Mistakes People Make While Following Their Passion

Are these common faux pas standing in the way of you thriving in your passion?


Former Democratic congresswoman and gun advocate Gabrielle Giffords once said, "Pursue your passion and everything else will fall into place. This is not being romantic. This is the highest order of pragmatism." My favorite part of what she said is how going after your passion isn't a romantic notion; that it's not about being caught up in fanciful and unrealistic ideals of what we think living out our passion and purpose should look like.

Actually, if you're truly committed to your passion, in many ways, you're going to take the pragmatic—the practical—approach. In many ways, you're going to do what the Hebrew word for passion means. You're going to cleave to it. You're going to be so engrossed in it, that it literally and daily becomes a part of you. You're going to remain faithful to it—in good and not-so-good times. It's going to be like…breathing.

When I recently read that only 13 percent of Americans are passionate about their jobs, the first thing that came to mind is this is probably because so many other people are not doing what they are truly passionate about (if they even know what that is; bookmark that). The second thing that came to mind is that fact is really sad, because we're designed to do what makes us feel alive, what complements our gifts and talents and what betters us and those around us; not just what pays the bills.

Last fall, New York Times published a piece on how following our passions is truly good for us. In it, a productivity expert by the name of Laura Vanderkam said, "Life just feels better when you have things in your hours that you want to do." Indeed. Problem is, a lot of us are wasting time not making strides in the pursuit of our passion because we're making a lot of popular-yet-totally-overlooked mistakes.

If you're ready to give your all to your passion so that it can reward you for your faithfulness, start by assessing if you're taking the following passion pushback missteps.

Not Being Clear About What Their Passion Is


If there's one thing I'm grateful for when it comes to my childhood, it's that I had a mother who was super in tune with her children's passions. She has said that, as a toddler, I liked to shake newspaper and, as a toddler, my brother liked to bang on pots and pans. Now I'm a writer and he's a musician.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have this same testimony; their parents were more interested in their kids doing what would be more financially lucrative or at least would provide a solid sense of job security (are you "secure" if you're miserable?). As a result, I believe that's why one study said that almost 85 percent of young people aren't pursuing their passion.

Where I'm going with all of this is, when you're not encouraged to figure out what you love, not only do you grow up not really knowing what your passion is but, even once you discover it, you have a really difficult time cultivating ways to make a living from it.

If you have no clue what your passion is in life, a cool read to set you on the path is "The Secret to Finding Your Passion (Hint: It's Not What You Think)". Another thing that can help is creating a vision board full of things that bring you joy and doing some daily journaling. Life is too short to not be doing what makes you come alive. Make that a priority. You won't regret it.

Needing Others’ Approval in Order to Make Moves


People who are close to me (or used to be close to me; you can read between the lines right there) tend to have a love/hate relationship with my writing path. On one hand, many of them dig how candid I tend to be. On the other hand, my rawness can make them uncomfortable.

Take when I wrote my first book, for example. Whenever people ask me what it's about, I usually say that it's my "sexual autobiography" because I'm very open and upfront about many of the experiences that I had. Anyway, while I was penning the book, I had family members who refused to speak to me. I was literally given the ultimatum that either I should stop writing it or not speak to them (kinda like what Nova is going through in Queen Sugar this season, only, my folks knew before the book went to print and I told more of my business than theirs. Nova is straight-up trippin'. Ugh.) I'm a writer and I was born being very "tell it like it is". To concede to them would have been a form of self-betrayal. The book is 15 years old now. You see what I choose to do. I have absolutely no regrets about it either. Not one.

There are a lot of people who were put here to do the unseen (more on that in a sec), but instead, they are quietly doing nothing or following in the path of what's popular, acceptable or safe, all because they are worried about what others will think if they don't. Let me tell you something—my 45 years on this planet has taught me that folks can be fickle, petty and even envious. Don't let their, shoot humanity, hinder you from being a supernatural force in this world.

And yes, following your passion is a type of superpower. Just ask anyone who's done it or is doing it.

Focusing on Making Money More than Making Connections


We all need money. I'm reminded of this every time one of my writing gigs switches up on me and I have to figure something out in order to cover the bills. But if the only reason why you're spending most of your waking hours doing, whatever it is that you're doing, is because you are trying to get that check, you're going to look back someday with a heart full of sorrow and regret.

