Why Passion Can Feel Like a Burden

In this essay I’m going to share a bit of my struggles with my so-called “gifts.”  A lot of us yearn to pursue our passion, yet it comes at a bit of price, it turns out.  What is it, and are you willing to pay it?

I once had a co-worker who told me that she loves to write.

Naturally, I told her that I’d love to read what she wrote.

But her reply was like this: “I don’t let anyone read it. It’s too important to me.”

The Burden of Gifts

Often, when I share that I am a musician and that I play the guitar, people say things like this: Oh, I have no musical talent. I don’t have any talents.

I do accept and am grateful for my gifts. However, I didn’t always feel that way. When I was little, I thought my musical talent was worthless — as all the kids good at music were girls. Boys were supposed to be good at sports! I wished I could run faster, kick the ball harder, or climb trees higher. There were probably 1 boy playing the piano to every 20 girls.

All that changed when I was a teenager and discovered rock music. Soon I started playing the guitar.

Talent, meet passion.

I still didn’t feel gifted or anything, but I loved what I was doing. I wrote my first song when I was 18. I enthusiastically played my song to everyone with ears to listen, thinking that they would love it as much as I did.

To my great surprise, this was not always the case. Most people didn’t openly say that they hated it, but I could pickup awkwardness or insincerity in their response. They didn’t like it.

I was devastated.

Soon I became more careful about who to show my precious jewels that are my songs. I just couldn’t stand the rejection, the disappointment. And who am I to say my songs are good, when so many others don’t agree? Maybe my songs aren’t so good.

Talents, gifts, passions. These are qualities people admire — but some may not realize how such things can be a burden and a source of fear. To use it involves a risk — of being rejected.  Of being wrong.

But to not use it is also a risk. Of not being fulfilled. And of regretting.

Persistence Pays Off

Even after those initial stings, I kept on writing songs and sharing it. I simply felt too passionate about what I was doing not to do so otherwise. The sting of rejection never goes away completely, but I got used to it. But some days, I wished if my passion was something less risky, something easier to pursue.

Fortunately, I did find people who liked what I was doing. My craft also got more realized, to a point where people could see goodness in it.

I can’t begin to describe the ecstasy I feel every time someone buys my CD or leaves a glowing review. But the best part is that the person who bought it is very excited and grateful, too.

The gratifying part of sharing is that both the giver and receiver feel grateful. One act of sharing makes two people happy. I can’t think of anything better to happen.

Yet this is only possible because I licked my early wounds, gathered my courage and kept on sharing.

The Courageous Choice

Allow me to state the obvious here. What good is the greatest song in the world, the very best novel in the world, if it stayed inside head?

No good. No good at all.

By choosing to spare your fragile heart the chance to get hurt, you’re also locking up a great potential, an opportunity to make the greatest contribution in your life. For the best things we can create in life are those that we create with passion. Consider it this way: the scarier it is to share, the more power your creation contains within. No, I’m not saying your first piece will be a blockbuster. But the art you create with your passion — whether it’s blogging, poetry, painting, photography, pottery, figure skating — its overall potential for impact can be measured by the depth of your passion. However precise, advanced or well-executed, an art without heart cannot touch other hearts. It is what you pour into it that can reach out and touch others.

Some others, of course, and that is the scary part. Nobody is spared from the sting of rejection. Not everyone loves Beethoven, Shakespere, or every song by the Beatles. The more passionate you are about what you’re doing, the greater the potential of hurt also.

Yet, you must take those chances. As hard as it may be, that is the only way if you plan to live a life without regret.

Speak of being a burden! Is it a happy life when you have passion so great that it forces you to do it, even when the world appears to disagree?

But this is what I believe: if you create with passion, refine it with passion, get better passionately — your contribution will be well-received eventually. By someone, somewhere, and they may not be where you think they are. It may surprise you how many, and how deeply your offering will reach.

Your job is to surrender yourself to your passion. And travel the world to find people whose needs you can meet with that passion of yours.

They are out there. And connecting with them will bring you joy you never thought possible. You really owe it to yourself to seek this reward.

