Don't Follow Your Passion

Mitch JoelPosted by

That’s not a typo: don’t follow your passion.

It may be appealing and something that you think you should do to be successful (and it’s something that many career counselors will tell us), but it could well be the worst career advice ever. Cal Newport wants to know what makes people truly love the work that they do. He took this question and turned it into a brand new book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You (full disclosure: Newport is signed to the same publishing imprint as I am). He recently spoke at Google about his book and his views on what it takes to become really great at the work that they do. His findings will not only surprise you, but they could well change the course of your career (or how you think about it).

It’s 40 minutes worthy of your time. Watch this…

6 comments

  1. I agree with most everything that he’s saying, but feel that his definition of “follow your passion” is far too narrow. What if some of those people that are passionate about hockey become coaches or work for an equipment manufacturer or manage a rink or work for an agency that works with the NHL or something similar? It sounds to me like he wouldn’t describe that as “follow your passion,” but he didn’t say that their passion was playing hockey. He only said hockey, which leaves things wide open as far as application goes.
    Either way, I agree with most everything else. Lots of people search for their passion, and a lot of people could be happy doing many, many different things. Unfortunately, we can’t test that. We can’t turn back the clock on a Steve Jobs and see if he could be just as successful and/or satisfied working a park ranger or an accountant or who knows what just as we can’t turn back the clock on ourselves, so ultimately, this comes down to beliefs. Do you believe that following your passion is the path to success or that working passionately and diligently on something is the path to success?

  2. This is an interesting talk, but it feels a little like a ballet on a pinhead.
    There’s a sense of identity continually emergent in all of us, passion doesn’t necessarily come ready-made.
    But as with corporates, for whom identity is a big issue, understanding what powers the identity of either a collective or an individual is a significant element in being able to deliver things of purpose and value, as well as doing that in a way that flows effortlessly and can be sustained with ease.
    Matching intrinsic desires and attributes in ourselves to those that exist extrinsically is a skill. I find it hard to believe that tuning into what one’s identity (real and desired) is about isn’t about recognising passion and enthusiasm as relevant in forging a career path, even a asynchronous one, capable of containing rare and valuable skills and making an impact.

  3. If this guys ‘passion’ is human psychology, then he ought to take his own advice.
    Sheesh! What a waste of time. I would bet all I own that he’s an Obama supporter.

  4. I don’t see any problem in following your passion. It is not follow your passion is wrong, it is following the wrong passion is wrong.

  5. Great video share, thanks! I love that he qualifies all the hard work it takes to be successful and that the time invested breeds passion. By no means am I an expert but I’ve grown passionate for what I do and had you asked me 10 years ago if working for a car dealer group was in the cards I would have bet the farm that it wasn’t. Looking forward to picking up a copy of his book.

  6. Thank you @Mitch for finally getting it right. I shared a similiar experience with language. I hated and was not good at English before I came to America, now I am learning French and Spanish! Following your passion blindly is dangerous, people should dream big, yes. But keep your toes on the ground!

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