmonious passion and obsessive passion.

Harmonious passion is internalized by people and is free of any contingencies. It is said to be in harmony with other aspects of a person’s life, and doesn’t hold an overpowering space a person’s identity, according to a 2003 study on obsessive and harmonious passions led by Robert J Vallerand, a leading researcher on the topic.

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Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.