Can you find one common point among GitHub, Khan Academy, and Twitter? They all started as passion projects over and above their founders’ respective professions. While GitHub was nothing more than a simple open-source domain, Khan Academy started when its founder, Sal Khan—back then, a hedge-fund analyst—started teaching his cousins online over 10-minute video tutorials. While conventional wisdom dictates we can’t multitask, all the new-age business empires such as Apple, SpaceX, or Meta started as passionate side projects. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant believes that passion projects enrich us in “multidimensional” ways, compared to a “unidirectional” focus on one’s profession. This blog talks about the importance of passion projects, and how—if done right—they can become the driving force for professional success.
What is a Passion Project?
Passion projects are individualized or group projects that allow employees the resources to pursue their areas of interest or things they are passionate about. Moreover, it is a kind of environment where professionals are free to explore diverse interests and hone specific skills. In addition, they can either incorporate side projects into their workday or eventually turn their passion into a major endeavor.
Why Should You Have a Passion Project?
Finding a passion project sets you on a journey to know yourself and discover skills you didn’t know you enjoyed nourishing—slowly carving a niche that takes you to a different path. Now, a passion project may or may not develop into a full-time profession. But, it is as important as navigating the project alongside your job or the career you’ve chosen to pursue.
To Become an Effective Problem Solver
Focusing on passion projects enables you to translate that knowledge and uniqueness of perspective—borne from practicing other skills—into your current domain or profession, enhancing one’s problem-solving skills. For instance, a revolutionary example is that of the Wright Brothers, who incorporated their unique perspective regarding bicycle engineering in the realm of airplane design to help create the world’s first-ever motor-operated airplane.
It Diversifies Your Energy
Allowing our energy to bifurcate into different channels by mentally investing in different projects we love prevents myopic vision. Author of the book “Ego is the Enemy,” Ryan Holiday, talks about how too much passion can make people overconfident and unnecessarily obsessive. Moreover, this is where passion projects play an important role—they help divert creative energy and prevent burnout.
It Enhances Your Ability to Focus
Balancing many interests together hones the brain’s ability to become mindful. But, passion projects are deep investments where all our brain faculties work together to create something meaningful. This habitual investment enhances our ability to focus amid chaos.
It Encourages Your Love for Learning
The best part about passion projects is that you don’t need to monetize them. Moreover, this gives you the autonomy and space to learn anything on your own time. In fact, curiosity and love for learning are the two most productive emotions that develop when you start a serious mental investment in things you genuinely love to do.
It Helps with Emotional Regulation
Even the subjects we are passionate about will have tricky parts that demand deliberate practice. Now, when you complete a task solely because of your interest in it—and not to meet company goals—it nourishes emotional regulation and helps develop grit. Additionally, there are many benefits to going all the way for something and not quitting midway.
It Boosts Your Average Happiness Levels
Setting aside a definite amount of time every day for yourself will eventually reduce your stress levels and bring in a general sense of satisfaction with life—helping you focus on other areas that need attention.
How do Passion Projects Help You Personally and Professionally?
Build a Growth Mindset
Grit, emotional development, and consistency combine to provide a mindset of growth. It is a constant requirement in any domain to face newer challenges and rise above them. How you think about the problems at hand often affects how you learn from them.
Develop Leadership Qualities
Learning anything new requires patience and a lot of self-forgiving. This process slowly breeds the ideas of empathy, forgiveness, and self-discipline—qualities desirable in an aspiring leader. Hence, even if you aren’t in the leadership position of a company, people around you will start getting influenced by these crucial characteristics of personality development.
Explore and Enhance Creativity
The creative spirit from your passion projects will seep into other areas of your life: to communicate better, in your job, to develop a unique, more enriched worldview, etc. And a bonus of creativity is the more you practice it, the more you flex your creative muscles!
Build a Formidable Network
As you continue with your passion projects, you will meet like-minded people sharing the same interests. Social media is a great facilitator for networking with people of multiple interests. Moreover, such connections often lead to memorable collaborations.
What is the Difference Between Passion Projects and Side Hustles?
A passion project’s primary driving force is a love for something and one practice it without an obligation to monetize the passion. Side hustles are jobs that serve as extra sources of income to supplement one’s main profession. While passion projects can become side hustles over time, the opposite isn’t true.
Examples of Passion Projects
Here are some examples of passion projects that one can practice alongside their corporate professions:
- Support a small business or nonprofit organization by consulting: One of the best ways to discover your passion is by joining any non-profit or young business venture where new ideas are welcomed. Based on your area of expertise you can provide a free consultation or simply observe the work processes of a field you are genuinely interested in. For instance, providing free data analysis support to a budding fintech venture.
- Pursuing an independent research project: It could be a group project on an engaging top your co-worker randomly mentioned or a subject that has always interested you—independent research projects give you the opportunity to zero in on your interests, and often it spills over to your profession.
- Brainstorming ideas and understanding the audience: If you want to have your startup one day, it always makes sense to fish ideas and test the waters now and then. Oculus’ founder, Palmer Luckey, sold his advanced VR technology to Facebook for $2 billion, while working full-time at the USC Mixed Reality Lab.
- Organizing a fundraiser or event that benefits the local community: Passion projects are also a great opportunity to network and build relationships. Events of fundraising, awareness campaigns for genuine causes, and interacting with different people on an individual basis are instances of networking through passion projects.
- Using tech or AI for social good projects: In a climate of growing awareness around sustainability and the green economy, facilitating tech-driven ideas for social good will add to your experience of kickstarting ecologically sound business ventures and practices.
Turn Your Passion into a Profession with Emeritus
Passion can never be forced. You develop an interest in something as you continue learning and being curious. Rejuvenate your creative exploration with Emeritus’ exciting industry-level online courses in association with globally renowned universities. You never know when you’ll develop an interest in something, that you could eventually pursue with a passion!
By Bishwadeep Mitra
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