How To Find And Live Your Passion


I think I’ve always been driven, although towards what I can’t say. In elementary school I was the kid with straight-As (except for penmanship; my handwriting is still illegible) who preferred to spend more time in the library than on the playground. When I was 8 I did start a playground business though selling candies I bought at a local wholesale store, but I’m not sure that counts. As a Boy Scout I brought an old-fashioned typewriter with me into the woods so that I could capture my thoughts and in high school I played the tuba and was excited for a field trip to the UN. I am who I am and I’m finally comfortable in my skin after 37 years of effort. But looking back at my life so far I’ve noticed a trend and it’s one I don’t like and last year I finally decided to try to change it. I wanted to break the cycle of destructive productivity and in the process, confirmed my true passion.

So what is destructive productivity? I’ve gone through periods of finding something to be interested in, doing it extremely well and then growing bored after that excitement has been lost. Throughout my career you can see that as I hopped from one job to the next, developing whatever new program or campaign they wanted me to develop, then leaving after the intellectual excitement had been lost. That’s one reason why I started this web site, as a way to get my creative juices flowing and to keep me engaged mentally. I’ve finally found my passion after years of searching and I’m determined to not just maintain it as my new career, but to make sure it remains my passion.

My passion is probably easy to divine, it’s all things foreign. As a young kid I pored through encyclopedic entries on foreign cultures and countries, flags from around the world dotted my bedroom wall instead of posters for He-Man or WWF superstars. This love of other countries persisted throughout my life, it’s why I studied international relations in undergrad and grad schools and ultimately why I travel as much as I do. The act of travel for me isn’t ticking off countries or getting a passport stamp, it’s about the educational experience. It’s learning about a new people, a new culture and discerning what makes it all tick.

That being said I have done something I have not done since I entered the professional world at the tender age of 22; combine my profession with my passion. In an ideal world this is what everyone wants. The goal is supposed to be that we find what we love most and then intuit a way to make money from it so we can have food, shelter and three puppy dogs whom you love more than anything. (That last thing may be specific to me.) And I’ve done it for the most part, I’ve never worked harder but I’ve also never been happier. Still, in the back of my head is a nagging worry, a worry that at some point I’ll forget the joy that this passion can bring, that I’ll get too wrapped up in the business of being happy.

With all this in mind I’ve come up with some lessons and tips that I am using that may be helpful to you too.

 Spain mushroom

1. Be specific with your passion – I’ve learned that it’s not enough to say “I like travel!” That’s like a chef saying he likes food. What about travel do you like? Do you like the actual practice of it, writing about it, taking photos of it, helping others plan their own trips, etc. This can be applied to any passion you may have and it’s important to spend a lot of time being introspective and to identify specifically what interests you most about it. Someone who is interested in medicine will usually be trained in a specialization that will consume their professional life, just as an example. This is important. If you’re not really sure what your passion is, then how can you possibly incorporate it into your life in any way that is meaningful?

 misty cliffs cape town

2. Find a way to make it your profession, but not completely – Most of us yearn to combine what we love to do with how we make a living. That’s the dream, right? I agree, it should be an important goal but you need to balance what makes it your passion with how it makes you money. What do I mean? (And why am I asking so many questions?) Let’s take the life of a travel writer (which I’m not, I’m a travel blogger – big difference). Everyone thinks that this is the life, jetting from one beautiful location to the next seemingly on perpetual vacation. And while the travel is great, their lives are anything but a permanent holiday. The life of a travel writer is hard, no doubt about it. While in a new country they are constantly on the go, pressured to find new and interesting stories and to learn as much about a new destination as quickly as they can. While traveling, they’re also expected to write and file stories and maybe even photos, taking away any time for relaxation or sleep that may exist. If there’s a social media component, then nearly all of their time is gone. Their trips are hectic and tiring, anything but a vacation. A friend of mine who works for National Geographic is often asked where he goes on vacation and his response is always, “Home.” So with this passion, it’s important to keep part of it reserved for your own, personal enjoyment instead of giving it all to the profession.

 matt long landlopers

3. Work to make it fun – As soon as you convert your passion into something that makes you money, some of the fun is inherently lost. Photographers do not enjoy sending invoices to clients for the third time and chefs probably don’t relish the physical toll their jobs take on their bodies. That’s why it’s important to actively find ways to continue making your passion exciting and new so that it stays your passion and doesn’t become yet another chore. For some, this may mean teaching others how to do what they do and still others may find new avenues to expand their professional skills, adding some diversity to their portfolios. Whatever it is that you do, you are the only one who can work to continue making it fun. Never lose sight of what drew you to it in the first place.