I know it’s scary, I know it can hurt terribly. But when you persist until you connect those dots, your passion and people who needs your passion —

The world will thank you.

You will thank you.

37 Comments

  1. “if you create with passion, refine it with passion, get better passionately — your contribution will be well-received eventually.”

    I’m only hoping that this is true. You have really touched on something that I’m personally (again) trying to avoid.

    I think with any passion whether that be music, art, poetry, work, blogging, when we decide to pursue that passion, passionately, we look way off into the distance at the results that WE want and expect. We get it into our head that if it’s not at least 1000 times bigger, then we have failed. That’s setting goals for the passion that are just way to advanced, especially just starting. I almost fell into that.

    When I started blogging at The Ever-Changing Thought, it was hard not to look to far into the future with hopes and dreams. My desire was to reach those who needed me. Help as many as my words could reach. Becoming a public speaker, spinning off of my blog, about alcoholism. Filling auditoriums with my voice. That was my initial picture. But I quickly had to subdue that, into, just writing in the now. Setting my goal, my purpose, to something billions of times smaller. But still hoping, and letting the passion take me where it may.

    I’ve a few loyal readers, and if I gained no more, it’s still a success to me. I’m passionate about it, I love writing about it, and others enjoy it as well.

    And so far, my speaking crowd is small, but its a start. Just a group at my church that I get the occasion to share my struggles and hopefully keep them from doing the same.

    I’ll stop rambling now.

    You are spot on again! Great article.

    Scott´s last blog post..Where Did That Come From

    1. Hey Scott,

      Thanks, and thanks for sharing your personal feelings.

      I can relate to what you’re saying, for sure. I’m one to dream too big and then get crushed by it. 🙁 For someone like us, I recommend this article:

      Path over Destination: A Little Known Secret to Satisfying Life

      And I have a whole series of articles based on that idea.

      Also, consider this: there are two reasons why the output of your passion may not be making impacts it ought to be.

      1) Your craft is not mature enough
      2) You haven’t found your audience

      First, be sure that you’re passionate about the act of blogging and not the end result of what you think it’ll bring. I can see that you have a great vision — there’s nothing wrong with that, in itself. But as you discovered, it can be demoralizing to get ahead of yourself.

      Second, work passionately on your craft, to where you can look at your own blog post and go “Yeah, that’s a great piece of work.” And be proud to show it to anyone.

      After that, then the task is simply to find people who have the need for it, and respond to it.

      It sounds simple if you break it down like that, though each of those tasks are great challenges in itself. But if you’re truly passionate, it will carry you through.

      Keep going, Scott! If you can beat alcoholism, then you can certainly do these things. I believe in you.

      ari

      1. I TOTALLY agree with your 2 reasons listed, and I may add another, that being I haven’t truly found my “voice” yet. I understand that with “maturity” my voice will be known, but that’s for another post. I feel really passionate, but it may, and I hope that it’s not, it may just be a “new love”. I’ll let that roll off my back as well. I’m really enjoying this. And passionate?…I think so.

        Thanks for believing!

        Scott´s last blog post..My First Shot at Being Guest Poster

        1. Scott,

          Yes, I do think that finding your voice is a part of maturing your craft — and it will come to you, if you remain persistent, passionate, and self-aware. But if it doesn’t turn out to be your true calling, time will tell you that, also. A phase cannot be sustained forever — you ought to stop and move on if you no longer feel passionate about it.

          Occasional breaks from your pursuits just to reflect and see how you’d feel away from it is a good thing. If it’s not for you, you won’t miss it — you’ll feel relieved. If it’s for you, the thirst for it will eventually come back, even if you got too deep into it and get burned out. That can happen with even the best of things.

          Now Scott, don’t get me wrong — I think it’s terrific that you have high aspirations. So many people restrain their ambitions. It’s like they have huge wings but don’t know how to spread them fully.

          You just have to be easy on yourself on the path, that’s all. 😉

          ari

  2. I hate getting rejected. I think that may be part of why I don’t like opening comments. I don’t want people to say or hint that they didn’t like it. And, I just don’t like dealing with some comments….

