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Ask HN: How did you find your passion?
119 points by waltonizer on July 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments

All my passions are either commercially not useful or things I am not talented enough to be in front. Example: martial arts and boxing. I really loved it but I am naturally very nonathletic so I was never be able to hang with the top people which is frustrating considering the effort I put into it. Same with hiking and photography. I like doing it but somehow I lack the artistic ability to stand out.

I have passion for software development. I am good at it but somehow I never managed to do it in an environment that doesn't kill my passion for it. I have done my own thing but failed at the business side like selling.

I really wish I had passion for something I am good at and that also allows me to do it for a living instead of feeling like I am wasting my life sitting in a cubicle. People who have managed to make their passion into a career should be envied.

The standards you are using are not good. You dont have to become the best to enjoy the doing of things. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

My dad used to always tell me if you cant be the best dont even bother. Even though it was his primary sport, since we are asian, he wouldnt teach me to play basketball because I couldnt be the best. I 100% disagree with his philosophy.

In life Ive never been the best at anything, it takes too much work. However I have been pretty good at a lot of things and enjoy the learning and the doing. I have had a lot of hobbies and I guess my passion is learning new hobbies.

When your happiness depends on other's judgement of you, you will never be able to consistently be happy.

I have run my own company for 18 years, this year we will just hit 8 million in revenue. Yet, many of my friends have built and sold companies for 10+ million in just a handful of years. Im clearly not the best, but who cares? I have freedom to do other things I love and enjoy my work even though I would rather be building computer games.

At my company we try to help discover what the company can do to help people live the life they love. It is surprisingly harder than you might think for people to listen to their own voice because it is drowned out by all the voices around them telling them what they should love and what they should do.

Remember this: Albert Einstein had a simple clerk position in a Swiss patent office. While working at the patent office, Einstein had the time to further explore ideas that had taken hold during his studies at Polytechnic and thus cemented his theorems on what would be known as the principle of relativity.

Einstein is not just another person, right? The man had amazing perseverance. Not everyone is like that.

But I am genuinely curious to know how lesser known, and the more average kind of person deals with this. Because I feel like I might end up being in the same situation judging from my current progress.

Look, I "bootstrapped my brain" all my life…maybe because I was lazy or impatient and wanted quick solutions.

On HN, I see lots of amazing individuals with great education, work experiences using "expensive" vocabulary.

I am not one of them. I was below average in school but "bootstrapped" my professional life using my personality and my imagination. I ended up creating something beyond my wildest dream.

I am not sure what to learn from this.

You're not wasting your life sitting in a cubicle. Your mind is always free to create and discover...

Sometimes a low stress job is ideal for the opportunity to create.

But high stress can do some amazing things to your brain. And immediately when I found this out I use it at my advantage. For years I worked on my project with results like "a step forward, two steps behind". So I quit my job with only a few thousands $$ and put as much stress on my "system". I found my "eureka moment" a few days before I ran out of $$. They call this the survival instinct.

I think it's great that you succeeded but you shouldn't generalize your experience. I also put everything on the line for a business idea and failed miserably with a lot of debt. There are a lot of factors involved in success. It's not only persistence.

Stress usually comes with health issues. Be careful

You may need two jobs for a brief amount of time. One that pays the bills. Another that drives your passion. Think of your first job as "bootstrapping" your second job. Just make sure the first job doesn't take so much effort that you have no energy left to do what you really want to do.

My point was that finding your passion may not result in a viable career. I have tried to bootstrap the second job but it has always failed. My guess is that this is the case for most people and only a lucky few manage to turn their passion into a career.

If Einstein hadn't been Einstein he may have failed in physics work and stayed a bored patent clerk forever. I bet this happened and is still happening to a lot of people.

This hits home, but most of the time I think this is an excuse we tell ourselves when we didn't try hard enough.

I agree. It's the spot in a Venn diagram that separates happy people from those who are just surviving.

As some commenters have alluded to anecdotally, there's science behind the idea that "follow your passion" is bad advice. So it's not something you find, but rather something you build. There are probably very many things that could become your passion(s) if you build them.

I'm still working on building mine. I've found at least one (coding) that fits into the picture somehow, being that I've been doing it since I was a kid. Some others are more recent interests that I want to spend a few years diving deeper into before rendering a verdict.

Cal Newport wrote a whole book refuting the "follow your passion" hypothesis in 2012: So Good They Can't Ignore You [1].

And more recently, there's a Stanford study out that makes the same claim [2].

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

[2] http://gregorywalton-stanford.weebly.com/uploads/4/9/4/4/494...

There is another great book written by Cal: Deep Work [1].

Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something. Apply methodical approach to improve your craft skills. Once you got mastery, you might actually like it.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/...

edit: formatting

> Don't follow your passion. Instead, become really good at something.

The important question always seems to be: at what?

You can't pick a lot of things because mastery takes years, and if you picked something you're unsuited for, you've just wasted a lot of time.

This just doesn't seem like a high value proposition.

I've read the book. I actually disagree with Cal on the that one for the simple reason you can be really, really good at something and not passionate about it.

I think there's a trick here though - get really good at something and then use that to make someone else's life better - now that is something you can probably get passionate about.

This whole passion debate will run and run though - I don't think anyone really has the definitive solution - it will be different for different people.

There are lots of self help resources on the topic (ex. https://youtube.com/watch?v=6pgaJb2Wwhs), but IMO a passion is when you enjoy the process of something rather than looking forward to an outcome. Your life probably already demonstrates your passions.

What do you actually do in your free time (not what you wish you were doing)? Go to the bar? Play video games? Go to the beach? Those are your passions right now.

