Find Your Passion, Name Your Poison

Find Your Passion, Name Your Poison

Is finding your passion paradise, as some would lead you to believe? No, but when you also get to ‘name your poison,’ it comes pretty close.

Take Kelly, for instance. Kelly has chosen to return to being a full-time homemaker. She works hard and loves it, though in her own words it involves grunt work, chaos and politics – as well as some life-and-death moments.

“Dirty bathrooms, children fighting and throwing up, broken appliances, repair people who don’t show, trips to the ER, teacher conferences, weird relatives, fallen souffl√©s,¬†mindless trips to the grocery store, this I understand,” she says. “It’s my passion. My former career involved grunt work, chaos and politics too, but kinds that really annoyed me. No promotion ever made it rewarding. I don’t mind a tantrum from a two-year old, but find it inappropriate in an adult. I like being my own boss and having all the responsibility. I’m happy as a clam taking care of my grandchildren and their home while their parents both work. It suits me. It’s all heart and the most meaningful work there is … to me.”


When Marla talks about the downside of her job – the grunt work, chaos and politics – it’s the same, only different. “Sure I don’t like the expense reports,” she says, “the tension of deadlines, the travel, the meetings, but I don’t mind them that much, and the good points far outweigh the negatives. What I found I couldn’t stand in my last job [with a non-profit] was working with a Board, rigid structure, an all-female office, and all that emotion.”

When we are encouraged to find the work for which we have passion, it’s important that it contain both something we really love to do, that’s engaging and meaningful to us, and for which we have a talent – AND – a downside that doesn’t drive us nuts.


The core of the job must be something that grabs us, and we’re naturally good at – whether it’s raising children, raising wheat, raising money, or raising bottom lines – but the core of the job is not the whole job.


  • The manager at our local Home Depot must figure out what to do with the birds that enter through the nursery and are building nests on shelves, dive bombing customers, and pooping everywhere.
  • The 5-star resort Executive Chef rarely cooks anything. What he does is check nametags, order produce, schedule banquets, plan menus, meet with the press, and avoid overtime for his 25 employees in a still-understaffed kitchen that runs 12-14/7.
  • The coach who decides to start his own practice quickly finds he must spend over half his time marketing.
  • The pathologist looks at slides, yes, and consults with physicians, but he also manages a hospital lab of 250 people.
  • Last time I visited the restaurant Tony owns, he was helping bus tables. Later I saw him heading for the men’s room with a plunger in his hand.


If you find yourself saying, “This isn’t what it was cracked up to be,” sit back and analyze. Is the core of the work something you love? Can you rearrange the downside in any way?

No job or career field will be doing what you love to do 100% of the time, but are you getting to do it most of the time? And are the odd things that come with it tolerable enough? If not, could you make a few tweaks? Change to a smaller or larger office? Hire or fire someone? Find something closer to home or in another state? Refuse to do something, or request to do something?

If you’re very lucky, you’ll find something so natural and enjoyable to you, you’ll talk like Satchel Paige, who said, “I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.”

Or like my friend Kelly who, when I ask her what she did today, replies, “Nothing really.” And if you ask her how she stands the dirty diapers, says, “That’s my GRANDSON,” like you were a crazy person.

If you’re working at something you’re passionate about, all of it becomes seamless – the good and the bad. It becomes what you are, as much as what you do, and it is not what others call “work.” It’s well worth finding and I encourage you to.

Susan Dunn has an M.A. in Clinical Psychology and works a career counselor, corporate trainer, and proficiency coach. She is the author of numerous books and founder of EQ Alive! Coaching School.

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