In my opinion, you have been given some very terrible advice all your life. And that advice is:
Follow Your Passion
Every time you watch an award show, say its HIP TV Headies Awards, the Grammys or the Oscars, you hear a famous local or international celebrity, trophy in hand, say something like:
“Follow your dreams! Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have what it takes!”
Anytime I hear statements like this, I cringe. Its horrible advice
See, I understand the importance of persistence, and the value of encouragement, but who tells a stranger, someone they probably will never meet not to give up on their dreams, without even knowing what it is they are dreaming about?
It’s quite like posting on Facebook that you’re having stomach pain and people telling you which variant of “Agbo Jedi” you should drink. How do they know it’s not appendicitis or ulcer or just ordinary dysentery?
How can Don Jazzy possibly know where your passion will lead you?
It’s bad advice like this that causes year after year, for tens of thousands of young people to line up to audition to be on Nigerian Idols, Project Fame, Naija Sings and The Voice, with great expectations of “making it”.
Each show probably takes less than 20 of them in, leaving the rest to realize how really bad they are at the skills they thought they had.
But the problem is not even their lack of talent; Nigerian is full of people who can’t sing. The amazing part of it all is their amazing shock at not being considered worthy of being selected.
Let’s be serious here.
If we’re talking about a hobby, let your passion lead you. Indulge in it for as long as you want. You’re doing it for fun anyways so you might as well soak yourself in it, But if we are talking about something you want to make a living out of, the ugly truth is:
Just because you’re passionate about something does not mean you won’t suck at it.
In the same vein, just because you have earned a degree in your chosen field, doesn’t mean you’re going to find your “dream” job.
And you know what the dream job in Nigeria is right? Yeah – it’s working for an oil company.
You must be WILLING to have a flexible mindset and not lock yourself out of the chance to do meaningful work and develop a genuine passion for something else that holds a more realistic promise of making you a living that will fund the kind of life you want to live.
Let me tell you a story.
Growing up, all I wanted to be (most of the time anyway) was to be a writer. I grew up reading General Mamman Vatsa and Cyprian Ekwensi ‘s books. I fell in love with poetry and would spend time crafting the most melodious of them.
I wanted to be a famous poet like Wole Soyinka. I adored him. Read all his books.
Then I started writing mine. I soon had a collection, printed them up and started sending them out to publishers in Ibadan and Lagos.
All I got in response was SILENCE.
Then I thought, “All these Nigerians publishers are dumb. They can’t recognize talent”. So I started sending them to publishers abroad too.
I spent 2000-2003, sending manuscripts to the USA, U.K., and Australia and guess what I got again in response?
Okay, I did get a reply from Poetry.com. They published one of my poems, “How Do I Find?” in an anthology and a promise of giving me $100 as payment.
Let’s just say they forgot to send me the money.
I had to “give myself brain” as we say here and start channeling that passion I had for writing into other areas where I could still write but which held much more promise of paying the bills.
What’s my point? My point is you have done a lot of soul searching and be sure that you’re not stubbornly clinging to some “passion” at the expense of your own progress.
Don’t be the stumbling block standing in the way of your own progress. Be flexible. Change your mind and choose another path when the need arises.
It’s said that only an insane person does one thing over and over non-stop expecting a different result.
You must find the happiness in the path you choose or create it, because again, something I have learned is: your happiness for the work you do has very little to do with the work itself.
For example, I HATE writing marketing copy and materials and doing presentations at prospective client offices. I hate writing pre-sells, emails, and sales letters. I hate writing books.
It’s tedious work, and I’d rather buy a bottle of wine, go to the movies and drink it, but I still do all of that.
You know why?
Because I love the results I get from doing them. Doing enables me to afford a lifestyle I absolutely love – one that allows me to decide to sit at home and do nothing but watch TV all day if I want to.
You know another reason I do them? Because it gives me joy when I see my students tell me things like: “it was because of you Ronald, that I escaped my dreary job,” “God bless you, Ronald, You’re God sent,” and “you’re my mentor. I believe in you.”
One time back in 2009 I think, my mentor Dr Emmanuel Sunny Ojeagbase had the late Mr Isaac Durojaiye (Otunba Ghaddafi) talk to me about setting up his company, DMT Mobile Toilets Limited.
Mr Durojaiye told me how he tried starting a security outfit because that was what he had the passion for as he studied, Criminology and had been late Chief M.K.O Abiola’s personal bodyguard. It didn’t pan out.
But one day while organising the arrangements for Abiola’s first son Kola’s wedding, he had a mobile toilet constructed as the large venue they were using had none.
That gave him the idea.
The first job DMT did was to provide toilets for his friend’s wedding, and when they were going to the canal that night to offload the waste, the tires had a problem.
So Mr Durojaiye came down from the truck, put a wedge, which wasn’t enough to stop the truck from rolling back. It hit a bump, the hose fell off and shit poured out of the truck right into his mouth!
Mr. Durojaiye then said, “You see, when I started this business, I hated shit. Our premises always smelled of shit because we park our trucks there and that’s also why our office is on the outskirts of Lagos) but then I began to prosper. Our fame spread like wildfire. Then one day, I realized it gave me the joy to help event owners, their guests, and ordinary people pack their shit so they can avoid public embarrassment.
I know what shit tastes like and it’s no longer a bad thing to me. It’s now a valuable thing and that’s why I say, ‘Shit business is serious business’. Our company is worth =N=2.5 billion today”.
I have also many other very successful people tell me the same thing.
And what did they do?
They FOLLOWED OPPORTUNITY – not passion – and they prospered as a result.
For example, in our country today, millions of graduates are struggling to submit CVs for a tiny slice of available jobs in an economy in which oil is disappearing as a revenue base meanwhile there are tons of multi-million naira opportunities in agriculture but you see, it’s a “dirty job” no one wants to do.
The problem is clear to see. When people follow their passion, they tend to miss out on all kinds of opportunities they didn’t even know existed.
When you struggle and struggle to make your passion work and it’s not, be open minded enough to try another tactic. Don’t be the Nigerian Idol contestant who will believe his/her passion for singing is enough and who will cry and rave when rejected at one audition, then go apply for yet another singing audition.
You know why I stopped writing poems and focused on non-fiction? A friend told me one day, “You give other people advice that helps them improve their lives but you hardly ever use the same advice to improve yours. They get better, but you remain the same”.
It’s was a solemn moment for me and led me to seek to find out how I could sell what I knew for money.
Of course, I still struggled with the decision because all of the books I was reading were telling me to be “passionate” and “persistent” and to “stay the course”.
But then I reasoned, what’s the use of all that if it didn’t get me the lifestyle I wanted?
You should only “stay the course” if you’re seeing progress and you’re heading in the right direction.
And while passion is too important to be without, be sure to not you follow it around like sheep, rather bring it with you to everything you do.
So I ask you today if you are stubbornly sticking to your passion, is it getting you the lifestyle you want? If not, think again, and adjust.
I will be here to help you all the way.
Credit : Original article written by Sir Ronald Nzimora for Sell Your Brain Society