If you want different passions, try different things for an hour a day for a week or two. Try hiking, photography, reading, writing, etc. If you enjoy the act itself and such with it, it's a passion of yours.

IMO, there is no shortcut, you have to try different things until they click.

Simple advice but I needed to be reminded of that finding your passion partially means that you need to try everything.

Okay, maybe not everything, but it sure sounds fun! :)

After years of hearing people I respected on podcasts talking about how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most dominant fighting sports, a smaller guy can beat a bigger guy, etc... I hear a philosopher I like talk about how it is the most thoughtful and complex practices he does. He says he's like an addict who is carefully maneuvering around injuries to practice it for the rest of his life. I decide I'll give it a shot.

Cut to me, a 21 year old weighing in at a strong ~200 pounds (I had been powerlifting for a couple years), getting flipped and choked in under 15 seconds by Doc, a 60-something year old brown belt at my local gym. Nearly four years later, I spend 15-20 hours a week at the gym and I think about techniques all day long.

I'm a software engineer by trade, but my "retirement plan" is definitely opening a gym and moving the other 40 hours I spend coding into this. The best description I have heard is "chess with your whole body", when you start to learn how movements interact with each other on a higher level than just trying to survive, it's the most complex and precise physical activity in the world.

And there is always someone who can make you feel like a child fighting your 300 pound uncle.

I respect this post immensely, I really do. I have studied various martial arts for a total of about 10 years (49 years old now, karate, Japanese sword-- kendo, iaido, even a few years of zen meditation which I see as the source of so much). Loved it while doing it. It strikes me one has to pick theirs very carefully. Everyone is different but my sister started studying Crav Maga in her early 30s for 2 years and now at 40 has chronic un-diagnosable pain problems which started only a few years after. She doesn't remember a single injury that "shifted" her health status but definitely something wrong occurred within the nervous or skeletal system and now she's a mess.

I understand your retirement plan but - shouldn't you be doing the gym thing in your youth than in your 60s and 70s? I am not saying one can't do it in old age (you mentioned getting flipped by a 60 year old) but it can't be denied that physical things are easier in youth than old age.

Do you still lift? I'm pretty into weightlifting and I'd like to add a martial art and BJJ looks like the best fit for me, but I don't want to lose muscle definition.

Continue to lift. Eat protein. Your TDEE might go up if you lift the same amount and add BJJ on top. If recovery becomes an issue hit the usual sleep, hydrate, eat, stretch points.

Most of what I've read about muscle loss is that it happens when you eat at a deficit or don't hit your protein targets.

This video talks about the creators experience balancing BJJ w/ lifting. https://www.reddit.com/r/weightroom/comments/6o8ubw/balancin...

Edit: personally I switched to a 5/3/1 variant for athletes, but plan on going back to a higher volume program soon, after some weight loss.

I love Jiu Jitsu as well but I had to take a break from it after getting a back injury.

I would describe it as "Timed chess with your whole body" because every movement you make matters. It puts things in perspective of what your priorities in life should be, there are many analogies to be said with this. If you spend too much time analyzing a situation you'll get placed into a rear naked chokehold, armbarred, etc. Move now or never

The reason why I like jiu jitsu on a mechanical level is because I find I have an obsession for automating things. I like to think of myself as smart lazy. I don't work harder than I have too - and what I love so much about jiu jitsu is that the best practioners are exactly this. The sheer minimal movement to achieve maximum practical results is exciting to me. I would say this is also why I love rock climbing as well too

At the same time, its important to hone your skills in jiu jitsu. Knowing when and where to react to different body positions is much like knowing what solution should be implemented in a project.

Onto the obsession with automating things. I find that any derivative of this makes me really passionate. Jiu jitsu is one application. But it goes further. I'm a big fan of r/homegyms and r/bodyfitness because they derive from the same application. I find that I am also obsessed with short workouts with maximal result, nutrient macros, sleep equipment, etc. I have a pretty crazy home gym treadmill-desk ironmaster super bench setup that I derived inspiration from many industries.

Another application is finding the best XYZ workflows for a given program. I used to get obsessed with writing gaming guides / build setups for MMO games as a kid. Some have been read by hundreds of thousands of users. Some have actually had a profound impact on peoples lives - in one case I had a surgeon thanking me for the youtube guides I made to train his motor skills.

I found that this same passion eventually pooled into other things as well - mostly related to notetaking software, flashcards, and learning. Things like GTD, space-repetition learning, discovering new content, etc. I have a whole system setup for each of these things, a full blown 800 subs on youtube I've curated overtime in many industries. In the last few years I've used about 500+ software applications. I love to try things out for at least one time to see if I enjoy it or not.

This obsession with software goes into many other fields. I find I spend a huge amount of time cataloging every software used in any industry, because I'm always curious what things businesses & people automate. In fact if you were to look up software alternatives, there's a really big chance you'll actually come reviews I've written here. https://alternativeto.net/user/kagerjay/.

This obsession with automation doesn't really stop here. I'm a huge fan of frontend and nice UX designs, both on web and in actual products. In many ways, marketing is a derivative of automation - in the sense of appealing to the 5 senses in the most intuitive way possible. Its why I enjoy frontend development as well and can appreciate simple functional aesthetic designs.

In addition, I am obsessed about learning history as well. I find you can learn from other peoples mistakes and this goes back to automation in learning. By learning what others failed at you save yourself time down the road. I also invest a lot of time watching documenateries about different industries related to construction, shipping, logistics, world culture, social economics etc. I love to travel as well every 1 or 2 years.

Because I'm also obsessed with automation and notetaking - I am also obsessed with with building my own plugins and solutions. My first hobby DIY project is used by 400 businesses today on a relational database application.

