This is a guest submission from Ron Schaffer from

Actually, this wasn’t intended to be a post at all. Ron sent me an email in response to a post I write a few weeks ago and he took a great deal of time to try to help me answer some of the questions I presented. He clearly is in the “Passion Camp” and has some great insights, so I asked him if I could use the email as a post.

And here it is…


I would like to comment on the excellent article you wrote on Sept. 23, called, “Is Following Your Passion a Terrible Idea?

My answer to the question posed in your headline is an emphatic, ‘NO!’

Not only is it a great idea, it is a must.

Consider what Abraham Maslow concluded after years of research and study. He concluded that, “In order for a person to be happy and fulfilled,” he said, “What a person CAN BE they MUST BE”.

In other words, in order for you to be happy and fulfilled, you MUST realize your full potential. And in order for you to realize your full potential, YOU MUST FOLLOW YOUR PASSION.

Consider this quote by Howard Thurman:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Following Your Passion Makes You Come Alive

A feeling of passion about a subject or topic is a ‘signal’ that you are on the right track. You make so much more progress in life when you are completing tasks that are energized by your passion. It’s the difference between ‘having to do something’ and ‘wanting to do something’.

In the first instance you are constantly ‘swimming upstream’. You are fighting the current and it wears you out. But if you are following your passion, you go so much further and faster, with much more ease, because you are going with the flow.

We have all had moments where we experienced this.

Some of the most successful people we know got there because they were passionate about what they were doing. You need that passion to sustain you through the highs and lows of chasing your dreams.

That is why I believe we should do whatever we can to find and follow our passion. I have a huge sign in my office that says, “Discover which way your heart draws you and choose that way with all your strength.”

Some Clarification is Needed

HOWEVER, that being said, without some clarification problems could arise.

You outlined those problems very well in your article and pointed out that the discussions surrounding this issue brought up even more questions.

Let me address some of the questions that were brought up as well as some of the serious concerns especially by the author you mentioned, Cal Newport, in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

I am going to quote from your article:

“The author Cal Newport’s premise for the book is questioning the often overused catchphrases like “follow your passion” and “do what you love” as it pertains to finding your true calling and/or work that matters.

He dismisses these statements, claiming they are dangerous and lead to chronic unhappiness and failure.”

That is a pretty strong statement.

I am going to change that slightly and offer some suggestions based on my own experience and the experience of others I have coached.

I am going to change that from

  • They are dangerous and lead to chronic unhappiness and failure.


  • They can be dangerous and lead to chronic unhappiness and failure.

There are some subtle differences here that I believe, if understood, can make all the difference.

Can Anyone Monetize Their Passion?

Consider this statement:

“Do what you love and the money will follow.”

That seems to be at the heart of this debate. Can you monetize your passion?

This statement is not absolute. If this ‘premise’ is followed blindly, it very well could lead to chronic unhappiness and failure. But let’s take a deeper look at this.

Money is only going to follow what you love if there is a market for what you love. A large group of people have to see value in what you are going to offer and be willing and able to pay for your offer.

Problems Could Arise

A couple of different problems could arise when someone considers attempting to monetize their passion.

First, if they can’t see a clear path on how to monetize their passion they believe a path doesn’t exist, so they give up or never get started. They lack belief

Too many people lack the belief that they can accomplish great things. So their passions get buried deep inside them and often stays there.

As Thoreau so aptly stated, “Most people lead lives of quiet desperation and go to their graves with their music still in them.” Lack of belief does them in.

So, occasionally, people’s beliefs get in the way of their success. Consider someone who is passionate about puppets (Yes, I said puppets) and would love nothing more than to turn that into a full time income. But because they don’t see a clear path they believe one doesn’t exist.

Then along comes a guy like Jim Henson without limiting beliefs and creates a multi-million dollar empire around the Muppets.

Second, some people focus on their passion and what they want to do without considering if they have anything of value that someone would want to buy. Often it is only a matter of shifting their thinking to match their passion with a marketable product.

Most people do not have any business training and fail to see how they can make their passion marketable.

Keep in mind that people will pay for solutions but not necessarily pay for what you are passionate about.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

You are passionate about meditation but not a lot of people are signing up for your services.

However, people will pay to learn how to lower their blood pressure without medication and improve their health. People will pay to be able to sleep better. Both of which can be accomplished through meditation. Don’t assume people automatically make that connection.

