02 Feb How Passion Projects Transformed My Work (And Can Do the same for you)

When you got into your profession, I bet it was partially because there was some aspect of the work that really tapped into your personal motivators.  You were excited to be able to harness your skills, talents and interests.  But over time, the passion may have lessened, which can lead you to feel burned out.

I’ve been there.

How to counteract the natural dulling of your passion

This year I celebrate 19 years of performing magic. When I first became enchanted by magic’s charms, I never imagined that it would become my profession.  It was just a cool hobby that I poured myself into.  Over the years, that hobby morphed into a full-time entertainment career, then evolved into my current work as a speaker and facilitator. Even though magic still plays a central role in my presentations and workshops, to be honest, some of my initial passion for the art has diminished.

Last year I visited Toronto’s Harry Potter-inspired bar, The Lockhart, and spent the evening entertaining some of the patrons.

The Lockhart is a great little bar that attracts a hip young crowd. I had a grand time performing in a non-work situation. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the joy of doing magic in a no-pressure situation. I wasn’t being paid, I was just doing it for my own enjoyment. I had missed the joys of simply sharing a few moments of pure wonder with good people.

Since then I’ve started performing at The Lockhart twice a month, which has had some interesting and powerful side-effects. It gives me something to look forward to that’s just pure fun. It raises my mental state and adds to my ever-growing gratitude list. I call it my ‘mental health gig.’ Lastly, I’ve found that this passion project gives me more energy and enthusiasm for everything else in my business.

My friend, the brilliant painter Julie Davison-Smith has a great metaphor: “You have to keep the butter warm.” If left in the fridge, a slab of cold butter will destroy your toast when you try to spread it.  However, if you keep your butter warm, it’s much easier to spread and leads to better results.
It’s a perfect metaphor for our passions.

We start out fascinated and engrossed with an activity.  Over time, (especially if it becomes our profession) it can get ‘cold’, making it more difficult to stay connected to what initially attracted us in the first place. We risk losing the passion and ending up just going through the motions.

But we can ‘keep the butter warm’ on an ongoing basis by adopting a Passion Project. It can be any activity that helps tap into your original attraction to the topic, helping to sustain our passion, enthusiasm and energy for our daily work.

Passions projects aren’t for the money

There is no purpose for a passion project besides your enjoyment. It should give you energy, engage your curiosity and make you feel more balanced when you spend time doing it.

I like making gifts for people. A few years ago, I made a cigar box guitar for my talented friend Devon Sproule that turned out so beautifully, people said I should make more and sell them.

I knew from previous experience that money can suck the life out of a passion. Selling my projects doesn’t motivate me – in fact, the very idea of it makes me feel burned out.

The same thing happened when I made a carving knife for a friend. I really enjoyed the process of building it and was very gratified when I gave it to him. I thought that I’d make more, but since I didn’t have any other friends who wanted one, I simply lost the motivation.

I realized it wasn’t the project itself that I’m passionate about, it is the act of making a gift for a friend with my own two hands. Don’t get me wrong – I do love the process. I enjoy collecting the materials, learning the necessary skills and then crafting the item. However, the secret to a successful passion project is the need within myself that it fulfills – appreciation and recognition.

These are some of the same things that drive me in my work. As the baby of the family with three older sisters, I thrive on approval and affirmation (it’s no wonder I make my living as a speaker and magician!) But like all things, when you do them every day, you can lose sight of what’s important.

How to find the perfect passion project

Passion projects bring back the wonder and joy, allowing you to appreciate those same qualities in your work.

Passion projects are not about what you are doing, it’s about how you feel when you are doing them. Projects should meet the following criteria:

  • You feel curious and creative about it.
  • You are allowed to tap into your core values and motivations.
  • You want to spend time doing it and learn more.
  • You feel energized during and after engaging with it.
  • You do it just to enjoy it, it’s not necessarily about results.

So what’s your next passion project going to be?  Share in the comments below or email me at .

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  • Pam Hall
    Posted at 14:41h, 06 February Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Dan. Recognizing that we have to do things we are interested in for simply creative enjoyment helps to keep us from “shoulding” on ourselves. “I should turn this passion in to a money maker” “I should spend my time only on being productive” Thank you for the reminder to allow ourselves the space to fill the passion tank!

    • Dan
      Posted at 15:27h, 06 February Reply

      Thanks Pam! I love the idea of a “passion tank’! Yes, I certainly need to prevent running on empty. 🙂

  • Ursula Erasmus
    Posted at 08:45h, 07 February Reply

    Dan thanks for the great reminder that passion is important; and for me, passion is at the heart of learning. I think that we should be able to build into our regular work ‘passion breaks’. I think we can also find the space for passion work while at work.

    • Dan
      Posted at 15:47h, 07 February Reply

      “Passion Breaks!” So great! Thanks Ursula.

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