Because of the obsession I have - it also pools into higher learning as well. I can't build cool things unless I have a better understanding of how things in nature works. Naturally I am also interested in topics related to math, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering. And things like fullstack development, etc. Currently right now I'm building a notetaking app that I haven't found in any other solutions in in the market, but its a long learning process since I don't have any backend knowledge.

So basically, my passion is automation, and I just pool derivatives of that into other fields. I think I have curated this passion by spending so much of my childhood playing video games actually. In elementary school, I used to cheat and make my own modded starcraft maps. In middle school, I played a lot of MMOs, learned how to curse in Korean, before I learned about world cultures in school. In high school, I used to teach economics to my guild members on how to do buy/sell things much like you would on ebay. I would practice things like insider trading, running bots, price gouging, etc on the trade market because I was on the alpha game tester too. Then I ran my own virtual business and sold that for real money on the side. In college, I had a youtube channel I used and became one of the most famous players in a popular MMO. I don't derive any satisfaction from playing video games anymore though - although I still socially game only. Consequently this is also why I have little interest in financial tech as well.

I think passion needs to be curated over a good span of time. You just need to know what drives you, and this might just mean a lot of discovery of new fields and content. Trying out new things. Etc. Finding things you don't like etc.

I found my passion by getting really pissed off. One day I was sitting at my windows xp box and I wanted to do something really stupid/simple. I wanted to change all the icons for a application so it would fit my theme. Long story short I ended up switching to ubuntu learned to program and learned more about operating systems and networking then I ever should have. Now as a software developer I find my passion is driven by being pissed at a problem or situations that I want to control. Twitter tells me I can't do what?? I will write entire library just for that purpose. Windows 10 wants to run what in my background?? I will either figure out a way to change that in the registry, boot it in linux and delete things I shouldn't, or write some script that keeps it in check.

> I wanted to change all the icons for a application so it would fit my theme.

In 2012 I wanted to move the notification badges to fit my theme on my jailbroken device. However there were no way to do it, so I got into developing software for jailbroken devices and did it myself. 6-ish years later I still do it. It also led me into my current (iOS) developer career.

I've been programming for way longer than this, so my passion was known beforehand, however the current direction seemed very relevant to your comment.

That's quite an interesting idea. I'm sorry if this comment does not have much substance, but you gave me an epiphany. Thank you. I will try to do that for myself too!

2013. My 19yo self, having spent almost two years doing nothing but learning programming, wants to read CS at the uni, but knows not maths. Signs up for a class to prepare for the national uni qualification exams in order to learn enough 1 + 1 to qualify for a CS undergrad course. But midway the preparatory classes has a crush on the philosophy instructor and reads a platonic dialogue and 1984 to impress her. But ends up actually falling in love with literature and studying Italian literature from fall 2014. Fast forward to 2018: I'm now freshly graduated and considering whether to study general literature for my master's or comparative literature. I'm also planning a career in academia. But I also have programming skills and live in Gnu Emacs compiled from master and run Debian stable on my laptop (after a year of FreeBSD after some years of Arch Linux). So a bit of a unique blend I have ended up being :)

I guess I should be thankful to how stupid I was back then (hopefully I improved a bit since) :) Getting into philosophy and literature has not only change my career plans, but helped me tackle my adolescence depression, have peace in my mind, and overcome the coercions of tradition and society and work towards realising myself.

travel on a shoestring for a year and then work abroad and expose myself to different cultures, helped me discover mine.

maintaining passion over a longer period of time (turning the hobby/passion into a career) is much harder than finding it. it requires a routine with a rule to restrict/timebox the joyous activity as much as one timeboxes the chores.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Letter on Finding Your Purpose and Living a Meaningful Life https://fs.blog/2014/05/hunter-s-thompson-to-hume-logan/

That's an interesting point - passion does fade over time. I spent 10 years of my life intensely devoted to music, but at some point it just evaporated. It's baffling, really.

As for software development, I found my passion as a kid when my father taught me some simple scripting on his old Dolphin. I was simply amazed by the vast landscape of possibilities.

I didn't find mine until recently, but even then - it definitely found me.

I worked really hard on stuff that I just "liked" enough that I said "hey, if this is all I did, I would be happy and would make enough money to live." This was actually something that Phil Knight talked about in Shoe Dog - he was an accountant, and he knew that if Nike totally failed, he could still be an accountant and eat.

Eventually I fell in with a group of people where a bunch of things lined up - it matched my technical skills, I liked the people I was working with, there were a set of long-term goals I really believed in, and there was career runway within those goals. I hadn't done anything proactive to find myself in that situation, I just tried to work hard and be pretty good at anything I was doing.

If you don't have a passion yet, I'd instead recommend getting a reputation for being responsible, proactive, and enjoyable to work with. Be an executor. That gets you introduced to people who have passions and need someone who can help them get the job done. Being around those people is critical to helping you discover your own passions.

People usually think passion is a magic spark that ignites and suddenly you become obsessed. And maybe that is the case when you're still young.

As an adult I've found that passions do not suddenly explode but are built out of habit.

Sure, you need an interest in something to begin with (finding a thing that is compatible with character), but one has to put some effort until that interest gains momentum, so to speak.

Originally, my primary passion (non-fiction writing) arose as a form of escapism. I was unhappy with my life due to a bad marriage; she turned out to be a nasty person and a secret hoarder who spent us into the poor house within a few years. I had long been trying to write fiction, but I found none of it worthy of exposure to the public. So I decided to try my hand at non-fiction. After all, I had been collecting knowledge of strange true stories for as long as I could recall. Writing served me well in distracting me from the crappy situation I inhabited.

