When you go to your first career-level job interview after baseball, you’ll most likely get asked this question:
“What’s your passion.”
You could say baseball. You wouldn’t be lying.
But, look, unless this is a baseball related job, the interviewer will most likely wonder why you aren’t pursuing a job in baseball—if that’s your passion.
Why are you in this room, with them, right now, if you don’t have a passion for something related to the job you’re applying for? How do they know you’ll stick at the job? How do they know you won’t burn out?
Relax, you say, it’s not that big of a deal.
Maybe. Maybe not.
The world is full of people doing jobs they have no passion for because they need the security and gainful income provided by a job.
No shame in that. No judgment from me.
But you haven’t been one of those people for a long, long time.
Maybe in the off-seasons you did a couple of just-a-job gigs, but you knew they would always end. You knew they were just to support your real passion. Just a little side hustle to tide you over until it was passion season again.
But that won’t be the case this time, will it?
There is no passion season coming up.
So, do you really want to do this job you’re applying for if you don’t have a passion for it? Do you really want to commit to anything until you know what it is that actually matters to you? Do you want to stay for a few months and then bail on them, and jeopardize a recommendation from an employer—it’s not like you have a lot of them to pull from?
Not Just Another Job
I applaud you for bearing down and diving into the job search, but we need to be clear on something: You can find a job.
You found them before and you can find them again.
There are plenty of them out there and most of them are built to serve a short-range purpose. They aren’t great jobs and most employers don’t expect you to stay for long. But they’re jobs.
What you want is bigger than that. Bigger even than a career.
You want something that you can put down roots in and grow to the top of, like what you had.
Something wherein the return on the investment of time counts. Evolves into more. Evolves YOU into more. Translates into more. Wherein you build skills and those skills go with you when you go.
And hey, wouldn’t be nice if you could feel good about it while you did it?
If you could find work that will make you feel fulfilled?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find another pursuit that you were passionate about?
Because you can.
But you need to know what that is—that, job, career, or pursuit—before you start looking at employment listings. Don’t let the listing tell you what you’re interested in, know what you’re interested, in then find a listing to match.
Bottom line: Yes, you could do a lot of things. But what do you want to do?
Do you even know?
Why Passion Matters
If you ask me, passion matters.
It will for you.
It did for me.
It matters because you and I have tasted it in action. We lived it out. We’ve felt it driving us.
We were part of the lucky few able to live a passion and, brother, let me tell ya, there is nothing quite like it.
Basically, we were spoiled.
You might have been able to slide into a just a job-job and stick with it before you knew this passion-propulsion feeling, but, if you take on that kind of job now, you’ll burn out.
You’ll compare the new job to the old, and, as you do, you’ll become more fixated on what you don’t have than on what you do have—and you’ll burn out.
You’ll realize that, no matter how hard you push yourself, there are mechanisms in place that will not allow you to reap the direct benefits of your performance—and you’ll burn out.
You’ll get impatient, competitive, bored—and you’ll burn out.
You’ll realize that your co-workers are satisfied with their just a job arrangement, while you are not. The chasm this creates between the two of you will frustrate you and make you burn out.
Until you re-calibrate your expectations, there are lots of things that can burn you out.
Believe me when I say that the wrong job can be worse than no job at all.
Remember What Made you Passionate
You may have noticed that almost none of the things I listed as burn out inducers are about your qualifications to do the job.
They are about who you are and what you expect working life to be like.
Now, I don’t want to argue about the semantics of the word “passion”. You can call it an inner drive or whatever other terms your generation feels palatable, but, there are pursuits out there that some of us— the brave and/or foolish of us— go after because we simply must in order to satisfy ourselves. It gives us direction, meaning, purpose.
Think about how much time and energy you put into your baseball journey.
Think about how shitty the pay was, how meaningless some of the leagues were, how long the travel, hours, nights, and days were.
Think about how many years you gave it and what it gave you in return.
Think about how much you loved it—even when you hated it.
Think about whether you’d do it again…
Everyone gets tired of work. Everyone feels drained after a long day. Everyone occasionally hates their job and envies someone else.
Passion is the difference.
It allows you to find joy, even when you are deep in the bullshit of a job, grinding it out.
Passion makes a big cost seem small, a long road seam short, a great sacrifice feel worth it.
Passion makes you feel like you have a purpose and, even if it’s just a feeling, I’d rather have it than not.
Given that you’ve spent your life to date connecting purpose to a job, you’re going to miss it badly if you don’t have it.
Planning Your Next Career Move
Okay. Okay. You’ve read all of the above and you’re still feeling a little down about your next move. A little confused. “But, Dirk,” you say, “Every job I look at looks like dog shit compared to pro baseball. If they are all dog shit I’m going to have to eat, why don’t I just pick the one with the best paycheck attached to it?”
Don’t tie on your bib and pinch your nose. Not just yet.
My point isn’t that you’ll never have another passion. It’s that you just don’t know what other passions you might have.
You may be feeling rushed to find one because you feel like you’re losing in the game of life. You may feel rushed to get a job because you need cash flow. You may feel rushed to get back to school and you’re already lining up a loan.
No, seriously. Stop now.
You’re an athlete. If you made it to the pros, you are one of the best in the world. And athletes at your level have this little voice in their head that does not allow them to quit. If you didn’t, you’d have never made it.
You will keep going even if you don’t something because you’re accustomed to living in a world where adversity is a constant.
But what you do for the rest of your life should not be grind it out, bro, grind it out.
You, specifically, are in danger of making a dumb choice and not quitting it, even when it’s clear you should… you kinda have a track record of it.
