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Career Advice

Screw Following Your Passion and Do What Hurts Instead



I looked at the clock again.


Fumbling. I logged into email and clicked on the Zoom link and was immediately met with 53 faces who scared the breath outta me.

My assignment was simple: for 30, I’d share my story and provide some tips to help already-tall writers grow in a new field.

If you’ve read anything from me in the past, you’re probably aware I’m not a big fan of groups larger than two. You may have also read that I’m definitely not big into Zoom. Add in the fact that the audience was a group of seriously accomplished people, and it led to the perfect trifecta of me cursing the name of the man who’d invited me to speak.

I couldn’t tell you much about what I said. Once I get started, I have a tendency to blackout. But something interesting happened when the clock struck done. Despite not knowing if I’d done a good job or not, I felt like I’d won.

If you want to find your bliss, follow your blisters

If you asked most people what we should do to get what we want out of life, a lot of them would share the same advice — “Do what you love!” “Focus on your strengths!” And the ever-popular — “Follow your passion!”

This typical clichéd advice may work for some, but it doesn’t for everyone. It certainly didn’t for me.

Early in my career, like a lot of people I know, I beat myself up for not knowing what I wanted and I certainly didn’t have an idea of what truly lit me up besides things I don’t want my mom to read about.

In fact, my career didn’t make sense at all until I stopped trying to find my passion and chose to do what hurt instead.

Growing up, I had a very pronounced stutter. Most people around me thought I was nuts for pursuing a sales job. Some people in the office made it clear I didn’t belong. But a voice deep inside of me said it would be good for me. For the last decade, after leaving that job as a corporate trainer and consistent top producer, I’ve made a decent living as an entrepreneur in the communication world.

The same thing happened with writing. I have ADHD and when I began publishing I hadn’t yet figured out how to turn it into a superpower. But a voice deep inside of me said it would be good for me. Today, four years later, despite every article I write doing my head in, I also make a decent living as a writer and I’m extremely proud of the words I can link together.

In short, while other people I know were trying to find their bliss, I choose the route made famous by career coach Dan Cable and I “followed my blisters” instead. Over time, by doing the work that hurt, I discovered a real passion for challenging myself to get just a little bit better and I found myself eager to get out of bed each day to dominate the very thing that once frustrated me.

Think about how great you feel after you do something that’s hard.

Think about how great you feel when you see just a little bit of progress.

Think about how great you feel when something that once felt unnatural begins to feel a bit more natural.

The best part is you don’t even need to win to receive that sweet feeling of accomplishment.

You just need to try!

And as the blisters you earn begin to fade, they’re replaced with skin that’s tougher, more confident, and more adaptable.

But this doesn’t mean you have to attack your biggest pain points today. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with identifying easier steps that allow you to slowly chip away at them.

For me, rather than going in cold, for two months leading up to my big talk, in addition to recording myself telling stories every day, I also challenged myself to do one podcast interview a week in front of comfortable audiences. In the process, Shelley Prevost, host of the Big Self podcast, told me about a thought from Richard Rohr that let me know that choosing to stretch myself was a smart option —

“I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then, I must watch my reaction to it. I have no other way of spotting both my denied shadow self and my idealized persona.”

There’s something magical about doing what hurts. As Richard implied, it allows you to get a sneak peek into your potential, and, at times, it can even give you a glimpse of the person you’ve always wanted to become but didn’t even know existed.

My talk wasn’t perfect. I got confused in some places and downright blanked in others.

But I’m gonna do it again.

Then again.

I may not make a living as a professional speaker in a few years.

But I will make progress.

I know this because I have the data to prove it.