In a way I was lucky; I discovered this passion and acted upon it when it was possible to launch a small website, start publishing, and have a reasonable opportunity to cultivate an audience (ca. 2005). The site now has tens of thousands of monthly readers. I still love writing non-fiction, but my life is much better these days. I divorced the wretch, married a great woman, and started a family. It's harder to find time to scratch the writing itch, but I still find scraps of time here and there.

My passion used to be programming. I went back home and programmed or read stuff about programming. After close to 10 years in job market, I think it's not so great idea after all. It was much harder to de-stress. I took problems at work too personally. I sometimes made work decision that weren't unbiassed enough. Now I think that no matter how much you like your work, for long term personal well being do not do it at home.

My current after work hobby in an unlikely place. Precision rifle competitions. It's very scientific sport in nature - winning is pretty much about forecasting flight of your bullet, that involves lots of physics, statistics and controlling 10s of different variables. Recent king of 2 miles competition looked more like science olympiad: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2018/07/05/what-the-pros-use-k... .

I think I got very lucky or I get easily passionate about things.

When I was 13 I wanted to become a hacker, my dad got me a scrape yard DOS box with a then already obsolete 386SX. There was GW-Basic on it and I hacked away trying to implement viruses. I got me a QBasic compiler and wrote a programm that overwrites the config.sys and autoexec.bat and catches the usual interrupt keys like ctrl-c. Then it showed a blinking colorful ascii-art. My mother was not impressed when I let it run on her accounting machine...

Fast forward 3 years, I played piano for a while but it felt not cool enough and I was in to classic rock (I still am) so I wanted to learn guitar since I couldn't afford a Hammond organ. My friends needed a bass player and so I listened to my favorite songs, figuring out what bass players actually do and it got me. So I learned bass.

2 years later I finished school and wanted to study Jazz with my bass, tried to get into universities but they somehow felt I wasn't completely behind it, being more of a rock guy, still I wanted to move out from home. I remembered my coding sessions from my early teens and went into CS. After 2 semesters I realized that programming and reading about CS 8 hours a day is fun, 8 hours of practicing bass isn't.

Since then I love my job and still have fun with a blues rock band in the evenings. Only downside, I don't do martial arts anymore (Boxing, Kali), I got afraid of hand injuries.

So as stated, there was a lot of luck involved but still I found out, if there is a slight chance something is fun to do and you invest some energy, you probably develop some passion for it. I never thought about it if something is commercially useful or if I even got good enough to stay out of the masses, I don't do magic on the bass, I'm not the best dev out there. But at least I feel good after coming home from work and every time wasted with the band is time well spent. What else do I want?

Learning to build discipline will keep you moving forward until you find interesting opportunities in most any problem.

The world isn't responsible to entertain, fulfill or inspire us. We have to learn to see that for ourselves, until we do, we have to put in the work until we uncover things about ourselves we like doing. Try new things regularly to cultivate a truly open mind. Passion can't exist where logic alone is.

Passion doesn't matter as much as you think. If you can through saying yes to solving problems uncover a universal passion (learning, helping others, making tech work for people) you will find it can be applied anywhere.

This helps to separate the industry from the improvement and making a difference. Sometimes we have the same lessons to learn no matter the path we pick. Choice can be an illusion when we are still learning to become well rounded and would probably learn the same skills from a few equally positioned opportunities.

If that doesn't make sense, for me the idea/area doesn't have to be as sexy as much as building the entire system around it, and effecting change with it.

I have worked in some dry industries, but I had plenty to learn independent of industry which was thanks to good people. I picked up a lot of transferable skills that I applied when those opportunities that I felt passion for came up.

PG is right, solve problems, build stuff that people want. Make tech work for people, not just the digitally inclined.

My mother died recently(~2 years) from cancer and the things she thought I would do, and even I, at some sense, tried to and gave up, came back.

I was a naturally talent kid for music. Even without any education I could get a instrument and figure it out. Sure, that wouldn't me make a great player, as that involves a lot of dedication. But we were very poor and couldn't afford the instrument or the musical education(or the time to, as music rarely becomes something profitable in one's life) and I instead focused on at least having a job. So I studied computer science now and live abroad. Good choice.

So, I've bought a guitar around the time she died and started playing. Definitely not playing as much as I should to become very good, but enough to talk about it being a hobby. I also enjoy it very much. I think that if I would try to become good(as I had to, for other things, in exchange of money), it would lose the fun of it. So I don't try hard.

My other hobby is reading. I want to learn how to speak German(I can speak other 3 languages), as I live in Germany and have been trying to improve myself in that language consistently. I'm not such a good language learner, but I've been consistently studying them throughout my life.

Another hobby I would like to take on, maybe once I get more confortable with life in Germany(and the language) is to paint. I can draw quite well but got bored of it. I had plenty of fun painting at school and some other occasions. I really like color and abstract art. It is very relaxing and might help me to relieve some stress from my day job as a software dev.

Honestly, I started w/ my pain. What caused me to struggle the most often goes against my core values. It wasn't until I sat and jot down "why" my recent problems escalated so quickly and had a greater negative impact. Often my new problems were mirroring old problems. It was then that I realized my beliefs. This is where I stood during adversity. What I was willing to fight to protect and nurture. It's why I'm willing to stop every bad habit just so I don't become its bottleneck. It's my compass for every decision. Your passion has a direct correlation to your pain. Start w/ your pain, verbalize it instead of being reactive. Once you know the words at least you can go to thesaurus.com and use the antonyms as a start to explore your passion ;-) Good luck and much joy to ya!

