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Why you should start a passion project (even if you have a day job)

Think about this: When was the last time you worked on a project outside of work or school or whatever's required of you?

Maybe it's a project that you've been thinking and dreaming of doing for quite some time now - an idea you've scribbled in a page on your notebook and labeled 'Someday'. Maybe it's something that really pushed you to do something you've never done before, and helped you grow your creativity and skill set. Or maybe it's a side project that actually feels fun and freeing and meaningful.

When was the last time you did something like that?

 

"But... I haven't found my passion yet"

People always think they need to find what they're passionate about FIRST, so that they can start a passion project. So the to-do list usually goes like this:

  1. Think about, reflect on, and find my passion.
  2. Do something with that passion: a project, event, business, etc.

I beg to differ. It's actually the reverse.

It's THROUGH trying passion projects out, that you actually get closer and closer to clarity about what it truly is that lights you up and makes you feel like you're doing meaningful work.

So, the to-do list should go like this:

  1. Try many things, attend workshops, start mini passion projects, follow what interests you, and create, create, create.
  2. Through all these activities, your passion and purpose becomes clearer and clearer everyday.

 

Wait, what exactly are passion projects? Here are some examples

There are no real rules here, but basically, passion projects are activities, things, self-given assignments/projects that you do or create for the primary reason that you love and enjoy it. It is something that is NOT required for work, can be either profitable (only if you want to!) or totally just for fun, and something you do completely on your own terms.

Passion projects, to me, are about being so immensely interested in something, that you pursue it just for the sake of satiating your fascination.

Side projects or passion projects can range far and wide:

  • An ice cream + care package delivery service for your best friends
  • A website that gives you a random puppy GIF every morning
  • A web comic about Harry Potter x Hamilton x Game of Thrones
  • Knitting dog sweaters
  • Organizing a recycling station in your neighborhood
  • Learning how to make iPhone apps
  • Creating a Facebook community that connects Korean drama fans all over the world
  • Learning a new language

 

The incredible benefits of passion projects

Some of the examples above sound complicated, challenging, or some sound downright silly.

But -- all of them bring out other big skills in you: leadership skills, people skills, creativity, a learner's mindset, project management, or even an entrepreneurial side you didn't know existed!

These big skills can grow you in your current career (it makes you a better leader), or can develop into a new one (it can lead to an awesome career change, or an entrepreneurial leap).

But even if those things don't happen, side projects are just these fun opportunities to boost your motivation, get you inspired again, learn new things, experiment, exercise more creative freedom (outside of your boss' orders or clients' requests), and meet new people. This re-energizing effect can carry over to other parts of your life, in the best of ways.

A great passion project can also become the beacon of light that gets you through rough days in your job, or tight spots in your life.

Lately, I've really been reflecting on how I grew my career to what it is now, because I pushed myself to ALWAYS have a passion project (or two) going on. (Except for when I had my quarter life crisis...)

But because of this practice, many doors have been opened for me, and windows, too. And some doors? I just went and built them for myself.

This is something I recently posted on my Facebook wall:

 

Twitter Chat: I asked my community about side projects, and they answered

Last Wednesday, I did a second test run of #BraverGoalsChat on Twitter, and it was a really fun way to connect with the community and exchange thoughts & ideas about a focused topic. I tweeted out questions, and you shared your answers & interacted with other chatters -- super simple!

Last week's topic? You guessed it: Passion Projects.

I'm SO awe-struck by the fact that you came out, participated, and even formed new friendships with other readers! I loved tweeting back to your insights, asking more personal questions to some people, and giving advice. You ladies (and 2 guys!) are awesome.

Here is one of the questions I tweeted out last week, and some of the responses. There are more where these came from: you can check out the rest of the conversation on the #BraverGoalsChat hashtag.

(PS. Our next Twitter chat is on Thursday, June 9, 8:00PM, and we will be talking about 'how to overcome overthinking & analysis-paralysis' -- would love to know your thoughts on this. Set your alarms! Hope to see you on my feed.)

 

Don't let excuses hold you back

For many of us, over time, we gradually become comfortable and complacent in our jobs, our skills, our lives -- and we start to settle into this plateau of growth.

Before we know it, our lives become completely devoid of projects that are fun, new, meaningful, challenging: fun little side projects that push us to experiment and be more creative.

So if you have an idea for a side project, stop overthinking about it, stop procrastinating about starting. Get excited about it, make time for it, and do the work. It's as simple as this: Be deeply interested in something -- run with it, then create something out of it.

It may not earn you a bazillion, or it may not be totally new or groundbreaking or mind-blowing.

But keep creating,
keep trying new things,
keep challenging yourself.

Perhaps one day, one of your passion projects can bring you to that Eureka! moment that will change your life forever. Or maybe - just maybe - it might even help you change someone's life for the better.

At the very least, you will have done work that lights you up. Very few people get to experience that in their lifetime.

 

I'll leave you with some other insights I tweeted out during last week's #BraverGoalsChat. Don't forget, the next one is happening on June 9, Thursday, 8:00PM, Manila time.