    1. Hi O5 —

      Welcome to OBV! It’s a pleasure to have you here.

      Rejection sure stings — but rejections are more about rejectors than rejectee, while the reason it stings says more about where you are vulnerable. It sounds like you had some painful experience with comments.

      Well, you’ve given me an idea about a future post. I’ll be thinking about how I overcame my fear of rejections. I’ll let you know when I put together a post about it. 😉

      Keep in touch! I look forward to getting to know you.

      ari

  3. Pingback: The Other Blog and Mentoring | Aries9 Official Blog

  4. Hey Ari,
    It’s not that my experiences with comments were painful, it’s just that I’m rather sensitive. And sometimes it helps me continue creating when I’m not concerned people are going to critique everything I do.

    1. Hi O5,

      I consider myself very sensitive as well, so I can relate to how being exposed to other people’s feelings (especially when they are directed at you) can feel taxing and distracting. I, too, enjoy creating by putting myself in a safe, scared space, protected from energies of the external world.

      It’s not that I don’t love other people and their contribution — but when I am creating, I need to hear just my own voice.

      ari

    1. Kathy,

      You’re welcome. It’s a cliche to say “with great power comes great responsibility” but I always felt that people who do take the risks of sharing their passionate creations aren’t recognized enough for their courage. People think that because they are doing what they want, it’s easy for them. And that’s far from truth.

      ari

    1. Hi Sean,

      It is quite uncomfortable initially, but once your passion hits a target where it gives you back positive energy, it really strengthens the fire. This is the best kind of synergy there is — people sharing their passions and people responding passionately to it.

      ari

    1. Hi Jannie,

      Thanks! Indeed, I think the courage that was required by these “talented” or “gifted” people cannot be overlooked. They weren’t masters in the beginning, and it’s their persistence that eventually led to their fruits.

      ari

  5. “Success is the result of initial frustration followed by perseverance.” I love that quote from Jannie

    I’m so thankful for the passion I have now. Some days it can be burdensome, but without it I’d be insane for sure.

    Even more burdensome to the soul is when you’re passionate about something and don’t have talent for it. That was my experience one time (well, maybe it still is true) and the hardest pain event for me to process once I learned how to process pain events. It even ranked higher than my parent’s divorce. I had a huge passion for something and pursued it heavily. I wanted so bad to be really good at it and succeed at it, but the truth was that the natural talent wasn’t there (No, it wasn’t art, in case you remember me saying I’m an artist). It hurt so bad to see myself failing at something I loved so much. It may have been that really I just needed more education and training. I know I needed more and I desperately wanted to get it, but because of the large amount of money required to get the training, it wasn’t possible at the time. But, even at that I’m not sure the talent is really in me. It was difficult for sure. Maybe I could try and pick it up later in life. I don’t know, but not now anyway. I have come a LONG way as far as processing this, but somehow after reading this post and some of the comments I was able to have even more closure about it. Could I have ever lived with myself if I had not tried it? Probably not. I do have other talents. And something great has come from it. And I wouldn’t be doing what I’m so passionate about now if I had succeeded at it. Well, now you know my weakness (or sort of anyway). (When I was having a hard time processing it earlier I just told myself that one day I would have it fully processed. And as I’ve worked to master the right attitudes and skills well, it has come.)

    Thank you Ari, for what you do here.

    By the way, I had to pull up your songs I had downloaded when I read this post. They really are good. You DO have talent.

    Jennifer´s last blog post..Have You Told Yourself this Lie?

    1. Jennifer,

      Believe it or not, what you are describing about the object of your unrequited passion is what I feared about my music, pretty much all my adult life — until this last year or so. All along, I’ve been afraid to hit a wall somewhere, something that makes me realize that this is not what I’m supposed to be doing, that I am not good enough.

      It’s still not 100% gone, even though putting together my debut album really helped me overcome the final big hump about that fear. That’s a tale I plan to tell in near future.