Also, passion isn't just a burst of energy, excitement or full of woo-woo emotions. It's strategic, empathetic, intelligent, loving, strong, and actionable. Plus reading/listening to Start with Why is helpful AF! Much success to you on your journey!

resource: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17447384-start-with-why

Career wise? I haven't yet. I've found a company I'm really excited about and have applied though but just playing the waiting game.

Outside of career? Reading. Reading a lot. I read a ton of hard science fiction and SHTF type stuff as well as books like The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg (just started it this morning, been sitting on my kindle for months) and Powering the Future: How We Will (Eventually) Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow by Robert B. Laughlin. Reading books like these have, over probably 20 years, really developed a mind that spends a lot of time thinking about what problems our species faces in the immediate, near and even far future. I enjoy this, even though many things outright terrify me for my own future as well as our collective future.

I like the 'what if' aspect of how reading this variety of works has brought about in me. What if nuclear war, what if asteroid impact, what if supervolcano, what if peaceful first contact via broadcast or in person, what if automation frees up humans to do what they want to do instead of working to live, what if cancer is all but irradicated in small religious sects, what if what if what if.

I'm same as you, but I'm actually getting tired of it. Everytime I encounter a problem, I start compulsively thinking in this direction, scaling it during the process, eventually getting frustrated about my inability to implement necessary changes.

I feel you. Food production is a big one with me right now and I've been drastically reducing the animal products in my diet and switching to less processed foods (black beans have become my staple).

I find writing can help manage it a bit, in fact I just finished a piece on food production and indoor farming https://www.ryanmercer.com/ryansthoughts/2018/7/8/tackling-t...

What are some good things to do with black beans?

Peruvian Black Beans with Rice & Aji sauce (Yellow or Green Sauce) is delicious and inspired by a local place I ate at a few times.

Black Bean burgers/patties are great.

I like making tacos with the refried beans (mashed or not).

You can also use black beans in 'stir-fries'! I'm actually trying to decide what typical Asian sauce to try it with next. Maybe General Tso's?

That I haven't figured out yet, I've just been eating them with cornbread or using them for taco-filling as a meat substitute. It's getting old real quick.

A parent dying in my early 20s. Now I'm in my 40s, but because of that age maybe (not handling death maturely), I became obsessed with the immortality / singularity movements. Now it's become who I am, someone that believes technology is the answer to everything and I find anything else boring / immaterial (stopped caring about sports, recreational maths, fiction, politics etc, that I had a passion for in my teens).

I wished upon a star.

Joking asides, I think a better question to pursue is how to find contentment. One key for me has been learning to live for today and not worrying too much about tomorrow.

A friend just received more money than she could have ever imagined. Sadly it was an insurance payout after the untimely death of her young husband. I know what she would rather have.

Keep reading, learing and making plans but don’t get too hung up on what you think is missing and enjoy the now.

I like my job (marketing strategy and execution). But if I could I would play competitive starcraft all day, every day. It just scratches an itch.

I don't know that I've found things which I'm passionate about as much as I've found things I enjoy, or which intrigue me, and I pursue obsessively competitively in order to excel. Whatever it is, I become fairly skilled at it, through sheer determination, persistence, and immersion, then for one reason or another I move on - no financial reward, I find the point where genes separate the men from the boys, etc. I'm a programmer for a living. I enjoy doing my own programming, not so much work programming, but partly do it simply because I've been doing it since the zx81 - "... if you're warm and happy in a pile of crap, keep your mouth shut" - or something. The Helsinki Bus Theory seems worth mentioning in this conversation: https://jamesclear.com/stay-on-the-bus .

Step one, it seems to me, is to figure out what passion isn't ... there are several mental trips that may seem like passion, but don't last. I think of it as a challenging journey you're drawn to regardless of what others think (so it's not ego-tripping) or how conventionally rewarding it is (if it is, lucky you, but ... danger, Will Robinson).

Something that opens you up and allows you to develop ... challenging enough to keep you from ever getting bored. A large set of related problems, for example, a universe to apply your growing expertise to.

That (not so elegantly) said, finding it may mean a lot of trial and error. So staying open to new candidates is important, until you can rule out most avenues and focus on those you stay drawn to.

Finding your passion is a bit of a trap; this article explains some reasons why:


Some of the history of “passion primacy” is based on the Hedgehog Concept of Jim Collins in his book Good to Great:


Mr. Collins was talking about great companies, however. But his three criteria are instructive.

Put another way: passion finds you. And it probably won’t if you’re thinking too much about it.

I discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in college and have trained 5+ times a week (barring sickness and injury) since then.

I am not very good, but it is definitely my greatest passion. I took a PE class on a whim after a professor talked about it and it has defined my life ever since.

I found my passion researching about spirituality. We spend so much time doing daily worship and related rituals, I decided to dig into the meaningfulness or otherwise of this. That has kept me going for last 4 years or more, bridging the link between Spirituality and Science. I think today most people are missing out by not finding out what the composite goal for life should be, I would love to make them think on those. But at my age of 78, I dont have energy or technological ability to set up a video, audio or similar lecture medium. If I did that I would find a meaning for my life at my stage. That is still my passion and that could keep life exciting.

My two (biggest) passions are code and the guitar. The latter I discovered after I found a html-guitar-course on my friend's laptop when I was 14 and simply went for it (I'm 32 now).

Finding the former was more interesting. I started coding a little bit when I was 12/13-ish, but it was never more than the basics. Some QBasic, HTML and Visual Basic. I wanted to do an apprenticeship as a software-dev, but I guess my math-grades were too bad back then, and I was discouraged to pursue the path any further. So by 18 I did one in an unrelated field (banking) and during that started drawing/painting a lot.

