When I quit my high paying banking job, many thought it must be in pursuit of following my passion.
Let’s hang on to that thought for a bit.
Flashback 19xx (in case you thought I’ll let go of my age)
I was born to a very happy family with decent comfort almost throughout my life.
I am the eldest of three daughters my parents are blessed with and talking about perfection we have exactly 13 months of age gap between us. When you hear of three daughters in an Indian family, you pretty much know what parents were waiting for! Thankfully they settled with us and showered us with crazy amount of love and comfort, and ensured us with the best education and a healthy environment they could manage within their means and, sometimes, beyond.
But our upbringing was not alike to each other since my parents were working. As the eldest, I had no choice but to be responsible for my younger siblings in the absence of our parents, even before I properly understood what responsibility meant. I grew mature before time, counselling and coaching my sisters and soon the world around me for their career, relationship, and life issues. By the time I reached my teens, I even sat between my parents to settle their differences sometimes.
Well, I must confess that I loved that part of me – that little smile I could bring to their face, that gratitude I saw in their eyes, and that purpose I felt within. Every time I was involved in something like this or family or friends, time flew by and I lost track of everything else around. Not knowing what passion meant, leave alone identifying this as one, I just wished I could keep playing this role in people’s lives in some way or another.
Back then, I didn’t seek for anything extraordinary from life cause the ordinary was ‘safe’ to follow. So when you follow the ordinary, you do whatever everyone else around you does and not think too much about what else existed. In my growing days, what everybody did, was either medicine or engineering. Randomly choosing one devil over another, I wrote a few engineering exams only to fail at them, feeling miserable about myself and doubtful about my intelligence.
Dealing with that inferiority dropped me into the next best option of doing honours in Math – as you know by now that it was in our genes.
And what followed next was another ordinary thing – an MBA and then a job with a Bank.
And that’s when it all starts looking REALLY perfect.
When you tell anyone that you are a banker, they assume that you only talk in dollars and millions and will probably earn a million-dollar sometime soon, if not already there.
Does it sound cool? Yes, perfect.
Well, at that time, Passion wasn’t much discussed. No, I don’t belong to stone age; I am talking about the 90’s and early 2000.
When you are a banker, people assume it to be so picture-perfect, especially when you do decently well at your job.
It’s only after I decided to quit, and became an entrepreneur did people have the curiosity and interest to ask me what my passion was.
Well, this question was put up to me just a handful of times in my life till then; you know, in those little transition gaps from 10th to 12th and from 12th to college, and I gave out some unheard of answers like my passion is to travel the world (while I was still figuring the world map) or I want to write a book (when I hated even reading one; back then); but just had to sound nice, you know. Passion means something that sounds nice and makes you look cool. And that was my only understanding of passion.
My business was into kids exhibitions, something I thought I could do well in, and I did. But just as many other times in my life (like with the bank) after achieving considerable success, I wondered if anything about it could excite me anymore.
And that’s when I took shelter under this question: Is it my passion? Well, maybe not.
Around that time, a conversation with my friend actually turned my life’s course towards my real passion.
Complementing me on my great advisory and listening skills, my friend suggested that if I could give some structure to my conversations and invite more people to be a part of it, I could make some difference in their lives.
So I sent out a one-cut invitation to a few friends and 15 showed up for my first ever workshop that I delivered for 4 hours, doubting if anything of what I said was new to them or different from what they probably knew.
To my surprise, not only did they admit to having learnt a few things but some of them also reached out requesting a one-to-one coaching session with me. By the end of that workshop, while I would’ve been exhausted I was, in fact, elated, I was thrilled, I was excited. I felt like I could’ve gone on and on, and I did, till today. It was much later that I created a company and called it Silhouette. It was much later that I checked on the business sense of it.
Having touched over 25000 lives through leadership and etiquette training and done over 600 hours of coaching, grabbed a prestigious certification so I could improve my skills further. I am certain that I did succeed in making some difference to a few lives.
The best part of what I do today is that I never feel tired. And the thoughts come so effortlessly, as if I am gifted with this skill of coaching people. As if when I sit on that chair in front of a client someone else speaks through me. There’ve been times when I‘ve looked back at those conversations and wondered who said that. These are the magical moments I experience almost every day. Well, is that living your passion? I am quite certain now, that it is. Am quite certain that the wish I carried from my childhood finally has some professional acceptance to it. And yes, it also sounds cool.
So why do I believe that following your passion is bad advice?
As you probably realise, I almost stumbled into my passion and I am thankful for that. But what I am more thankful about is not having a real answer to this question earlier in my life, cause if I did, I probably would have pushed myself to make that so-called passion into a reality; to fit it into this perfect life that I thought I should live; to prove myself right and sound cool. I probably wouldn’t have given a chance to my skills, intelligence, and intellect to do fairly well professionally so I could attract and earn enough resources that allowed me to stumble over my passion.
If I would’ve discovered my passion without the resources to support me till it started making ‘business sense’, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to even stumble over it.
So here’s my take away from my life, thus far:
Passion is a feeling and not a job. And just like many other feelings, it can come and go for the same thing or several at a time. There is no age to embrace your passion and also no age to fall out of it.
But we must act responsibly. Our education helps us to learn and identify our skills that shape our career. With that, we prepare ourselves to add value to the world in a way that we could be paid for that contribution. That’s what defines our professional success. And there is nothing ‘uncool’ about it.
As Jim Collins says in his famous book ‘Good to Great’, the hedgehog concept defines our path from Good to Great; which is nothing but an intersection of three criterions – What are you passionate about, what can you be best at, and what will people pay you for.
But if your passion is not intersecting with the other two, then here is the good news. Your passion doesn’t have to be your profession. Just ‘cause you are passionate about dancing, there is no guarantee that you don’t suck at it.
So I invite you all to free yourself and your passion, from this burden of becoming a professional or proving a point. And silently let it breathe and let it enjoy its own freedom and space. You never know, with your professional success, you might just be able to stumble over your real passion and live through it every single day.