      Yes, part of the burden of passion is that you could be wrong. And it’s the most horrible realization — as you desire it so strongly, you invest so much of you, that when you come to realize what you were after really wasn’t you after all — it can be devastating. It really makes you question everything you believe in.

      But yet, I also believe that your passion is never completely wrong — a wise friend of mine once said “often, you start out going straight north, but you end up northwest.” Meaning, your passion gets you going on a path, but your true destination may end up being close to, though not quite, the original thing you were after. Along the path you discover greater opportunities, greater compatibility with who you are — and if you’re flexible enough to accept that, you’ll be happier with where you end up.

      It sounds like that’s sort of what happened to you, am I correct? It is sort of true for me, as I never really envisioned creating this crazy business that combines blogging, music and mentoring — yet it’s so much more “me” than just simply being a rock guitarist. 😉

      ari

  6. Great post. I am putting my passion for teaching and my new business out to the public at the same time. I have a booth at the state science teachers conference in a week and will teach a class using my canyon. I hope my nervousness doesn’t get in the way of my passion for teaching in innovative ways so that the audience will not be impressed with the canyon. It will be our first big event since the canyon was delivered. This could lead to a lot of business. SO I really want to open the door to my passion that day instead of limiting myself due to stress.

    1. Laurie,

      Preparations and rehearsals can help with that fear, I’m sure you know that. I can relate, though — I’m terrified every time I get up in front of people and sing!

      Hopefully, though, what will happen is that once you’re up there teaching your class, you’ll feel the surge of energy and excitement and you’ll find that you’re not afraid any more. It’s usually the anticipation that’s more terrifying than the actual thing.

      Go break a leg! 😉

      ari

  7. I totally understand the idea of you passion seeming like a burden. Growing up I always felt like my talent for writing was absolutely worthless. I still feel that way sometimes, but he feeling not as frequent or strong.

    Like you, my husband is a musician trying to sell his CD on CD Baby. He often says that his passion for music feels like a burden because he feels like most people don’t get his music. I think he’s a genius, but I’m biased.

    Following your passion isn’t always the easy road. In fact, usually it isn’t the easy road, but the struggle of doing so will be worth it in the end.

    Lovelyn´s last blog post..Keeping a Journal

    1. Hey Lovelyn,

      Yes, it feels like a burden because you like something and you believe you’re good at it, so you don’t feel satisfied with life unless that piece of you is fully engaged.

      The points I shared with Scott above is relevant, I think, to you and your husband. The world is ALWAYS in need of inputs created out of passion — so you have to nurture your crafts and then find people who need what you need. It’s impossible for you to be alone in the universe — if you’re creating something that works for yourself, then there has to be others who agree with you.

      ari

    1. Hi Tammy,

      Yes, I think it’s worth it. Or rather, I think the alternative is unacceptable. Life of ignoring/suppressing your passion is sure to lead to life of regrets.

      It’s hard either way, so gotta cast your die on the side where you have a chance of winning.

      ari

  8. What a wonderful post! It really hit home with me.

    I have been quite a rebel in my life. I was always mediocre, in my family. They never thought I was worth much (I was depressed a lot I guess). So I never really looked outside for any confirmation – I just followed my heart and did not really ever care what the world thought about me. And I am glad I did that ….

    I am especially seeing the dark days of childhood today, I guess :). But the struggle to follow our passions is mostly lonely ….but it is important to hang on and like you say, both the world and we will be happy we stuck with our love and passions.

    maya@thinkmaya´s last blog post..Embracing our cultural identities at work and in life can only be good for us

    1. Hey Maya,

      Thanks! Yes, I think it can feel very lonely to pursue your own desires — because nobody else is asking you to. You don’t get the satisfaction and approval of meeting someone else’s needs. Well, you can meet others’ needs with what you create out of your passion, but perhaps not the people you want.

      But hopefully by sharing your outputs and journeys, others who resonate with what you’re doing gather around you, and take away that loneliness.

      ari

  9. Ari – this is a brilliant post. And so true- we shouldn’t allow fear of rejection to stop us from sharing our work. As you say, what’s the use of creating something wonderful if we don’t share it with anyone.

