The Pressure of Passion


This post is in podcast form and written, choose how you like to soak it in! Tell me what you think! PS My wordpress theme is giving me some fits with typing up posts! If it’s hard to read I apologize! 

Passion, schmassion.

My husband recently sent me this article titled Screw Finding Your Passion.  I am not a big proponent of typing curse words out on the internet, but it is a good read.

In it he mentions that people email him all the time about what they should do with their lives.

He says he just cannot help people find their passion. I think  probably because the word passion is just sort of a stupid (sorry, I mean overused) word at this point. It is overused and misused and we have come to associate it with unbridled obsession.

I went to Mind Share at Rhode Island School of Design   this weekend and got to hear at Lindsay Degen discuss her knitting. I would say I got to hear her discuss her collaborations, her fashion line or her baby fashion line (super adorable and crazy creative) but what she stated VERY clearly was that she loved knitting. She broke down what the four stitches  that make up her life meant to her and where those stitches might take her-she even concluded about a form of medical heart mesh being innovated that is…wait for it…knitted.

The reality is, there are very few “passionate about the knitted stitch people” in the world and yet we compare ourselves to that level of obsession all the time. We want to ask ourselves, what do I LOVE so much that  I could create it in sculpture, in fashion, on babies and even on heart patients. For most of us, that is an unrealistic question and that doesn’t mean we don’t have passions or meaning.

If we could break down the question that we ask our children when they are about to pick a major for school into, “What are you interested in?” It might take the pressure off. Passion is a big and often elusive word.

We can best ask the question about interests or passions effectively when we have exposed ourselves to a myriad of interests.

I meet so many people that say, I am  passionate about surface design, when a couple years ago they didn’t even know what surface design  meant.   People are not  necessarily  passionate about the end product.  Surface design is  designing  the  surface of a product.  I have stumped quite  few artists when I challenge them to look around their house to see what they have purchased that has surface design -patterns-on it. They answer is almost always very little to none.

When you  “dissect”  what you are interested in,  the answers come.  Do you love patterns on things or creating patterns? Are you creating patterns because you are possibly  holding yourself back from creating something else? Are you simply thrilled that you learned to put something in repeat?

I think you need to look deeper  and ask yourself some questions.

What you are spending money on? What websites do you land on  all the time? What books do you buy? What could you do in your sleep -or even when you are cranky?

I might ask myself these questions about my own interests:

Am I more excited about dressing for an  event or night out than the actual  event? Will I always encourage people even without a podcast (Yes, I told at  least 6  of the speakers yesterday that I liked their talks and their work. I knew they would need to hear it)

Do I get happy when I see someone make an effort to dress?  Does great art excite me? What aspect of travel am I truly interested in? And just how many book on illustration or fashion illustration do I own? A LOT.

Do you flip things, fix things, read constantly, learn all the time, get frustrated when you see a business missing opportunities? Who do you bond with right away? What sort of things bring back good childhood memories for you? What do you own a lot of? What special interests stories do you never tire of hearing?

Here are some thing I could (and have) explored:

If I say, I am a shopper and like fashion, that’s too simple. Possibly I like ‘retail.’ Am I interested in the bottom line of what actually sells or the experience a brick and mortar store? Do I like figuring out what  prompts  me to buy something? Possibly I like the idea of building an experience in a world that has been created. Hit any exclusive brand stores to know what I mean, anything from Nike to Disney to Kate Spade.  If I like travel or to experience cultures, I know myself well enough to know I  specifically like European cultures.

Are all those interests going to be a career, no. I am not even sure ANY of them should be, but there are clues about who  I might want as clients, what sort of products I could develop, what sort of companies to work for or  what I should build from scratch and what type of people I want to be around.

So another part of the “interests” or passion puzzle that might need to be unearthed is, what type of people do you NEED in your life? And go beyond saying something basic like “creative people” or “athletic people.”

Here is interesting example:

I have a girlfriend who is working with a group of professionals that she really doesn’t like. She is setting out to help them and possibly change the industry but FIRST she has to sell them on her ideas. She has to sell her products to people she doesn’t enjoy. Bummer.  Honestly, I think she is really into being a MOM, but in her mind it is simply not an acceptable thing to completely embrace. Are you possibly not admitting what you really are interested in because of social pressure?

DO you admire people who keep their word  to themselves and to others? Are you amazed at people who can turn any project into a gold mine? Are you amazed with people who always seem to be innovating? Do you like  people who dedicate long hours to their craft?