 Eleuthera, Bahamas

4. Never lose perspective – Don’t forget how lucky you are. Recent surveys show that up to three-quarters of American workers are not happy with their jobs. I hate that number, but I can also understand that number. I was there, I get it. I was in a profession I hated for 12 years and it finally took fate intervening before I realized how much I hated it. But I’m an extreme example; not everyone can leave a good paying job and take the risk of making little or no money for up to a year or longer. A better example is my own partner. He too found himself in a job that while he enjoyed it, the job was taking a tremendous physical and mental toll on him. It was just too much and we both worried that his body couldn’t keep up with the constant demands. What he did was to find another job in the same profession, which he really enjoys, but one that has better and more manageable hours and expectations. He left a job that afforded ZERO work/life balance and replaced it with one that allows him time to relax and enjoy life. We sacrificed a little to do this, but it was an important change. He’s following his passions, but not losing sight of what’s really important in life. This perspective is key. You have to be able to look at yourself objectively and tweak your situation in ways that allows you to be happy, productive and passionate about life. It’s not easy, and not everyone will take the time to do it, but it’s vital if you want to lead a happier, healthier life.

Finding and living your passion isn’t easy, but it’s also not the leap many may think it is. It doesn’t mean you have to sell your house and travel the world. Living a happier life may mean slight changes in your current life that make you more content. Regardless of what needs to be done, it’s important to take that first step and make it a reality. Life is brutally short, a fact that has been demonstrated to me in hard lessons recently and I know how important it is not to squander our time on this planet. Be selfish, find a way to start living a purposeful life and in the process I bet you’ll also improve the lives of those nearest and dearest to you as well.

What’s your passion and how have you made it an important part of your life?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

38 thoughts on “How To Find And Live Your Passion”

  1. Most people live to work. Instead, do your best to work to live.

    That is, use work as a vehicle to do what you love. If you enjoy culture and travel but must work to pay the bills, at least dine at ethnic restaurants rather than the same old fast food joints.

  2. Although I think you might have answered the question “How to Find and Live Your Passion”, I’m still incapable of bringing it to action. Working in a job that I hated for 10 years paralyzed me, erased the trust in myself, in my intuition and literally depressed me. I quit eight months ago and am still trying to reconnect with my passion. It can be a very long and hard process to recover the child in you, the joy and remembering what you actually used to like doing…thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Barbara, I couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing the overall effects leading a passionless life has on a person. I too understand losing faith in oneself, feeling the self esteem drop. It takes baby steps and as you’re successful in each one, it’ll gradually restore that faith in yourself. Good luck!

  3. I’m resigned three months ago, still don’t know what actually my passion is…….I always ignore the time and the worry in my heart that time is clicking…I don’t know what I want to do……but reading this article, I want to do something anyway…oh well, nice article, thank you

  4. Thank you for sharing this post, Matt. First finding and then living a passion can be very difficult. The latter is something I have certainly not yet perfected but I’m working on it. I very much appreciate the tips you’ve shared. It’s inspiring.

  5. Matt, I am so glad you wrote this post as it hits home for me. I am at the point in my life where I want/need to concentrate on my passion but discerning what that exact piece of the passion is/drives me, takes some work. I think I am getting there, but like you said there has to be balance and a good sense of perspective. Trying to trust my gut and keep moving forward …

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! It can take time, no doubt, and at times it’s important to be deliberate, but also don’t let that hold you back either.

  6. “Never loose perspective” — I think you mean lose. You have loose change in your pockets, you lose your change when it fall out of your pockets.

  7. This was definitely inspiring and incredibly informative. I think the first point you made about being specific with your passion is such an important starting point that often gets overlooked for most people including myself. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Lauren, I’m glad you found it useful! It’s taken me a few years to fully understand this, so I thought I’d share with others to try to help.

  8. I too, have gone through the misery of doing a job I hated for years. I decided to do something about it. Your article inspired me a lot! I need to have faith on my passion and move forward. Sometimes it takes the worst pain to bring about great change. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Kristin @ KEEN Digital Summit

    AMEN to #2, and that’s exactly why you’ll find my writing more in Entrepreneur magazine and all the women’s glossies than travel pubs these days (or at least this year). The “watercooler content” for travel mags just got way to redundant and, dare I say, boring. I envy those who can travel purely for leisure and hope to someday get back to that, as well!

  10. I’ve always wanted to be a court room illustrator.But I got married young ,became a military wife ,had kids .And I put my dreams and talent on back burner.I’m now content with a job and family but unfortunately live in a really small town and there’s no surrounding cities where I can even pursue my dreams .Kinda makes me sad sometimes that my talent will never be realized .Moving is not a option either .

