For three years I made a solid effort of turning my passion into a business. What I ended up learning can be summarized perfectly by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic:
“I’ve always felt like this is so cruel to your work–to demand a regular paycheck from it… There is no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.”
Before I started my own magazine, I worked as a marketing executive in the tech industry. And though I truly loved my time there, I spent most of it completely consumed by the notion that I should be “following my passion”.
And that that passion should be making me a living.
Chasing financial freedom
For 18 months, I even quit my job in tech in pursuit of that passion. I worked full-time for my magazine and put all my time, money, and energy into it; but in the end it wasn’t enough. We were never profitable, and I was paying money out of my own pocket to keep it afloat.
Overtime, the burden of “trying to make money” completely negated the passion I once felt for it. Every decision I made wasn’t because I wanted to do so, or felt impassioned by it. It was because I need to make money. To provide for myself and my husband.
Podcasts, conferences, and magazines all touted the benefits of “financial freedom”. That I should live in pursuit of the ever-elusive passive income that is the gold standard of any startup. But it wasn’t my reality.
I was broke, and I was putting a lot of unnecessary strain on my husband who had taken on the role of breadwinner while I experimented with entrepreneurship.
And so I made the hard, but necessary, decision to shut down the magazine.
Over the past three months I closed the magazine indefinitely and returned to work as a marketing executive in the tech industry. And it has truly been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
I now have the time and the money to do the things I love, with none of the burden of owning a business. Because of this gift, I was able to afford to spend a month traveling in France with four of my best girlfriends. I signed up for season tickets at the theater, bought a six-month pilates package, and even treated myself to croissant-making classes.
Luxuries that had all been previously put on hold in pursuit of financial freedom.
But more than merely easing the financial burden, the time away allowed me to ask the question, “What would I do if it didn’t have to make money?” And the answer was “I’d have a hobby instead.”
In retrospect, I didn’t want to own a magazine. Part of me wonders if I ever really did. I wanted to write, and direct art projects. But just for fun. Just for me. Not because I needed to make money, or to be an entrepreneur. But because I wanted to.
Today I can see that this was a necessary part of my journey.
Searching for answers
Five years ago, I’d sat at my marketing job and asked myself, “Is this really what I’m passionate about? Am I really passionate about marketing? Am I really passionate about technology?” And those quiet no’s led to years of discontent.
I had to pursue my passion and at the time that wasn’t it. I had to quit my job and become a business owner. I had to spend four months in Ohio to become an “expert” in my field. I had to make passive income so I could travel the world. And my husband had to support me while I did so.
But I’ve since learned something about passion. And that’s that I no longer want to chase it.
What I’ve learned about passion
Passion changes. It’s fleeting. And I’m convinced that if we follow it, we’ll never catch it. So I’ve decided to pursue curiosity instead. As Elizabeth Gilbert once again surmises in her book:
“The stakes of curiosity are far lower then the stakes of passion. Passion makes you get divorced and sell all your possessions and shave your head and move to Nepal. Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you. In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: ‘Is there anything you’re interested in?”‘”
Today I am once again working in technology, but this time I am content with it. I even love it! And it allows me to pursue the curiosities that have made my life richer and more enjoyable as a result. And that, to me, is true financial freedom.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Elle Griffin is the Head of Marketing at EveryoneSocial and a columnist on women in business & how to become a thought leader in your industry. You can learn more about Elle at ellegriffin.com. Connect with @msellegriffin on Twitter.