I have lost count of how many versions of “do what you love, and the money will follow” I have seen. Many modern self-help gurus make this promise to convince us to follow our passions. Some insist that we can make this money appear once we start taking daily steps in that direction, like writing goals on a journal, repeating affirmations and asking god to grant our desires.

I mostly agree with this advice. It is imperative we follow our passion to achieve a sense of joy and contentment in our lives. I also concur with taking the kinds of steps these wise sages outline. Without goals to follow, fulfilling our dreams is just wishful thinking. But the promise money will follow is bullshit.

There is no guarantee money will follow

Think about it, if this was the case, then it would stand to reason that the amount of money a person has is a measure of their commitment to doing what he/she love. It also implies that poor people must live wretched and unhappy lives because their lack of funds indicates they are not following their passion.

Many people today view the rich and famous as more important and happier because their money shows they must be doing something right and the rest of us are not.

Yet, some of the wealthiest people I know are living the most miserable and unhappy lives. They are not doing what they love at all, most of them feel trapped. Just because money followed them is not a sign of anything.
If you are making money for doing what you love, you are no better than they who have not, you are simply lucky that don’t have to find another way to make ends meet.

So, if doing what you love does not guarantee money or fame, is it still worth doing?

My greatest passion

I have never loved doing anything more than playing basketball. I first learned to play the sport from the orphans at Sacred Heart Orphanage in Pueblo, Colorado, the place I was assigned to go after seeking asylum in the USA from Cuba.

It was love at first sight the minute I held a basketball in my hands. From that moment on, I seldom missed a chance to practice my shot or work on my ball handling skills. As I became more proficient putting the ball through the hoop, my imagination would soar with the fantasy of someday playing with my favorites, Bill Russell and John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics.

After reuniting with my parents four years later, basketball became my temporary escape from their marital battles. As a result, basketball became my most reliable constant friend, no matter what sport was in season—I played what in those years was known as the Holy Trinity of sports, football basketball and baseball—I always found time to shoot around and practice my moves.

Perhaps what made basketball my passion was that it gave voice to that stunted youth that had lived in me since my days at the orphanage. It also became a way to attract friends because playing basketball helped me break the shyness that kept me isolated from others.

Even though I experienced some success—I played on the high school varsity team and made two all-star teams my senior year—my talent was not enough to vault me into the college playing ranks. My days as an official athlete ended upon my high school graduation. By all normal standards, I would be considered mediocre at best. Yet my passion to play remained.

Playing basketball gave me moments of oneness with my body and soul and blessed me with uninhibited creativity. It was during those precious moments when I played that nothing else in the world mattered. Basketball touched my heart and helped me release my secret desires. I was convinced there was hope and beauty in the world. During those few moments, this Cuban boy touched the infinite. I was fully alive.

There is something about a basketball’s familiar smell and feel in my hands that have the same effect on me as a security blanket does for a child. Something miraculous happens when, in the middle of my jump shot, my hands will automatically adjust the arc of the ball towards the hoop. The swishing sound the ball makes when it goes through the net is as sweet as two lovers whispering “I love you” to each other.

No matter where I have been, a basketball court has never seemed like enemy territory for me. Perhaps this was why in my darkest days, when a debilitating depression strangled me, I turned to basketball. It carried me unflinchingly to my recovery.

Lessons learned

I never made a name or a fortune as a result of playing basketball, but the lessons it gave me where invaluable.

I learned about the illusory and temporary high of winning and how the long-suffering effects of failure, with all of its bruises and scars, made me examine my performance so I could do better the next time. Learning from failure is where greatness is born.

Basketball taught me about the joyful camaraderie that is born from working together with others. I learned to value the work of others, for when you are on a team you see that no one accomplishes anything by one’s own power alone.

There is no separateness in a great team, no barriers like religion, gender, race or sexual preference to divide you. All you see is your togetherness and the sum of the many. I carried these lessons into the workplace and they helped me become successful in my career.

Now in the solitude of my writing, I am developing this same camaraderie with my heart.

I quit playing when I was sixty-two years old because my body could no longer live up to the physical demands the game required. I should have quit earlier, but I couldn’t break myself away from the best friend I ever had. Maybe this is why I have not let go of the trophies I won playing the sport, for whatever reason, they still serve as a reminder of the strength of my relationship with the sport.

You can still find a basketball in the trunk of my car. Sometimes, in the early mornings or late evenings, I will stop at some playground and shoot hoops in honor of my old friend.

Conclusion

My love for basketball is proof of why it is important for each of us to follow our passions. It is not for the material rewards, but for what we learn about ourselves. Our passions lead us on our way to wholeness and authenticity, the place where we can give ourselves fully to those around us. There has been nothing else like basketball in my life and perhaps there never will be, but I learned we must follow our passions, for without them we cannot evolve into who we were meant to be.

We write a memorable symphony by leading courageous and interesting lives when we commit to follow our passions. Playing it safe is boring, it kills our spirit. Even if doing something you don’t enjoy makes you a lot of money, it will never make you happy. Doing what you truly love will.

Reach Deeper

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