Passion, for many of us, is an unscratched itch.

We think about it. We deny it. We’re always looking for it. We obsess over it. We admire others for pursuing it. But no matter how we try … it always feels just beyond our grasp.

We all have our excuses for not making the leap. Before I get into some common reasons, I’d like to share a bit of the story that lead to me finally scratch that insatiable itch.

Before starting Dabble, I worked at a large architecture firm as an urban planner. In the back of my mind I knew that I was unfulfilled. I was searching for something more meaningful, something I could throw my weight into, something that wouldn’t fling me on the couch at the end of a 10 hr workday craving nothing more than to numb my brain with a beer or an hour of reality TV.

My problem with my job wasn’t that I was underpaid or not appreciated for my work. The problem was I didn’t care deeply (um — at all) about what I was doing.

It wasn’t always this way. The first year in the working world was great. I was learning. I was naive. I was dropped fresh out of college into this formal world where clients needed things on time, business trips were had, people actually paid me money (!?!) and I spent most of my time absorbed in observation of this strangeness.

But then I woke up one day and saw that this new world was not what I signed up for. I saw that my life was great ON PAPER. That the shroud of a successful ‘career’ was something feeding my ego, but not my soul. It’s not that I didn’t work hard or that I expected success on a platter – it’s just that I didn’t find anything worth fighting for.

I think most people would have been surprised at discovering my discontent. In my work I was confident, upward moving, capable, ambitious. All the things most people would equate with success. Of course, all of this would be fine if I wasn’t, well, miserable.

And though I’d finally admitted to myself that I was unhappy, I still stayed for a while. TOO LONG. And then one day I realized the excuses that I was using to convince myself to stay were just that. Excuses. Which brings me to the 5 biggest lies that I told myself (and that you might be telling yourself, too) that kept me from pursuing my passion:

1) I’m comfortable right now.

I make enough money. I have good friends. I do fun things. Do I really need to add something else or make a change? If you’re not fulfilled, yes. Typically the things that make you passionate are outside your comfort zone and daily routine. They aren’t easy. They take hard work and a leap of faith. They might not work out just the way you hoped. At the end of the day, you need to decide whether stability and predictability are the best guiding lights for your life.

2) I’m just too busy. I don’t have enough money. I’ll wait until …

The stars will never align and the conditions will never be perfect for you to start pursuing your passion. When you finally have enough money, you’ll decide you should maybe have a bit more. “Maybe next month” turns into “maybe next year”. Think of these excuses as problems to solve, not barriers that are insurmountable. Life is short – and it can end anytime. If it’s important enough to you, make it happen. Period.

3) My friends and family might be right.

When you talk to the people around you about your passion, they might be excited – but they are also more likely to be tentative. Your mom thinks about all the bad things that could happen. Your friends love you the way you are. It’s important to listen to your gut when deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to make the leap. The truth is that your family and friends might not be the right people to support that crazy ambitious (thus “unsafe”) side of you.

4) It’s got to be all or nothing. I’m not ready.

Whether it be finding a new job or deciding you’re going to pursue your lifelong dream to play in a band, you don’t have to do it all at once and you don’t have to be an expert. Start small. Take one step at a time.  Go get a book, do research online, take a class, talk to folks that do what you’re passionate about and ask how they got there. You don’t need to make big moves in order to make an impact on your life.

5) I don’t know exactly what I’m passionate about.

It’s a tough place to be, for sure. But it shouldn’t be an excuse to be complacent. If anything, this should be your excuse to go out and try / do as much as humanly possible. You never know what might light a spark and lead you to find your true passion or calling. But doing the same things and talking to the same people are surefire ways NOT to find what you’re passionate about.

At the end of the day, I realized that life was too short not to go for it.

I quit my job in urban planning and started consulting with startups because I discovered quite randomly that it was something I was passionate about. My safety net was the knowledge that I could always go back to what I was doing when I was unhappy. Also – I surrounded myself with mentors, books, articles and blogs that celebrated living the life you’ve always wanted (see the end of this post for links to some of my favorites).

A seemingly random sequence of events lead me to meet my co-founder Erin, for us to have the idea for Dabble and to enjoy the passion we have in our work today. I couldn’t replicate it if I tried. But I do know that if I didn’t admit that I was unfulfilled and make the leap, I could never be in the place I am today.

I don’t know what will make me happy in the long term, or what my ultimate passion may be. But I do know that if i don’t try to go after it on a daily basis, it won’t be dropped on my doorstep. I want to end with one of my favorite quotes (plucked from my intro to philosophy class in college):

“We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? Be strong and of a good courage. Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. … If death ends all, we cannot meet death better” – James Fitz

What path is most treacherous in your life? I believe uncertain paths have their risks, but that a life without passion might not be worth climbing for. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Some Inspiring Reading:

How to Be Creative by Hugh McLeod

4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (warning: this guy has a seriously large ego, but good light-a-fire-under-your-ass reading)


Jess is the co-founder of Dabble. She lives in Denver Colorado and spends her weekends playing frisbee golf, hitting the slopes on her snowboard, taking cool Dabble classes and loving her job.

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