    1. Hi Cath,

      Well, I wanted to highlight that it takes a lot of courage to pursue and share our passionate creations. It’s like handing your baby to a stranger you don’t know if you can trust. But as with everything else, risks are the ones with potential for greater rewards.

      ari

  10. Hi Ari,

    Growing up, I did terribly in school–I barely graduated from high school (I graduated 427th out of a class of 442 (not too good!). I know now that I had Attention Deficit Disorder but when I was growing up, that was not recognized or treated.

    After I entered recovery, I took several occupational tests and they told me I should go to college–that I would excel if I went! I thought their tests were wrong but I decided to go and it was there that I developed a deep passion for learning. And what surprised me so much was that I excelled at school. Of course, I had traveled such a long journey since the time when I was a child and had done poorly at school–I had gone through therapy, which helped me gain enormous insight into myself–and I also recognized that I learned differently than others did and knew how to optimize my learning abilities. I ended up graduating from college with highest honors (81st out of a class of over 5,000!). I was accepted to every graduate school I applied to. I found my passion (finally) and embraced it.

    Now, I try to tell my own students to follow their heart and whatever they believe they can do–they CAN do if they believe in themselves. One of my favorite saying is, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!). So venture away!

    Another great post, Ari–

    Melinda

    Melinda´s last blog post..Forgiveness and Making Amends

    1. Hey Melinda,

      Wow, that’s quite an inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it.

      Was it scary to return to school, when your memory with it was so poor? I do hear of people who blossom later in academic careers, though — like you said, people learn in different ways, so those that didn’t do well with one-size-fits-all education of early years can still find their ways to success when they’re given more room to pursue in their own styles.

      You are such a shining example of healing and growth. Thanks for hanging out at my blog. 😉

      ari

      1. Ari–it was so difficult–and I have to say, I have never been more fearful at any time of my life as I was when I walked into that first college class. In fact, I almost walked out! But something inside me made me stay. I worked so hard in school–nothing came easy. Some of my friends were people who could just take a mimimum of notes and not even read the text and get ‘A’s–but my ‘A’s were always the result of inspiration and perspiration (and mostly perspiration!). I worked harder than I had ever worked at anything–I wanted so much to succeed.

        Melinda

        Melinda´s last blog post..Forgiveness and Making Amends

        1. Melinda,

          I imagine it was scary! But look at you — you earned a PhD and now you’re teaching students. What an inspirational story. It also demonstrates that where our passion lies is not necessarily what comes easy to us. Great challenges can pull out the best in us, and overcoming them can really build our character.

          Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

          ari

  11. Hi Ari,

    You know something? I love writing, I write because I have ink on my veins. And yet I feel I have not written anything if nobody has read it. To me art is always some form of communication, a creative work done by author and reader, musician and listener, painter and watcher and so on…

    Miguel de Luis´s last blog post..Oliver Twist lives! (part 1)

    1. Miguel,

      Welcome to OBV! Agreed — art is about communicating, and it takes two, doesn’t it? Some creators get so engrossed in their creations that they become isolated and defensive, but the only way their creations can reach their potential is when they are set free in the world. It can be scary, but on the other side of it are the rewards.

      ari

  12. This post made me think about those of us who had to dig deeper to identify the talents around our passions. I’ve always counted you guys with artistic or musical talent as really blessed because your passion surfaced early when there are so many of us who didn’t have a clue. Or at least it seemed like we didn’t have obvious talents growing up. So I guess the burden can work both ways.

    “The world will thank you. You will thank you.” Beautifully put!

    Indeed we will and so will you.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work´s last blog post..Do It Your Way

    1. Hi Tom,

      Yes, that’s part of the point I was trying to illustrate — identifying our gifts and passions are surely steps in the right direction, but it still takes courage from there to actually move forward and pursue it. The more you have time to internalize your passions, dreams and hopes, the more you hurt when they are tested and challenged in the real world. It can be taxing and draining — yet, once you see that you have missions in life, you just can’t live happily without pursuing it.

      Fulfillment comes through surrendering to your passion. But surrendering is never easy.

      ari

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