Plus a big part of being profitable is knowing where and how to reach your target audience. So if you are targeting people with high blood pressure or sleeping problems you will be able to find them and create compelling headlines that speak directly to the problem that you can help them solve. Thus making your passion more profitable.

Here’s another example:

Let’s say you are passionate about helping others increase their self-esteem and confidence. You begin selling a program/book about the topic but sales are weak. That’s because you have not identified a clear solution to someone’s problem.

But what if you advertised: “Do you have trouble meeting new people because you are shy? I will teach you how to find your soul mate in less than 3 months”. That is a specific solution to a problem people will pay for. And you are doing the same thing, helping others increase their self-esteem and confidence. Something you are passionate about.

These are just two of many examples that I could give you. The point is, if you want to monetize your passion, you have to ask yourself, what specific problem can you help someone solve? Sometimes it’s just a matter of reframing your passion.

What if Your Passion is in the Arts?

What if you ask yourself the question, “What specific problem can I help someone solve?”… and you don’t have an answer.

Let’s say you are passionate about art. You love painting and that’s all you want to do. Or any other type of artist: A singer, actor, writer, etc.

Sure there are people who make an incredible living doing these things. You feel you can do the same so you take whatever lame job that you can get and attempt to pursue your passion full time.

You know that success is just one lucky break away. But you become increasingly frustrated because you are having a hard time paying your bills and everyone who cares about you is screaming for you to get ‘a real job’. The term ‘starving artist’ is a cliché for a good reason.

For very creative people, the dilemma becomes; they have trouble keeping a decent paying job because they are bored out of their minds. But they can’t make enough with their art to support themselves, let alone a family. Agony ensues.

First I want to say this. Under no circumstances should you give up on your passion. To me, that is the essence of life. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the source of a full time income. We live in a society that requires paying bills and supporting yourself and maybe even a family. So what do you do?

A Possible Solution

Here is advice I have given to several people and it has worked well for them. The problem is not whether or not to give up on pursuing your passion. That should not be an option. The issue should be to create a source of income that you enjoy and that you can sustain, while you continue working on your passion.

With today’s technology I believe almost anyone can start a part time online business based on their interests, skills, knowledge or even passion. And, for very little money.

Do whatever you have to do right now to work and pay the bills. Then learn how to start an online business in your spare time that is based on something you would enjoy. For example; for an artist it might be a form of graphic design, or offering to create a unique line of greeting cards or T-shirts. Something that ties in your love of art. Something that you would enjoy doing.

It might not be your dream, but what if you could build up that part time business to a full time income. Since you will be working from home chances are you are spending less time making the same amount of money, or more, than you could by working for someone else.

And since you have a lot more control of your time you can work on your passion projects easier. Especially if you are a performing artist. You could take a gig in the middle of a weekday, but if you worked for someone else you might not have been able to.

Here is the best part. If you do manage to create a business that you enjoy and gives you more control over your time, and you are working on your passion on the side, very often you enjoy your passion so much more because there is no pressure of having to make a certain amount of money from it.

And what can happen from there is; you begin making more money than you ever dreamed you would from your passion because all resistance was gone and you were doing it for pure joy. And that’s when you and your talents really soar. And that’s how you realize your full potential.

In conclusion, let me summarize:

  • Everyone should discover what makes them come alive and head in that direction as much as possible. Feeling passion and joy in what you do is the stuff that life is made of. Don’t let limiting beliefs hold you back.
  • You do not have to earn a living doing what you are passionate about. You can still live a passionate, joy-filled life. The key is finding or creating a job or business that you enjoy, while enjoying your passion on the side.
  • More people could create a successful business doing something they are passionate about if they reframed their thinking by offering people solutions to specific problems.
  • With today’s technology, almost anyone can start an online business that THEY ENJOY; and, for very little money. One that they could build up part time and would help them earn a full time income doing something they enjoy. Which in turn, would allow them to work on their true passion without the pressure of earning money. Often this leads to unexpected opportunities because they are pursuing their passion without pressure. Which then may lead to; “Do what you love and the money will follow.”


 About Ron

Ron Schaffer is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. His book is called, “Fanning the Ember – creating a life of joy, purpose and abundance.” His passion is helping others realize their full potential.

He also teaches others how to start a profitable online business based on their interests, skills, knowledge or passion. You can learn more about him at as well as download his free 50 page guide and video to learn to start a profitable online business.

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