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Be passionate about your career, not your job

I'm passionate about design, without a doubt. I've thought about it every day for 6 years, since we first met.

But I'm not passionate about my job. This isn't a reflection on my current job. I love it. It's the best job I've ever had. The reason I'm not passionate about my job is that there's a problem with passion.

Passion is good

Passion means you're excited about what you do. If you're passionate about design, there's no limit to your career. You read about design outside of work. You practice design whenever you can. You talk to other designers because you need an outlet for your passion.

If you do these things, you become a better designer. Your career is only for you, so you set the limits of what you can do. You set your own expectations. If you're passionate about your career, you'll set those limits and expectations higher because you'll enjoy reaching them.

Passion is also bad

Where your career has no limits, your job has plenty. Where there's only one stakeholder in your career, there are probably tens of stakeholders in your job.

Every one of these stakeholders is setting their own limits, and they might be just as passionate about them as you are about yours. They might have extremely good reasons to set certain limits and expectations.

Often those stakeholders have more power than you do. They're your manager, or your manager's manager. They're the CEO, or the client who you have to please, because otherwise you don't get any money.

When you're working with limits like this, passion is bad. Passion drives you to want to do better, to spend longer on it, to make sure it's great. Those are all great things for your career, but in your job they tend to crash headlong into the limits set by your stakeholders.

If you're passionate about something you cannot easily change, that passion very soon turns into anger, frustration, or sadness, as you bang your head against a wall and wonder why it's not falling over.

Passion at your job is the easiest way to burn out and consider taking a break from design. It's the easiest way to get into pointless arguments with your manager, or your manager's manager, or the CEO, or the client who's paying you.

Please be passionate

Passion will take you to good places in your career. Be passionate about you, the designer. Be careful about passion at your job. Until you have the power to drive an entire company with your passion, you might find your passion holds you back, more than it helps.

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