I recently wrote an article on here about the fact that creatives are willing to make some really strange sacrifices in order to make things happen. Oftentimes, those sacrifices have to do with their coins (or the lack thereof). For us, it's about investing in our passion more than having a lot of cash (a co-sign on this is another article that was published on the site—"Passion Over Paycheck: Why I Quit My Job At 30 To Start Living")—at least, for the time being.

For the church folks reading this, if you follow your passion long enough, you will learn to want God's favor more than man's money. And for everyone, in general, following your passion will also teach you that the right connections are priceless.

Don't make the mistake of chasing a paycheck over undermining the wisdom of "it's not what you know but who you know." Instead of working overtime for cheese, get off of the clock and do some networking in the area of your passion. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Following Blueprints Instead of Blazing Trails


Fear has got a lot of people out here messed up. I say that because, I can't tell you how many times a week that someone will talk to me about a great idea that they have. But instead of following through with it, they chalk it up to being a mere pipe dream because they've never seen it done before. And?!

Passion is fueled by creativity. Being creative means that you are doing something that is truly inspired and original. If you're shuffling your feet when it comes to getting something off of the ground because you've never seen anyone else do it (or do it the way you plan on doing it) before, you are letting your creative energy down. Trailblazing is the kind of hard work that only self-confident, focused and bold people are able to pull off. But trailblazing is also what changes the world.

Don't be so scared to do what your passion is leading you to that you become a follower instead of a leader. That would be tragic. Extremely so.

Relying on Feelings Instead of Faith


Anyone who knows me knows that I am not big on the whole "follow your heart" thing. A definition of heart is emotions and emotions can have you all over the place. Following them can actually cause you to make some pretty illogical and unstable decisions, if you're not careful.

Does that mean that I don't pay attention to my feelings at all? Of course not. I think our feelings can be a barometer or a heads up to pay attention to what's going on within and around us. But when it comes to making serious decisions, I try to exercise faith instead. Faith is like my feelings' parent. It says, "I hear you but we're going do this over here because all you see is the present. I am wise enough to look into the future."

That said, a series that I like to watch on YouTube is BET's I Went Viral. An episode that was memorable for me featured Elijah Conner (the guy who had the stare-down with Diddy on The Four). He's a little on the cocky side, but because he didn't cower at Diddy's rejection, because he did not succumb to what his feelings wanted to do on the show, aside from Elijah's viral meme, all kinds of opportunities have come his way.

According to Elijah, the experience also taught him something that all of us should write on a Post-it note and put up in our bathroom mirror—"One thing I've learned with this whole situation is just like, a lot of times you have to take that criticism and go look in the mirror and say, 'You know what? Thank you for telling me 'no'. Thank you for not giving me a chair.' Because that 'no' really meant NEW OPPORTUNITY." Speak on it, brotha!

Your feelings won't tell you something this revelatory and mature. But your faith? It most definitely will. Follow it instead. It's got big plans for both you and your passion. Maybe not immediately but eventually which brings me to my final point.

Being Impatient with the Process


An author by the name of Shannon L. Alder once said, "Every talent you have is not wasted. It is there because of a reason and God will open that door when the right time comes along to use it." I think this is a great place to conclude this piece because another mistake that people make when it comes to following their passion is that they don't apply patience ("bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like" and "quietly and steadily persevering or diligent, especially in detail or exactness") to the process.

How can you know if you're impatient and not just eager? You're always anxious or stressed out. You make impulsive or snap decisions. You're constantly in a rush—mentally, emotionally and otherwise. You tend to be irritated a lot or get angry easily. You don't know how to rest well. Here's a real good one—when you start something and it doesn't immediately pan out the way you want it to, you up and quit. Over and over and over again.

Sometimes, the things that we want to manifest from our passion don't, simply because we're so busy trying to "make things happen" on our own, that we're flying past the doors—the people, the opportunities, the resources—that God is affording us if we'd just stop and look at/acknowledge them.

Passion doesn't work without patience. If you want to see your passion thrive, don't make this mistake of not letting patience perfect and prepare you for what passion—and the Universe—have in store.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

5 Signs You Are Living Your True Purpose

How To Handle "Purpose Fatigue"

This Former Stylist Quit Her Job To Follow Her Purpose Of Helping Homeless Women On Their Period

This Is How The Founders Of CurlFest Turned Passion Into Profit

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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