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Top Wharton professor Adam Grant: Before you follow your passion, do this

Adam Grant
 Marla Aufmuth | Getty Images
Adam Grant

"Follow your passion" is common career advice — and who does't want to pursue what they love? But Wharton business school professor and organizational psychologist Adam Grant says it is a bit more complicated than that.

"It's easy to follow your passion if you've found it," Grant says. "But a lot of people struggle to find out what they are passionate about."

Someone might be passionate about reading Harry Potter books or playing soccer, for example, but "Is that a career for [them]?" says Grant, who is a Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management at The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, the author three bestselling books on workplace culture and psychology and is the host of "WorkLife," a podcast produced by TED.

"Discovering a career that connects with your passion is a big challenge for a lot of people," he says.

In order to figure it out, Grant says start by working, experimenting, trying new things and building skills. That will teach you where your passions may lie.

"Passion often develops as you master a certain field," Grant explains, citing research by Georgetown University computer science professor Cal Newport. "It's really hard to be passionate about a skill you don't have yet, or an area of expertise that you really haven't honed.

"Passion is often the product of hard work, not the driver of hard work."

Jeff Chapin, a co-founder of multimillion-dollar mattress start-up Casper, agrees.

"It is learning how your brain works, so that you can figure out what you are individually good at," Chapin tells CNBC Make It about deciding what to do with your life.

Chapin says ask yourself, "What are the problems that you gravitate towards and can solve better than other people?" And he advises, "Keep trying new things, keep getting exposure to new things and then you'll get better at them."

Then the time to follow your passion, according to Grant, is after you've honed your focus on what you'd like to achieve.

"At some point in your career, when you're 30, you want to start thinking about following your passion," Grant says. "But first, I would invest in learning to find your passion and develop your confidence."

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