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We’ve all heard the old adage “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” or “follow your passion”. We’ve heard this speech enough times that it actually feels like the only way one can truly be happy is to perform a job that one is truly passionate about. I remember sitting through keynote talks in high school and hearing various guest speakers touch on this idea in some shape or fashion. One speaker would be a prominent retailer in the community and would talk about how they were born with salesmanship in their blood. Another speaker would talk about how as long as they could remember, they only thought about basketball, football, or (insert your sport of choice here). My parents would ask me what I was passionate about and what I planned on pursuing in life. I remember my friends talking about it and their parents talking about it and everyone. talking. about. it.

I remember making lists and researching this profession or reading a book about that profession. So on and so forth until I was so frozen by the fear of making a poor decision (that would inevitably lead me down a road to doom) that I couldn’t decide. So what does an 18 year old kid with no idea of how the world works do in a situation like this? He flips a coin. Yep, that’s right. Before I graduated high school I flipped a coin and it decided that I would do best serving the U.S. Navy. Now, don’t get me wrong the Navy was fantastic and my time in the service matured me and help shaped the man I became today. The fact still remains I was so frozen by the weight of “figure out your passion” now, that I couldn’t make a decision and left my fate to a coin.

I certainly didn’t make a career out of the Navy either. In fact I went on to work as an electronic technician, an electrician, a machinist, a welder, a machinist again, aircraft assembly, back to machinist, and now I’m settling into the web development industry. Progressing through life with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be happy unless I pursued my passion, well quite frankly it started to haunt me. The harder I searched for the “passion career holy grail”, the farther I felt I was to finding it. Some might say this led to my job hopping stint over the course of a few years. I’d agree.

“Follow your passion” just might be the worse advice you could give someone – especially those just starting out in their careers. Seriously, how does one even know what they are passionate about at 16, 18, or even 20 years old? I’m 33 and still quietly wonder “what am I passionate about?” Developing a passion for something takes time. To find your passion, it only makes sense to go and try multiple things. Experience the world, move around, get out of your comfort zone, etc. That’s what I did – even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time. Gaining working knowledge of different things, by experiencing those very things is probably the most valuable tool a person acquires during their journey to become more. If you are in a similar spot in your life, make a change, look around you, try something different.

I’m a big reader and love to dig into these kind of “life things” that can really get me hung up. In my search for more information I came across a great book – So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. In this book Mr. Newport does a fantastic job of dispelling what he calls the “passion hypothesis” and educates on the dangers this mindset can bring. I highly recommend giving the book a good read through if anything just for another perspective on how you approach your career and life in general. I promise you’ll have a slightly different perspective on things once you turn the last page. A quick synopsis of Cal Newport’s book:


So Good They Can't Ignore You - 3 Rules

The main question this book poses is – If following  your passion is bad advice, what should you do instead? Mr. Newport provides a 3 rule process for answering that very question:

  • Rule 1 – Don’t follow your passion
  • Rule 2 – Be so good they can’t ignore you (the importance of skill)
  • Rule 3 – Turn down a promotion (the importance of control)

Like I said, it’s a great book and can help you if you relate in anyway to this post. I know it helped me. So, when your talking to your young ones or maybe some peers about the future and what it holds for them tell them to experiment. Nothing is set in stone. Work right and not to look for the right work so much. Time will present passion.

What are you thoughts on “follow your passion” as advice? Do you think it’s sound? Do you feel that it is damaging? Let me know by commenting below, I’d love to keep the conversation going!