I thought I found my calling/passion/etc. and went to an artistic secondary school and studied Design in Munich (Graduated with a BA).

Around the middle of Uni (26), I had posted a painting [1] to ConceptArt.org for critiques. I had spent several hours on that one. One respected and popular member mentioned, that the painting is nicely rendered and all, but it doesn't make sense; it has no message; it's saying nothing.

That comment and lots of thinking made me realize that I actually wanted to _have painted_, and not really to paint. I had nothing to say, there was no purpose I wanted to fulfill by doing art, other than get likes and compliments.

It took some time (years) until I was completely honest to myself regarding art. (Nowadays I do pixel-art, calligraphy and caricatures occasionally, but seldom)

Thankfully, we had a very good HTML/CSS-Intro-Course in Uni, which enabled me to make a website for my friend's band, which helped me get an internship at an agency where I did design and HTML/CSS. I very quickly discovered what I should have known for 15 years: that coding and building digital stuff is my passion.

I am still working there. Now as Senior Front-End-Developer. Every day I am grateful that I can work in this awesome (and well-paid) field, doing work I like and enjoy.

[1] http://radovcic.blogspot.com/2011/01/guitar-girl-ii.html

> I actually wanted to _have painted_, and not really to paint.

Oh, this resonates so much with me... But WRT purpose of art and it having a message, I don't think that that's a valid approach. I'm into writing fiction and poetry, and (also as a graduate in literature) believe that art is not a medium for messages. It's a form of reflection, exploration, thinking, experimentation. If there ever is a message, it's what the spectator/reader/listener collects.

Well...this is how:

It was 1997, I just landed in San Francisco as a fresh new commercial Architect/Designer... and I was just starting coding in my spare time.

I got lots of contracts designing new .com Startup and was invited to there "opening" parties. At one of the party, someone asked me a question that will change the course of my life.

<<are you going to invest in our coming IPO?>> IPO... what the hell is this ??? I said...

A few days later, I came across an article about how Miami was fighting crime using a Pattern Recognition Software. And I thought I could apply the same kind of software onto the Stock Market... and this is how I found my passion.

From a very young age I was obsessed with adversarial thinking. Some of interest came from being raised on heroic tales of Hannibal of Carthage and Archimedes out thinking the Romans. I can't not think about breaking systems.

Define passion. Your better off understanding your fundamental drives beyond basic primal urges. Is it money? It is power? Is it helping others? Is it praise from others?

My own personal experience is this. I did engineering, then worked in various parts of the hardware/software stack and found myself in finance. I have no real interest in finance, but much more in economics. I love economics. I have this deep desire to understand why we do the things we do and why the world works the way it does today

There's also a slight chance you might find similar answers from asking this specific question in HN.

Imagine asking this question in a literature conference, juggling competition, cup-stacking competitions, etc.

Various age groups, hobbies, interests will show that people find passion in different ways. However, it'd be intriguing to see the similarities between the "how" and "why" of people discovering their passion.

My friends think its passion, but really I just forced the medicine down until it became habit, then a permanent fixture, and now is familiar and relaxing. I love learning new things but the "passion" idea is really just me exploring the nuanced depths of a topic I now know a lot about, and that seems to be fulfilling enough that it can masquerade as "passion" to outsiders.

Could you elaborate? Are you eluding to software engineering?

Software engineering (not as a job) for data analytics and data science that help me automate information consumption.

I had a family and developed hobbies with some depth to them.

Work is fine, I'm grateful for what I do as it puts me in a better position than the vast majority of people on this planet. I enjoy solving engineering problems, so I truly enjoy a portion of what I do Mon-Fri.

It's not my passion, and I'm fine with that. There was a time in my twenties when it was, but now I invest myself in other things.

I became passable at software development and could then create stuff I like.

I didn't realize just how creatively challenging and empowering software development is when I started studying engineering, I knew I was ok at math and just wanted to get a job. I got the skills to do stuff I was passionate about because of it, and I do all the things I'm passionate about off the clock.

After the world fell apart around me.

Little dramatic, but here’s my shitty life story as fast as possible. My girlfriend of just a few days shy of 6 years left me, day before my birthday. For another graphic designer that was mildly...successful? Whatever, I failed as a designer. We just moved to the west coast. Zero family or friends. I couldn’t find a job. Was a truck driver for a while. Quit that. Lost my apartment. Luckily I made friends with a guy that let me crash at his place a month prior to eviction. Broke, shit work, student debt, freshly single, no real home, no old friends, family broke ties with me a while back for other reasons I won’t get into, thus I literally watched buses go and tried to find the best road where they maintained high speed with easy access for me to walk into.

My literally only friend now got some IPAs and I drank myself silly. The next day, hung the fuck over and sitting outside, I realized I didn’t want to even attempt a better “old life”, which is the default setting to getting your life together.

Round about way to saying “freedom” is my passion. Started some businesses with that buddy. Taught myself to program in 2 weeks (yes, I’m that asshole programmer you all hate, but I’m far better now than those days). Taught myself sales skills and worked commission only at Frys to build up those skills. Got contracts and never had an employer since. I walk away from anything I want to with zero fucks to give. Each of my contracts have a clause I sneak in that I can drop the project whenever I want with no repercussions. No lawyer has ever caught it in the past 6 years. I do what I want without a single concern for permission or qualifications. Especially since a majority of college edu lawyers are that retarded. I learn different programming skills and do them. We wanted to setup a retail shop that competes with a local law enforcement supply store, we did that. Worked on wind farms. Did a few power plant jobs for various things. Worked security surveillance contracts. I’ve been asked by a police chief to run some classes he holds for the state. Did one so far, it was fun. I write as well and get paid for most of it. 3D modeling for fun, sell that too. I’m finding a muscle car beater I can project repair and learn some mechanic skills. Wood working on the weekends. No permission. No asking. Just do what I want, nearly exactly to when I want (within reason obviously).