Do you admire people with singular focus or people who can juggle? Do people seeking spirituality fascinate you? How about people who are always helping other people?

When  I  answered these questions straight up, without guilt about the right or wrong answers, I surprised myself!

I become a lot more confident in what I liked and how to mold my passions (the first round anyway) when I created Smart Creative Style, it really helped sort out WHY I liked what I liked.

The word PASSION may have been tossed around in our vocabulary to the extreme, after all, it look great in a quote. It shouldn’t be dismissed by any means, simply reframed so we can fall in love with what we love all over again.


  • Thanks, Monica. I love the way your approach knocks the stuffing out of comparison.

  • Josephine says:

    LOVE this Monica! In addition – it seems like there is a huge assumption that there is one perfect answer for each of us and we need to figure out what that one answer is. We spend hours and hours and soul search and spend money, etc trying to figure out our one “calling” (combination of passions). When in reality – there can be a handful of “callings” that we could be happy and successful in. In addition – even when stretched out over time, throughout a career, we are learning and growing and living our current calling. I think you hit the nail on the head that we owe it to ourselves to figure out who we are and what we are drawn to. That we need to be constantly aware of what we want and where we want to go throughout the years. And then we just need to DO IT instead of chewing on it for years and years, afraid to take steps. Then we need to head out on our path the best we can, knowing that our life is a journey which is ever evolving – and give ourselves grace in the process.

    • Monica Lee says:

      Thank you Josephine! I agree with you!! Do it instead of chew it!

    • Cherish Flieder says:

      I think you are right Josephine. We are multi-faceted, creative humans. It’s really silly to think that all of us will be able to boil down our passion to just one singular thing and that’s what we are going to do for the rest of our lives. I admire those who can do that, but I know that’s not how I am wired and I’m totally ok with that. It’s a joy to be able to try out different things over the course of time and we all need to give ourselves permission to change, experiment and grow instead of trying to figure it all out on the front-end.

  • Susan Drawbaugh says:

    What an insightful article, Monica! And so eloquently said. It really got me to thinking. Thank you … and your husband???.

  • Michelle Schneider says:

    Oh my gosh, I love this topic. It’s so fascinating to me why people (myself included) often ignore the very thing we enjoy doing the most. We write it off, exactly like the article said, as if it could never make us any money. My husband says that very thing all the time. He’ll have a brilliant business idea and then talk himself out of it. He finally had an idea the other day that truly aligned his love/passion with his work ethic, but, I can sense that he’s afraid to try. Why is it so hard to pursue your passion?? Am I crazy for thinking I could do it all along???

    I caught myself doing this just a few weeks ago. I was avoiding drawing certain things in a certain style because I thought “it’s not for my business and therefore has no purpose.” Then, I started drawing/painting that thing anyways and realized that it made me SO HAPPY. And I felt stupid for not just doing it sooner!

    I’d love to hear more on this topic! Like, why are we afraid to do the very thing we enjoy doing the most?

    • Monica Lee says:

      Yes! Why is what comes with ease less valued to us? It’s almost as if we think we are not ‘working” hard enough other people won’t value it. Maybe it is out puritan ethics!

      • Michelle Schneider says:

        Oh I do that all time. Just totally ignore the things that come easy to me thinking that my job has to be hard to be valuable. Crazy! It’s been so enlightening for me to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and to follow along with conversations you have with your guests. I feel like it’s given me a sense of freedom to explore my own “big magic” without getting tripped up by wrong thinking, trends, other people’s opinions, etc.

  • susan says:

    This is terrific, Monica, and so, so true! I’ve grappled for years with fitting what I’m passionate about into a business model and it’s been tough. Recently I had an inspiration (unrelated to what I consider my passions) and ran with it and developed it into a business (or at least, the start of one). What’s remarkable to me is that on this new path, I can see how the business elements fit together and it feels so much more effortless to me and I’m having a much, much easier time executing in service of building a business, which I could never claim when I was pursuing my passions as a business. It was a revelation that hit me like a ton of bricks, and one I’m grateful for. Thanks, as always, for your sharing your very insightful wisdom with us!

  • Cherish Flieder says:

    I admire your passion for helping smart creative women to find their passions. <3

  • Valeria Cis says:

    Si lo vas a hacer, que sea con pasión! If you're going to do it, do it with passion!

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