“Follow your passion.”
One of the simplest, most powerful phrases that we’ll ever hear. Also, one of the most overused and unfulfilled. And the source of a lot of contradiction and confusion. Because here’s the thing: it actually IS that simple. But, it’s NOT that easy.
Making the decision to follow your passion — whatever it is — is actually one of the hardest choices you can make. It’s one of the toughest paths you can take. Because there’s always a price to pay. You have to sacrifice and struggle and suffer before you succeed. Most people stop before they get to where they want to go because they have no idea what they’ll have to go through to get there.
So, after learning the hard way during my seven years on this journey, I’ve found five hidden truths that we ALL must encounter on the path toward our passions. Five truths that you have to be willing and able to accept. Five truths that require both toughness and stamina; resilience and humility. Five truths that demand intense personal shifts and intentional emotional shields that you have no idea about before making that initial leap. Depending on how far you want to go, and how big you want to build, they may vary in length, depth, and force. But rest assured, you’ll come face to face with all five of these along the way.
1. You will be both hero and villain.
Savior and scoundrel. A well-intentioned yet oft-misfiring marksman, who is adored for your accuracy and abhorred for your stance. You will be loved and hated, many times for the same thing, often times by the same people. The crowds will be thick at the beginning, and thinnest when you want them most. People will admire your ambition but grow tired of your pursuit. Your fire will ignite many, and burn many. Your passion will be polarizing. And as you become more locked in and focused, you will be less alike, less liked and less likable… This is the first and hardest truth you must accept.
2. You will lose more than you win.
You will always hate losing, but you’ll begin to appreciate the lesson. And while many you meet will look at your losses as a stench or a stain, the fruits of failure will become an unscented fragrance that only the rightfully initiated — from their own stumbles and falls – can distinguish. Your fellow “losers” will speak your same language. They will nod with empathy and smile with understanding. They will say “keep going.” And with each loss – if you listen and watch and feel – you’ll get better. More in tune. The irony of failure is that when you study it and evolve from it, your confidence actually grows from it. Defeat has the power to transform into belief. And that kind of belief is strong. Nothing fake, fragile or superficial. That kind of belief – weathered by close calls, rooted in near misses, and anchored by faith – runs deep.
3. You will get your ass kicked.
Like really seriously kicked. You have to be willing to get hit by below the belt. You have to see through swollen eyes. And through it all, you can’t settle for being a defensive fighter. YOU have to push the tempo and bring the action. Constantly moving forward. Jabs become a way of life. The thud of fist to face becomes your soundtrack. And every once in a while, you won’t see that left hook coming. The puncher will have nice words or pleasant hands or a pretty face. Those are the hits that hurt the most. You may not be the best boxer. You may not have perfect technique. Others may, rightfully, question your skill. But after awhile, not many people will want to get into the ring with you. Because you’ll have nothing to lose. Because you’ll be fighting for something greater. Because quit has never been part of your conversation. You will become the undefeated, undisputed champion at scraping yourself up off the mat. You get knocked down, but never out. You will be beaten and battered and bruised… but not broken. You are resilient. You are relentless.
4. You will have fewer friends.
Your followers may grow, but your true friend count will shrink. Your inner circle will lose its waistline. The team will get smaller, and tighter before anything great happens. The masses will flood out the back door and the fans will drip down the drain. Some will evacuate your sagging ship, tired of the storm. Some spot dry land and swim to sunnier shores. Others you will push off… Some of the ones you shove away don’t deserve to be there; they don’t work hard enough and the spoils are for those with blisters on their hands and grime on their feet. Some you didn’t want to lose but you shook them loose in the fast and the frenzy. And some, you do wrong. You force them to walk the plank. You will push too hard and appreciate too little. Those will be your biggest regrets. Those will be your only regrets. They are the hardest lessons. Those are the ones that change you. Those are the parts of you that needed to change.
5. You will become a different animal.
You’ve always been strong and smart and ambitious. You’ve felt like a caged lion for years. But when you broke free of the bars, you realized that “prison” had a king-sized bed. And granite countertops. And DirectTV. Now you’re loose in the wild, fending your own survival. So you have to become something more. Lion shifts to tiger. More isolated, less vocal. More vicious when provoked. You don’t pause for the jackals and hyenas around you; all they do is talk. You stare down the wolves; you are tougher than they are. You smell the rats, even in their suits and corner offices… And as you roam with intention and purpose, as the elements become harsher and the prey becomes more scarce; as the sounds of the jungle begin to paint funny pictures in your mind; you will have to transform again. Just before the snakes slither onto your Path, you will have to lose your feet, and grow your wings. Not a bluebird or an eagle. Damn sure not a dove. No unicorn with billion dollar stripes. No… You are a different type of mythical creature. Your wings are long and sharp and edgy. Your flight is terrifyingly beautiful. You are respected. You are loved. You are feared. You breathe fire. You are what most dream they could be… You are a dragon.
The Path seems perfect before your first step. A thousand steps later, it is as ugly as it is beautiful. It is the best of times and the worst of times. It falls both short and long of your great expectations. And through it all, you become something different. The harsh realities and naked truths build you into something better. A better leader, a better learner, a better giver. Your skin beaten into submission, but your soul unwilling to settle. The contrasts are incredible. And, when the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns another page, you will look back at the journey and say, “Damn… I did it. And all of it – every last bit – was worth it.” And that, my friends, is the greatest of grateful feelings.
Wherever you are on your Path…. KEEP GOING.