Instead of hitching your wagon to something you think you’ll like and damning yourself to the above, ask yourself the following questions:
What do you value?
Is it money? Is it freedom? Is it the competition? Is it respect? Creative release? Comfortable routine? Freetime to be lazy, enjoy family, see your kids?
Are you looking at jobs that will provide this value?
Are you looking in the job field that will provide it?
What is the desired outcome for your next endeavor?
If you want money, as much as you can earn, that’s going to narrow the field, help you focus. If you want respect or power, then a title that grants you such things may be in order.
Is it relocation? Work-life integration? Maximum fun?
Do you want to feel like you’re competing, testing yourself?
Do you want freedom or creativity?
You can have more than one, you know. Indeed, you should.
How much do you need to make now?
Right now. In this moment. How much do you need to sustain yourself? Not how much do you want to make because the answer to that will always be more, but how much do you need.
Knowing what you need to make now, to live, to sustain a reasonable quality of life is detrimental. If you know this, you can find a just a job-job to get you through until you figure out your next career/passion move.
Teach baseball lessons. Work construction. Sales. Freelance.
A job is a stepping stone to a career. You may do many jobs in the course of your career. A career is not a job. It’s a pursuit. You should have a passion for a pursuit. When you identify your chosen end goal, think about the fuel that will propel you along this pursuit: think about your passion.
You may even find that the jobs you do while discovering your passion help you discover it.
What makes you feel like you’re living?
Don’t say baseball.
Because, if you’re honest, it was not baseball. It was something about it. After all, not every kid that plays baseball wants to become a pro, right?
Believe it or not, while baseball is a unique job, there are things you can extract from it if you break it down into its parts.
Maybe it was the journey to get to the top. The chance to refine a craft. Being around a team and the dynamics of that. Being on a stage. Working with your body, being physical. The training elements. Seasonal work with travel included. Integrating with other cultures. The nobility of a grind that requires discipline and commitment.
There are other careers out there that offer these elements. Some may offer larger portions than others, but…
What can you replace with a hobby?
Want to keep coaching? Maybe doing so as a volunteer or a high school assistant is the way to go.
Want to keep training? Maybe that’s an itch scratched with a CrossFit membership.
There are things you know you are good at, that you enjoy. Some of those things will fuel your career search. Others will be better served in a hobby form. In fact, a big mistake a lot of people—not just athletes—make is turning something that is/should be a hobby into a life change linchpin. When it breaks, they are discouraged and they no longer enjoy the hobby.
What are your strong suits?
You have more than you think.
Maybe you’re the guy that is just ridiculously good at working out, and weights and training have always just been easy for you.
Maybe you’re bilingual and have been the translator for multiple teammates.
Maybe you’ve always been your team’s peacemaker, problem solver, comforter and interpersonal relations are a gift.
Maybe you’re a natural tech guru.
These are things that are in your wheelhouse, and if you pursue a job in them, you’ll most likely find yourself thriving instead of coming home frustrated, AKA, avoiding burnout.
What compels you?
Tricky question. What do I mean by “compel”?
Well, when you were pursuing your passion, what was eating up your free time. What did you ravenously consume and become an expert on, and why?
DId you write, as I did? Maybe you started designing websites, or learning code. A natural interest that you felt compelled to learn, even though you didn’t know what you wanted to do with it, even when it was frustrating.
Whatever it was, you have a strong gravity to it.
Knowing these things are important because, as I said previously, you can experiment with them in a job format. You can test them. Volunteer in them in exchange for more information.
You may not get paid a lot, but you won’t be paying for them, like if you committed to a college course.
What do you hate?
Super important. Self-explanatory, and super important.
If you hate it, why do it? Why even go near it? There are things you can tolerate, work-through, endure. But things you hate… Come on, dude. This is your chance to shape a future so please don’t let this slip in from day one.
Mapping out Your Next Passion
Put some of this stuff down on paper and read it back to yourself.
What you’ll start to see is many things have a strong overlap. This should give you a better picture of what you value, what you are attracted to, and what you could see yourself investing blood and sweat— and counting it as joy— to pursue.
However, if you don’t. If you’re list is very fragmented, or just not very long, this is a screaming sign that you need to experiment.
Take on a few jobs you think could help you decide on a career. Volunteer. Shadow a friend or professional acquaintance.
Take your time. There really is no rush.
How can I say that? Because finding out why you are doing something is more important than doing something. Even if the art of finding out is just as simple as “I like myself better here.”
There is profound wisdom in that.
Heck, you may realize that your primary reason for doing any kind of work at all is because you just want to cover bills and maximize time with your kids—and maybe you only want to do that until they are in school full time, then do something else.
Perfect, and a great use of your time.
Do you want to miss all that time trying to get certified to become an entry-level thing you don’t even know if you want to do? Money gone. And, more importantly, time you’ll never get back.
A Word of Advice.
There are a lot people out there that got into their careers because they needed a job and, in time, it became their career. Life dictated that they work and so they do.
There is nobility in that. Nobility you don’t fully understand, so don’t act like you do.
They didn’t grow up wanting to do it. They simply did it because they had to.
There is nothing wrong with what they do or how they got there. They’re making their way, just like you are making yours.
However, they will struggle to relate to you, and you to them.
I dare say, they may even be negative and discouraging to you, or worse: they may treat you like this aimless, depressed, drifting you’re doing is your comeuppance for all your time thrill chasing.
Happens to anyone that’s chased a dream. Haters gonna hate.
Not everyone got to do what you’ve done, so not everyone will connect with your situation. When they don’t, understand why. Don’t get angry. Don’t reject them. Don’t build a wall. Don’t defeat them.
And don’t let them defeat you.