12/02/13 | OOO

5 Things I Have Learned About Living Your Passion

Five lessons learned from interviewing and learning from people who are doing work they love. 

By Jessica Semaan (Founder, www.thepassion.co

Four years ago, I packed my entire life into two suitcases and flew to America for the first time, ever. My career was on a golden track. I had graduated from a great college back home in Lebanon, snatched a top notch strategy consultant job and landed an even better next step: admission to two top MBA programs.

A few weeks in, I found myself alone and depressed in my dorm room, far away from my comfort zone struggling to answer the question, “Why did I come to Stanford?” The truth is I was miserable all along. I was working toward someone else’s dream, a dream I did not love. That’s when I began a journey to not only find and live my passion, but help others do the same.

I have spent the past two years researching and building, interviewing and learning from people who are doing work they love and in turn, developing a method to help more of us succeed at living more meaningful lives. Five themes keep coming up.

Start Small

Most people living their passions got there gradually and incrementally. It usually started as an “after 6 p.m. project” while they maintained their day job on the side. In fact, when you start dabbling into your interests, you may discover other passions – or even realize that what you are doing is not what you actually want to do. Pivoting is very common, but the secret is to start doing.

Practice Your Fears

Afraid of rejection? Lack of structure? Uncertainty? Practice it. We found that the secret to successfully transitioning to doing what you love is to build a thick skin. Michelle, who left her banking job to write, had a fear that she wouldn’t know what to do first morning off the real job. So she prepared herself by creating structure: for example outlining the book she wanted to write.

Create Your Own Board

Support is a necessary part of pursuing your passions. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and want to help you. I have seen those who have chosen a “board of supporters” to be the most successful. Pick three or four people: an expert in the space you are interested in, two people pursuing similar passions and a close friend who knows you well and you can reach out to them throughout the process. Most importantly be sure you are on this board too, supporting yourself throughout the journey.


Doing work you love can oftentimes mean less money in the bank in the short to medium term. Be prepared to simplify your life. Think cooking at home with friends over expensive dinners; buy one less new outfit. I found that this part of the experience is the most gratifying: it pushes you to become resourceful and creative and you realize that the pleasures of life are rarely related to money.

Be Patient

They say do what you love and the rest will follow. I say do what you love with persistence and the rest will follow. When you’re following your passions, unexpected doors will open to you. With more clarity, you are more likely to spot opportunities that will lead to your success. Just keep believing, especially in moments when you feel stuck, overwhelmed or don’t see tangible results. While it was hard for JJ to maintain his work on his interactive clothing line on the side, his persistence led him to eventually make enough sales to launch a line and quit his job.

A palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets and put her findings into a book called “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.” The #1 regret of the dying was: “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself and instead lived the life that others expected of me”

Don’t wait till your deathbed to live the life that you want and do work you love. Start small and start now.

What is one small step you can take towards one of your passions today? If you are unsure about your passion, what is one interest you have that you can test out on the side?

profileAbout the guest blogger: Jessica Semaan is the founder of www.thepassion.co. Their introductory workshop series provides the tools and community to help you connect and live your passions. The Passion CO.’s blog www.passionstori.es is a collection of stories and photography of people living their passions. 



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