Or I could have been a graphic designer. Just the one thing.

I think the one passion thing is horseshit mostly. That's why people feel "lost", like I did. Diversify, just like in everything else. Like all the things and have fun. Even the high class mathematicians and physicists of history have multiple and many passions. They're normally considered "hyper focused" by pop culture idiots. Read a book on them. They weren't. Every single one was ADHD as fuck.

Just do shit and ride that wave. Farther from "normal", the better. Random cool things are bound to happen. Just roll with them. I always loved surfer mentality.

Figured doing this on my phone would force me to keep it short... fail. Excuse errors.

Impressive comeback for sure. When you say 'Got contracts', how do you go about finding these contracts? Am in a similar place to where you were where I've little interest in 'improving the old'; Would rather just deliver value to a bunch of people but don't know how to find the people to deliver value to!

I pretty much found my passion when I was 5-7 years old and played my first video games on my father's Commodore 64 and Apple IIe, playing board games and card games with my grandparents, and then the day I met my wife and when our children were born. None of those pay the bills, but they don't have to.

I read Steven Levy's Hackers. I'd been doing tiny bits and pieces of coding here and there (this is pre High School) in ActionScript, VisualBasic/FoxPro etc, but that was the book that inspired the hell out of me.

I started spending more and more time learning things and here I am. (Software/InfoSec/UX)

Have not found my passion. Currently using money as a proxy. Optimizing my software dev career for it.

One part accident, one part research. I took a college class that cast a lot of light on things that I had thought were "normal" for people like me, but weren't. Then I researched what my options were for doing something with X that met Y parameters.

Could you elaborate on this?

I was a homemaker, military wife and homeschooling mom. I returned to college and took two classes and CLEPed some others to lock in my old college credits so I wouldn't have to start over from scratch if I ever got around to going to school again. If your classes are too old and you didn't complete a degree of some kind, they won't take them as transfer credits.

One of the classes I took was an online Environmental Biology class (possibly not the correct name of it). The big project for the class was to plan a residence in the middle of nowhere that didn't have existing infrastructure, like electricity and sewer, and how you would support yourself in the middle of nowhere. I immediately knew that half of my answer was "Build an Earthship."* This clued me that, no, not all homemakers are fascinated with alternative energy, passive solar design, etc as some means to save money and so forth.

I decided that quarter that I wanted to do something career-wise with the built environment. I pulled out a big book of college info on various universities in the US and scoured it for majors having to do with the built environment.

Architecture was on the list, but architecture programs generally are self-contained and do not take transfer credits of general ed classes. I would have to start completely from scratch.

Civil Engineering was on the list, but required multiple Calculus classes. Although I had a strong math background, I had dropped out of calculus my first quarter in college and never wanted to see it again.

I think there were about six or seven majors on the list. After going through all of them, I settled on Urban Planning as the degree program and career that interested me. Most Urban Planning degrees are Masters programs, not Bachelors. That fall, I enrolled in an online BS in Environmental Resource Management.

At some point, my life was derailed by a serious health crisis and divorce. I never completed my BS degree, though I did later get a Certificate in GIS (equivalent of Masters level work) and I moderated a planning sub-forum for a time that I founded on what was, at that time, the world's foremost planning forum. I currently do some volunteer work at a non-profit that is pertinent to this interest and I have a very part-time job with the same non-profit.

I don't know if this will result in a planning job (unlikely, since I have no driver's license) or exactly where I am going with this, so I didn't really want to get into the details because, in some sense, it is currently a failed dream. But I felt the basic model of "have epiphany, then do some research to flesh it out" might be a useful thought for some people.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship

I think I only have my passions in life because I don't have to spend all day doing them in an environment that isn't conducive. I really enjoy coding but I have had jobs that make it a chore and not fun.

I also really love learning Chinese!

For me it's commit to th unknown if you have 1percent of interest and if you could do that job without any motivation that's your job. If not then move ahead to another until you click. Keep repeating .

  The belief that interests arrive fully formed and must simply be “found” can lead people to limit their pursuit of new fields and give up when they encounter challenges, according to a new Stanford study.

  Mantras like “find your passion” carry hidden implications, the researchers say. They imply that once an interest resonates, pursuing it will be easy. But, the research found that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes it more likely people will surrender their newfound interest.

I love cars.. so I went where the money was in order to afford my taste in cars. You win some, you lose some.. :)

Here's my tiny secret I use in my mind to try a lot of new things with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm (without feeling like I'm getting beat down)...

I think of my life like a series of lit candles. I actually visualize it as such.

Each candle represents a project, a way to make money. When a candle dies or the flame goes out, it means I got bored of that project, it didn't make money, it failed, whatever.

The goal of my life is to have several lit candles at once, and not only that, but a better and better FALLBACK.

A fallback in my terms is basically "if EVERYTHING else fails, you will have THAT thing as something that makes you happy/will carry you the rest of your life". It's basically something you have already achieved, or have, or ONE HUNDRED percent certain you can get it if you don't currently have it.

The point of a fallback is that it lets you focus on something, giving it your 100%, without that nagging feeling like you're "wasting time" or FOMO. You can fully commit to it, and just enjoy it for what it is, without a fear of failure (because why should you care if it fails, you can always do X, your fallback)

When I was 22, my fallback was "I can at least learn real estate, which isn't that fun, but I can make money and I can backpack around the world on a shoestring budget"

insert more projects, more success, more freelancing... all driven by the limitless energy stemming from the fact that the 'worst case scenario' wasn't actually so bad.

