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Passion or Skill?


Written by Hunter Charneski

May 30, 2020

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs.

“The more emphasis you place on finding work you love, the more unhappy you become when you don’t love every minute of the work you have.” – Cal Newport.

Confused yet? I promise not to hold it against you.

In a day and age where you can do anything, it begs the question, “Just because you can, does that mean you should?” If you’re at a crossroads with your career, then keep reading.

Most people are binary when it comes to their vocation. They’re under some kind of hypnosis which seemingly limits their mindset to chase their passion, or capitalize on their skill set. So lemme get this straight. There are bills to be paid, people to help, and lives to change. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to cap the list of options at two? This is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about! Preaching a “this or that” approach is both lazy and irresponsible.

Truth is, there is a third way, and you ought to know what it is.

If you’re Lebron James, then passion is all you need. On the other hand, if you’re Jordan Belfort, then skill shall suffice. However, most of us aren’t the greatest basketball player on the planet or the Wolf of Wall Street. So, you don’t get to choose passion or skill; you’re stuck with both.

I am not the greatest at anything on the planet, but I know a thing or two. I have passion, but no matter how much of it I’ve got, it doesn’t seem to pay my mortgage. But, with the particular set of skills I do have, the bills get paid and more lucrative opportunities present themselves because I do great work. Not because I love what I do. However, it is because of the great work done that I get to pursue my passion. It is because of doing the work I get to write to you here and now. Which is why I would like to share how I avoided being pigeonholed into the “passion” or “skill” bucket.

The Third Way:

  1. Start with Skill.

    If you’re lucky, then you realized early on what you’re good at. For me, it was training. I have no shame in saying I was “so good they couldn’t ignore me” a la Cal Newport. If you don’t know what you excel at, read The Secret to Making Money to be enlightened.

  2. Bridge the Gap.

    Did I love what I did? To be honest, I thought so. The reason I “loved” what I did is because it granted me the latitude to develop what sets my soul on fire, (writing). I didn’t love training. Not one bit, actually. How does one push through what they don’t enjoy, then? One word: re-frame. I switched my mindset from grief to gratitude. Being thankful to have a skill set which pays the bills. Humbled to serve as a mentor for young children during their incredibly formative years. Being seen as an authority on a particular subject matter. Once I pivoted my thought process, not only did I sharpen my skills, I began to develop an affinity for them. Which resulted in greater work being done. And when my work improved, it literally bought me the chance to pursue my passion.

  3. Purposeful Passion.

    Once you get to this point, life is different. Less stress, more vigor, and pure clarity. I used to wake up at 4:30, eat a shit-sandwich for breakfast, and be at the gym no later than 5:45. Now? I ease into my day, rising between 5 and 6. After I knockout my morning routine I’m at my desk. Instead of opening a blank Word document and pounding on the keys, I pause and reflect. Passion is fleeting if not accompanied by purpose. I pray for wisdom and inspiration so I may deliver value to those who need it. For if I am to pursue my passion – and it is truly what I love – then not only should great work be done, but what I produce should benefit the rest of humanity. And the same goes for you.

You shouldn’t be stuck in a job you hate. You shouldn’t feel entitled to a life purely of passion, either. “You can’t argue with reality.” is what a mentor of mine once told me. You’re gonna have to eat the shit-sandwich. Hard work won’t be avoidable. Some days will leave you drained and discouraged. Re-frame your scenario. Be grateful for the opportunity. Enhance your skill set. This will not last forever. There is an end in sight. Use your area of expertise to build the bridge from where you are to where you want to be. Sound too hard? Good. Its supposed to be. Anything worth having doesn’t come easy, which is why most aren’t willing to do the work. But you are. Don’t conform to the masses with the “passion” or “skill” label, do both. Then, one day I’ll be reading your blog on how you bridged the gap.


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