Being passionate is overrated and you will probably end up being hurt by it.

There are multiple reasons why I say passion is overrated. One of them being its inability to pay bills unless you're one of the lucky ones whose passion can be monetized easily and enough to get you a lifestyle that you aim for.

But that's not what I want to talk about this time. At this moment, I believe that whatever follows in this post applies to the people who have

  • managed to turn what they are passionate about into a job, or
  • become passionate enough about the things they do in their jobs

The work that you want to do involves plenty factors that are not in your hands. There might be technical constraints getting around which will make what you want to do not live up to the standards in your head. But more importantly, most of what you do has people constraints. Other work might be at a higher priority to the people who call the shots. The work wouldn't have enough returns to justify the effort being put into it. There might be something that fits the long-term goals better than what you want to work on. This applies to all the work that you'll end up doing — it includes the work that you're passionate about.

But when you're doing something that you're passionate about and it doesn't pan out the way you wanted it to because of factors out of your control, it hurts particularly bad. These moments will present themselves repeatedly.

Say, for example, hypothetically, you are a frontend engineer and you care about giving the best possible experience to your users. There are a bunch of browsers out there who block some features behind user-permissions for privacy concerns. They also give APIs to ask users for permission to access the feature to progressively enhance your application. You spend quite a bit of time looking up details about the API. The documentation was a bit unclear so you go and go and talk to the people that build the browser. Then you test the API to see if the feature it grants works as per your expectations. It does, so you document a plan to incorporate the API into your application so that you users on said browsers get a better experience (remember what you were passionate about?).

But there's always something more important to work on. There are always fires to douse. So the plan that you made never became a priority and you never get time to work on it. Things don't end up working out and you decide to part. Now you have a bunch of free time before your last day at work to finally work on it. And you do. But the people who would be reviewing and testing your pull request would be busy fighting their own fires and you would leave without that feature ever making it to production.

There are people who will respond to this example with, "If you were so passionate about improving the experience using that API, you would have worked on it on your own time." Some years ago, I would have agreed with this. But if I knew then what "working on it on your own time" leads to, I wouldn't have. The harsh reality is when you work on things on your own time because you were passionate about the work, you'll be rewarded with (drumroll) more work! More work to do on your own time, of course.

As a final nail in the coffin, wouldn't it be really nice if someone said you didn't work hard enough to get the feature (that you were so passionate about) to production before you left?

I don't know yet how to solve the problem of getting hurt for being unable to do work you're really passionate about due to circumstances not under your control. Until I do, I'm going to be passionate with a high dose of caution. Not a fan of burning out.

While you're still here, look at these two reddit posts that I came across this week that prompted me to not procrastinate writing this anymore.

  1. YSK: A company has NO memory when it comes to you working extra hours, weekends or going the "extra mile"
    Why YSK: Working long weekends, late evenings and doing jobs above and beyond your remit could help your promotion prospects and make you stand out as a solid, reliable team player BUT when the cost cutting starts, a family tragedy occurs, or a new management figure is introduced it can all count for nothing, so its best to make sure
    • People especially HR and your immediate superiors are aware you are "doing more"
    • You get fairly compensated for the extra time, in wages or in extra time off
  2. LPT: If the company you work for ever has a team meeting and one of the leaders/execs says “If you’re just here for a paycheck, leave”. Leave.
    (too long of a description to fit in this post)