You Either Get Paid for Your Passion or for Your Pain

The choice was this: get paid for your passion … or for your pain. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

All I knew is that this wasn’t the situation I wanted to be in. What I was doing for a living wasn’t my life’s work.

And so I looked at people who did what I wanted to do, who lived their passion. There was envy there. Comparison. I thought I could do the things they did much better. (Spoiler alert: I couldn’t. At least not back then. My confidence was the untested confidence of youth, not the earned one of a fighter who has had their ass handed to them time and time again….and still got up every time.)

Back when I had a regular (if highly paid) job and a regular life, the idea of doing something that felt aligned with my purpose, of getting paid for my passion was just that, an idea. I thought about it. I probably daydreamed about it a lot. And slowly, slowly, slowly, I formed something akin to a plan for making it happen.

My plan for getting paid for my passion

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

So I made a plan.

It wasn’t necessarily a good plan. For one thing, it relied on wishful thinking… but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought that if I took a leap of faith, I would be rewarded.

In my case, this leap of faith involved quitting a job that was as highly paid as it was prestigious, relocating to another continent, and moving in with my American partner (when we had never even lived on the same side of the Atlantic). Oh, and while adjusting to all those changes, I would start my business from scratch.

As I said, it wasn’t necessarily a good plan. But it was a plan, and eventually, I followed through on it.

My now-husband and I got married in Denmark with less than 72-hours of advanced notice. 🇩🇰  When my brother asked for time off so he could attend the wedding on such short notice, his colleagues thought he had made the whole thing up (or somehow confused his sister with a cousin or another more distant relative). He hadn’t.

It just turns out that weddings are hard to organize when one of you works in Germany in a Big Law firm (which makes it hard to plan more than a few days out)… and the other works in the US and needs plenty of advance notice to get time off.

Hence the whole “oh, since we’re both in the same place right now, we should probably get married before your flight leaves”-thing. My future parents-in-law couldn’t attend in person because their passport had expired so they tune in via video conference (long before it was cool).

But back to the other parts of my plan. All of that was less fun than our imperfectly perfect wedding. So, I’ll skip over the whole exhausting “will I/won’t I” of quitting my job, the “fun” process of getting a green card, hurrying to finish my Ph.D. process, and the craziness of organizing a transatlantic move amid everything (let’s just say I got into Marie Kondo before it became trendy).

If you want a visualization of how all that felt like, any story should do in which a quivering hero meets a scary, fire-spewing dragon.

Turns out, it's harder to get paid for your passion that you'd think

After taking my leap of faith (or shall we say “leaps”?), I landed on the other side. My landing was rough but safe. In a super-short period, I had changed virtually every aspect of my life.

Now the only thing that was left to do was to start living my purpose and find a way to get paid for my passion. No biggie.

Unfortunately, that was also the stage in my process when I realized that I had relied on wishful thinking to get me to this point

There was no magical welcome committee escorting me to my new position in Purpose Headquarters (or Passion Incorporate).

Instead, I would have to create my own path to getting paid for my passion.

(That is, right after I deal with all the changes to my self-identity, my relationships, and my environment. Oh, and replace the clothes that the damn dragon set on fire.)

Parts of my journey felt like it had been taken straight out of Lord of the Rings. Sometimes it was like I was marching through Mordor, having blatantly ignored all warnings that this wasn’t a great idea. Other times it felt like I had been granted asylum in Rivendell, “The Last Homely House East of the Sea.”

At some point along the way, I figured out how I can get paid for my passion.

But you know what else I figured out?

That the choice between passion and pain isn’t completely straightforward. Today, I am getting paid for doing something I’m passionate about but the process still involved (and involves) a level of pain.

Passion isn’t a substitute for discipline. Purpose is not a safeguard against challenging times.

So perhaps it would be more honest to say: You can either get paid for your passion (and the pain that comes along with it) or for your pain (and the pain that comes along with it).

Even when I put it like that, it should still be an easy choice, right? After all, any level of pain is much, much easier to bear if we do it in the context of something that feels meaningful to us. (If that wasn’t the case, no woman in her right mind would ever choose to get pregnant.)

When you choose to get paid for your passion, you choose a different level of pain. A high-quality pain, so to speak. And, as motivational speaker Jim Rohn so accurately put it:

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

I want to live a life where I’m bearing the former.

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Louise is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Louise loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at
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