When I was 25, dozens more lit candles, dozens more burn out, my fallback was "at least I can do freelancing for $20/hr for the rest of my life and have true freedom to do whatever I want"

When I was 28-29, my fallback was "at least I can make $230K+/year coding, working for someone else, but still making an awesome living and traveling"

When I was 30, my fallback was "at least I can make companies in a weekend and just make money from all my side projects, and potentially try to hit a winner to retire, and if I don't hit it soon I can always go back to working"

When I was 33, my fallback was "at least I have the relationships with my network that I aggressively spent time building to build at least one 50-100 million dollar business... at least I have about 20 very successful people wanting me to build stuff/start companies with me and any one of them could be a winner.. and if EVERY ONE ELSE FAILS I can always get a job and travel"

That's where I'm at right now. Each fallback increases over time, just keep replacing candles with more candles and let others burn out.

I probably have gone through 500 candles... some burn for years before they go out, others burn for a day. I have over 100 private repos on my GitHub of (fully-written) projects, 90% of them bombed. I've met an insane amount of awesome people in the process, and have learned a lot. The companies I built that are successful are now are doing well, including one in the alexa top 50.

All of this came from a boy sitting in a room of my friend who graduated from harvard saying "you should learn programming" and me thinking "Im just an art student, I'm way too dumb for that"

So programming / business / companies is one passion.

For my other passions, guitar, drawing, painting, biking... those don't come EXTREMELY naturally to me, except drawing, but I have drawn since I was a kid and it just 'makes sense'. Just because I'm really good at it (fairly early on) however doesn't mean I don't struggle with the resistance to doing it every day. Sometimes I look at people who are obsessed on instagram and can just paint or draw for 10 hours a day... and wish I had that. I suppose in that sense coding is my most crazed obsession, I can program for 15 hours a day fairly effortlessly. But other hobbies I have to work for it.

Over time I've discovered several interests that probably meet the criteria of being passions. They wax and wane, and I find I usually burn really hot on them initially, go through a cooling off period, and come back eventually after having taken a break with something else. The frequency with which I come back tends to mark how big a passion it is for me.

A few examples of how I came across them:

- Photography -

Started working at a company where photography is front and center in everything I do. Started there with no real skills or gear, am currently several years in, have a DSLR, several lenses, am comfortable with Lightroom and Photoshop, understand photography technique, and am actually proud of some of my work. With the responsibilities of life eating up my time, these days I focus more on mobile device photography, and on taking fewer, better photos.

- Espresso -

Was introduced to this by someone at work who helped train me and guide me through getting gear. Got a home machine thinking it would be an easy way to get my espresso fix at home and realized how deep and nuanced the world of espresso is. Turns out, it tends to be a good match for data nerds who spend their day optimizing things. I've now built several spreadsheets modeling things like my savings over time, brew ratios, etc.

- Role-playing Games -

Lucked into randomly discovering where the Gygax family would meet to play D&D with their friends, and started playing every weekend with them in high school. Something about being with people who are at the "top of the game" (no pun intended), deeply passionate about it, and welcoming to newcomers likely made it easier for me to get immersed.

- Cooking -

Got sick of microwaved meals in college by week two. Discovered asian super markets a few blocks away, got some cookbooks and some gear, and started learning how to cook authentic asian cuisines. Then started reading up through Julia Childs "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," lived with a couple other passionate foodies, and never looked back.

If I had to pick out a few common threads between these, it would probably be that they had mechanisms for giving direct, and fairly immediate feedback, room to optimize so I could see tangible gains from my efforts, and that I was exposed to others who were similarly passionate, and often more experienced. This last bit is critical I think as it let my passion continue growing without being dampened by others around me not having as much interest in them. Ie. when you start geeking out about something and someone is clearly getting bored, that lessens my excitement. On the flip side, when they start geeking out too, we start building on each other's excitement, and it reinforces the enjoyment I get from the passion.

In terms of discovering new passions, it tends to be somewhat random, but now I'm actively on the lookout having discovered a few so far. Shockingly, Reddit has been useful for helping gauge where I'm mildly interested, or potentially on the verge of finding a passion. When something catches my interest, I browse the main subreddit for it, and if I find I'm losing hours of time consuming everything there, that's a fairly good indicator.

Another thing that is somewhat obvious only in hindsight, is to ask others about their passions. There's so many random things to discover in the world, and when someone shares their passion, you get a glimpse beyond "the thing" into what gets them to geek out over it. Often times it may not be the thing itself, but a trait of the thing (ie. process optimization coupled with caffeine addiction for espresso).

Hope that helps!

Do you do any analog photography? That's how I got into the hobby and I love it, and a lot of my friends who used to shoot on DSLRs got tired of them and switched to analog for the quirks and simplicity.

Also, check out the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat if you haven't already. It's not a cookbook per se, more of a technique and cooking theory book, but it really changed the way I approach cooking most dishes.

I do not--it is cool stuff, but I don't have the time or patience for it.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I've heard of that one before. I have a giant molecular gastronomy cookbook that's also fascinating, but I'm finding these days my culinary adventures are more geared towards finding solutions to cook good food in bulk with easy cleanup and reheating.

By failing at all my other passions.

Follow your passions

You don't find/choose your passions. Your passions choose you. As early as 6 and as late as 13 - as far as I know. If you ask such a question, you don't have any passion in particular and my suggestion is "you might want to keep going the career/job route". A passion is a calling, you don't "find" callings.

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