“Follow your Passion!” Good or Bad advice? | Richland Library Skip to content

“Follow your Passion!” Good or Bad advice?

100,000s of Americans who have lost their jobs or are currently underemployed are giving up on searching for jobs in their same old field and pursuing opportunities to turn their passion into a paycheck. They are embracing the familiar advice to just “Follow your Passion!” We love this advice because it is both daring and altruistic. It reminds me of the VonTrapps, in their matching lederhosen, hiking over the Alps to their new freedom with a bevy of nuns gloriously singing, "Climb Every Mountain." As Cal Newport says, it is “A big, bold move that changes everything: this is a powerful storyline.” But is it good advice?

“Here’s the key: there is no special passion waiting for you to discover. Passion is something that is cultivated. It can be cultivated in many, many different fields. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say, ‘I don’t know what my passion is.’ What does make sense is to say, ‘I haven’t yet cultivated a passion.’”

“Finding work you love is not about following your passion but getting good at something rare and valuable”

-- Cal Newport is an assistant professor at MIT, computer scientist and author of, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” From an interview with the Minimalists (www.minimalists.com)

Where "Follow your Passion" falls short:

  • Most people are not walking around with a clear understanding of what their passion is
  • There is no evidence that if someone finds a job doing that one great thing, they will enjoy it.
  • As a friend of mine told me, "It's not doing what you are passionate about; it's being passionate about what you are doing."
  • Cal Newports says that Passion is the result of putting in the hours to hone your craft. He calls it building your "Career Capital."

  • My husband always says, “to be good at what you love, do it 1000 times and then do it again until it becomes effortless.” You cannot rely on your love for what you do, you have to be good at it.
  • Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says, “researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.”
  • Steve Martin, quoted in Newport’s book, says, “they want to hear ‘this is how you get an agent’ but I always say ‘be so good they can’t ignore you.’”
  • Newport suggests we change our mindset: Cultivate a “Craftsman Mindset” that focuses on what value you are offering the world and avoid a “Passion Mindset” that focuses on what the value of your job is offering you

    Read more in Cal Newport's fascinating book, "So Good They Can't Ignore You."

    Need help identifying different fields and careers where you can apply your passions? Schedule a Career Coaching appointment to implement a Career Assessment and begin discovering ways to cultivate your passions.

    Check out the many resources we have for career exploration.