One of the questions I get asked most often when people learn that I left a relatively “cushy” corporate job to do career and communication coaching is:


What advice would you give someone who’d like to follow their passion but is concerned about the financial risk of doing that?


The question is well-intentioned, but I tend to disappoint the person asking it with my answer:


I wouldn’t give them any advice.


To anyone who’s talked with me about coaching for even five minutes, my answer about “no advice” is not a surprise. I tell everyone who’ll listen that coaching is not about giving expert advice. A consultant gives expert advice. A coach mostly helps clients gain awareness about what’s most important and what works best for them.


I wouldn’t give advice on following your passion


But my reluctance to giving advice isn’t academic. I don’t simply think to myself, “I’m a coach and therefore I shouldn’t give advice.” In fact, I give advice on a number of things—typically around mechanical or practical aspects of job search and communication. However, on a subject as charged and meaningful as following your passion, I resist the urge to give advice—even when you ask me for it—for two reasons:


  1. I don’t presume I know what’s best for you
  2. You’re in the best position to know what’s best for you


I would ask questions


Instead of giving advice, I do what coaches do: I ask questions. The initial may include:


  • What’s your biggest fear about following your passion?
  • What’s your biggest fear about NOT following your passion?
  • What’s the best case case scenario you can envision if you follow your passion?
  • Who do you want to be?
  • How is that different from who you are today?

These are conversation starters that I use to get clients who are feeling conflicted about passion vs. financial risk to start thinking about what they truly want and what’s getting in their way of that.


But then I engage them on specifics of what’s important to them in the ‘financial’ department that’s creating the conflict:


  • What’s most important to you about your current standard of living?
  • Is it the freedom it allows you?
  • The peace of mind it provides?
  • The luxuries you enjoy?
  • The education and exposure you can provide for your children?


Envision what it would mean to ‘follow your passion’


While it’s good to identify what’s getting in the way of what you want to do, it’s even more helpful to get specific about what you want and why you want it. I invite my clients to envision the work life they want, an exercise that often represents uncharted territory for them.


Following your passion doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens within the context of a full life, where many things are important—not just that isolated passion for something you love to do.


I help clients remember all the things that are important to them in addition to that passion they feel. It’s easy to fantasize about quitting your job and moving to the beach and opening up a surf shop (for example). But often, when you envision what that would truly be like and factor in the things you wouldn’t have that you now consider valuable and important, it casts the fantasy in a different light.


Following your passion doesn’t happen in a vacuum


Believe me, I’m not about “killing the dream”—just the opposite. I love to encourage the dream! But to make your dream a reality, it’s helpful to visualize what the rest of your waking hours will look and feel like when you’re not engrossed in that activity about which you’re so passionate.


Left on its own, a fantasy about following your passion can balloon to unrealistic and unhealthy proportions in your mind. It can amplify feelings of unhappiness and angst about how you’re living your life. Too much “if only I could follow my passion” thinking can end up being not just a dream killer—it can be a life killer that saps the joy from everything you do.


Envision your passion in the context of a full life


On the other hand, a desire to follow your passion that’s thought through in the context of everything that’s important to you can turn into a reality that’s fulfilling beyond your wildest dreams.


So, how do you decide between following your passion and maintaining your standard of living? First of all, it’s rarely an “either/or” choice. You can get creative to have your cake and eat a good chunk of it too. But most importantly, you have to envision your full life—with the passion you want to follow and with everything else that’s important to you—and you have to take your best courageous guess at what’s going to work best for you.


I’m here to encourage your dream. Do it! Follow your passion, and do it in your own unique way that honors who you are and what you value in life.



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achievers communicate with Purpose and get the career results they want.