  11. Love this Matt. Some really great principles, especially #3. That’s my biggest one, because the day it stops satisfying me, is the day I quit. One thing that I do are these quarterly unplugged trips. I don’t get online and I do no work as a result of it i.e. I don’t write about it, pitch stories about it, etc.; and do little research/planning. It has helped shake things up and continue to infuse spontaneity, passion, and fun into what I do.

  12. These are great advices! Number #2 is exactly what I did. I have always wanted to travel the world but I never got a chance until I decided to build a business around this which allows me to travel the world and get more value out of it. I started traveling the world while feeding all my travel discovery content to the community in hopes that it will eventually inspire others to do the same. :)

    It doesn’t matter how much money you make as long as you are happy. :)

    Keep up the great work Matt!

  13. Gracias Matt. Yo tengo 46 años y para nada es fácil descubrir tu pasión, a veces he llegado a creer que hay personas con pasiones y otras no. Hasta que opté por vivir el día a día, y cuando termina observo las estrellas casi a Diario, para sentirme parte de el gran Universo y de todo lo que hay en él para percibir y ver, por ahora aquí en la tierra, en el futuro tal vez en algún otro mundo de todos los millones que existen. Entonces descubrí que mi pasión es apreciar todo cada segundo, cada instante y que el trabajo es simplemente el medio para atender las necesidades de la vida, no volví a pensar en tener un mejor trabajo ni nada de eso, sigo mi corazón en cada cosa que hago, hago muchos trabajos y también tengo un Hostal en Cali, y me encanta servirle y mis huéspedes y he conocido miles de persona nuevas todos los días, eso es maravilloso para mí. Gracias por ayudar a los demás compartiendo tus experiencias.

  14. Thank your for this post, Matt. Not only did I find it very inspirational, but it also gave me food for thought and helped me figure out how to be specific about my passion for travel. – Ana

  15. I think this is an important topic because so many people complain that they hate “the cubicle,” or however they term the job they dislike, and want to escape. Work should be a positive part of our lives. It should allow us to use our talents and skills in a way that benefits ourselves and community (both local and global) in some way. That doesn’t mean we need to escape and do nothing; it means that we should plan, maybe make sacrifices for a while, to get a career that we can feel good about for the long term.

  16. There are definitely some very wise words in this article. Nicely done, Matt. The whole notion of travel writing is a bit of a double-edged sword. As writers we search for a way to make it an income to continue to live on the road. What we fail to acknowledge is how difficult the task is once it becomes our profession. When our work and passions are the same, it’s important to make sure we can separate the two. After a lot of experience, I’ve also found being selfish to our own needs often improves our relationships.

  17. Great advice! I’m just starting to combine my love for travelling and my expertise in video production, which is my day job. These are definitely tips I’ll use to help guide me.

  18. Hi Matt,

    You said you studied international relations in undergrad and grad school and I presume its that industry you worked in for 12 years? What did you do? How did you even develop a career if you didn’t really connect with it in this passionate way?

    I’m experiencing my own existential crisis at the moment and feel very trapped by an expensive and prestigious degree in an IR master’s program I’m not sure I care for. I’ve always loved fashion and blogging, but the idea of starting something so uncertain with no foothold feels not just daunting but downright impossible. Meanwhile, everyday I spend in this degree program means more money in student loans.

    A lot of the self-help inspirational-type articles and blogposts I read like this seem to address mid-career professionals that are unhappy and want to make a change. But sometimes I wonder if they don’t have the luxury of being able to reflect that way and think about a concrete change…I know most people would say I might be lucky to discover at a young age that this might not be the career for me, but I feel trapped. Trapped even more so than someone with an established career because I have no funds to fall back on. No practical skill-set outside of very basic entry-level skills that virtually all graduates have. Can I really afford to leave the possibility of an established career before I’ve even really entered the career? Can I really leave this behind having spent so much time and money already without even finishing the degree?

    I’ve tentatively and reluctantly decided to stay and finish the program with the understanding that at least once I finish, I will have a degree that I can always come back to if I find that other interests aren’t working for me. And perhaps with this degree I can get a job in the field and decide definitively – having all the facts and firsthand experience – that this truly isn’t for me.
    …but am I just trapping myself all over again if I get that job? And am I just wasting more precious time being unhappy when I should just stop and trust my heart?

  19. Thanks for all the advice. I’m kind of in this position at the moment – I left my long term (9yrs) job 2 months ago to travel a little. I’m back home reflecting / trying to reprioritise. Where next??? I’m not sure yet….
    The big question for me – where can I add value / make a difference?

  20. I too, Is seeking for my own passion. I get bored after the excitement is gone. I feel that I’m nearly there and hope that when I get there, I’ll just keep improving and maintaining that passion.

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