Start Working, and the Muse Will Appear

Passion rarely precedes action. The muse will appear after you begin the work, not before. Here's an example of how this has worked for me in real estate.

Strange things began to happen once I started investing in real estate.

Start Working, and the Muse Will Appear

You see, I’ve never been a design or decorating enthusiast. I yawn when my friends start chatting about curtains and rugs. I’ve identified as a “globetrotter” — the precise opposite of “homey” or “nest-builder.”

Fast-forward one year: I now use words like “wainscotting” and “crown molding” in conversation. I can identify varieties of wood by sight. I have a strong opinion about the optimal height for a bathroom vanity.

The lesson? Passion is often the result — not the cause — of taking action.

In other words, I didn’t go into real estate because I was passionate about houses. Far from it. I went into real estate because I wanted to make money. But in the process of learning about houses, I developed a new passion.

Many people wait for inspiration to strike before they take action. They’re searching for a muse who never appears.

But passion rarely precedes action. The muse appears after you begin the work, not before.

Approach a group of personal finance writers and ask a question like: “What’s a safe withdrawal rate from your retirement portfolio — 4 percent or 3 percent?” The opinions will start freakin’ flying.

One camp will argue that historic data shows that 4 percent is a safe rate. The other camp will argue that people should withdraw only 3 percent to be safe. The two camps will vehemently debate for hours. It’ll get heated. They may even throw punches. (Just kidding).

Onlookers might hear that debate and say, “Wow, what an animated bunch. I wish there was something that I felt so impassioned about.” Then they’ll go home and watch Dancing with the Stars.

They have the cause-and-effect confused. We don’t write about personal finance because we’re passionate about it. We’re passionate about it because we write, think and talk about it everyday.

Babies aren’t born with a natural passion for Roth IRA’s. Kids on the playground don’t care about compounding interest. Some people may naturally be “security seekers,” but there are thousands of ways to channel that trait. Why financial planning?

Because once we start doing the work — when we create personal balance sheets, discuss retirement with our family, read wealth-building books — we plant the seeds for passion. We begin forming friendships with others who share our interest. We start identifying with that topic. The more entrenched we become, the more that passion grows.

Practice fuels passion, not vice versa.


  1. says

    I have to agree and disagree at the same time. I agree when you say “The muse appears after you begin the work, not before”. I developed a love for decorating after wanting to hide all the crap in my living room, so I could have a dinner party without staring at the TV the whole time. (It is coming along quite well I might add.) I developed a love for finances and all things money AFTER I was hit with a recession and needed to save every last cent in order to keep my house.

    Now I have to disagree slightly: I believe passion can hit you when you least expect it and not always by your doing. It can happen while at rest, play or from some other source. I have 3 passions I want to fulfill, but I did not realize this until something happened that was out of my control and I was at rest. I wasn’t chasing anything, I was actually in mourning and letting myself just be. During the time of mourning I found that I came up with my best ideas and even though they may not be a fulfilled passion yet, I believe they will.

  2. says

    I have to say I never thought of it that way but I totally agree! That has been my experience for my three current passions. I hope I start caring about decoratong after I buy a house because right now I don’t give a flip!

  3. says

    I couldn’t agree more. There are so many complainers who whine that working isn’t fun. Nothings fun at the beginning. You’re awful at almost all new skills when first start out, but you develop that passion as you go.

    • says

      Ross- I totally agree. Whining isn’t fun, and it actually makes the things you do less fun. So it’s also counterproductive.

      I used to wash dishes in high school at a local bar/grill. One night, my 15 year old self was whining about having to clean something or other. One of the cooks, a guy I looked up to, said to me “Will, you sure are whining a lot.”

      I couldn’t argue with him. That’s all it took. And I have been far more aware of whining ever since.

      I’m sure I still do it from time to time when I am working something out in that I need to change. But I now always have an emphasis on the change part.

      It’s one reason I can’t stand people who read the news or listen to talk radio and endlessly complain about something they can literally do nothing about. It’s just so pointless.

    • says

      @Natalie — One of my favorite sayings is: “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago; the second-best time is today.” Knowing something years ago would have been great, but now is a pretty stellar time, too. :-)

      • says

        That’s a brilliant quote. You’re right I think people might miscontrue passion as something you need to already be predisposed too. Confusing “interest” with “passion”. Interest would be the flu and passion is the full-blown sickness :)

  4. says

    I’m jumping out of my chair excited about this post.

    Very few people became passionate about anything before they started taking action. And wouldn’t they be crazy if they did?

    Person A: “I am so passionate about travel.”
    Person B: “Oh, where have you traveled?”
    Person A says, “Nowhere. I just want to do it someday!”

    I call Person A is a bullshitter. You cannot possibly become passionate about something you’ve never done. This is a con that society likes to play on us…like you were *destined* for something amazing if only you can run into its arms. That’s a lie. Even though this is incredibly hokey, I’m going to say it anyway. Life is not about FINDING yourself, it’s about CREATING yourself. Wanna be passionate? Gotta start creating.

    • says

      @Leah — I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your comment. I literally laughed out loud at the Person A / Person B example.

      “Life is not about FINDING yourself, it’s about CREATING yourself.” Beautifully said, and right on.

  5. says

    Wow this all make so much sense. I have never thought about passion like that. But it’s true once you get into doing something, you develop a real motivation for it.

    Thanks for the article, very thought provoking :)!

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