Thesis: “Do what you love” / “Follow your passion” is dangerous and destructive career advice.

We tend to hear it from highly successful people who have become successful doing what they love. The problem is that we do NOT hear from people who have failed to become successful by doing what they love. It’s a particularly pernicious problem in tournament-style fields with a few big winners and lots of losers: media, athletics, startups.

Better career advice may be “Do what contributes” — focus on the beneficial value created for other people versus just one’s own ego. People who contribute the most are often the most satisfied with what they do and in fields with high renumeration, make the most money.

Perhaps difficult advice since it requires focus on others versus oneself. Perhaps a bad fit with endemic narcissism in modern culture? It requires delayed gratification and may toil for many years to get the payoff of contributing value to the world, versus short-term happiness.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Interesting… I’m glad to read this. Friends and I have had similar discussions, sometimes spurned by “American Idol” levels of idiocy.

  2. Your thesis seems to define a version of success that you believe in for yourself. You apply it universally with a broad swath. The notion that acting for the passion in the self is mutually exclusive with betterment of the group is simply incorrect. Those who love, and know what they love have changed our world. While not all self focused actions are beneficial for the group – your argument paints picture without hope for many who aspire to find passion and satisfaction in their personal career without having to manufacture such ideas to justify their actions.

    Successful does not equal ‘highly compensated’ careers either. Meeting basic needs is important, but you again profess a factual assumption which has already been proven unworthy of holding water.

  3. Reblogged this on T Bone Lai and commented:
    The valve in this statement is…………………..

  4. Boo Jeffro. Yay luapsivad!! I’m poor and following my passions. I tried working for just money and was miserable. Life is too precious and too short to live it for the wrong reasons.

  5. Boo Jeffro. Yay luapsivad!! I’m poor and living my passions and couldn’t be happier. I tried working for money and was miserable. What’s wrong with the world today is that not enough people are doing the same. You forget Jeffro that when a bunch of star-struck people say that their passion is basketball or singing, they are fame-seeking, not love-seeking. There is a big difference. Those who have influenced history the most were passionate people that would not be deterred by what the world wanted or expected of them.

  6. I have to disagree with this one, to some extent. Having a successful career is not solely about doing what you love, however if you do something that you love you will naturally spend more time and effort on it which will in turn help you to become more successful at it. Turning what you love doing into a career is about linking your own passion with a service that people need and creating a successful business model to get you paid for providing that service. That is the part many people fail with.

    You can still do what you love while also supplementing your income with some other work which relates to and helps you in your passion. I believe part of the problem comes from people mistaking what it is that they truly love for what it is that they think they love. Here’s an article I wrote about that exact topic:


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