Things I learned from “Follow Your Passion is Wrong”

Some of the things I learned from this talk:

To easy steps from observation:

  1. Get very good at a skill that is rare and valuable. This may take years of experience and work with the best people/firms
  2. Use your newly acquired skill as leverage to gain into his life the type of traits that matter to you through changing your lifestyle/work to fit (for instance: simplicity and autonomy in life or an impact on the world). It is only when you have that value that you can exert this leverage.

Follow Your Passion does not always work because if you did that instead of sticking to what you’re good at or skilled at or spent years studying, you may end up in a worse off position because of your lack of skill in the area of passion. Your skills and strengths may eventually morph into a passion or you may stumble across something in a new industry or a new market or something you never considered before because you were unaware of it by following your strengths, skills and experience instead of your passion.

Most people’s “passion” is something glamorous that is very competitive and can’t allow for 90% of the population to be superstars in the market. (Singing, rapping, sports, etc.)

You have to work very hard until you bring great value and it is recognized. From then on, there is enormous pressure for you to stay, move up the corporate ladder, and everything else and you have to consider keeping your own interests and priorities in mind to determine happiness instead of going for that pay raise.

For some people, there are a number of other paths that you can follow that can lead to a life that you love just as much (don’t take this to an extreme and think there are hundreds of options nor take this too extreme the other way and think there is too few). The traits that you value or want to achieve in your lifestyle may be more important at the end of the day. I was told this by a doctor and it isn’t until now that I more truly grasp it. It’s these general traits that matter. (They obviously differ for different people)

The threshold for achieving that satisfaction with the passion of your job is lower than you think. Don’t fall for the illusion that there is solely just one specific task in the world and only that will satisfy you. You may one of those lucky few who manage to obtain your top choice, which you wouldn’t trade for anything else, but there is probably more than one thing your genetics are suited for.

I don’t completely agree with everything he said, such as him saying that it is always these general traits that matter and not the actual act or technique of doing something like using a microscope, because it gets more complicated than that given the diversity of humans. Some people actually love a job because of a specific process like the smell of paint or the actual technical process of using a microscope.

This whole concept yields a decent amount of myth and illusion (Follow Your Passion). One myth is that you need to achieve this to attain a level of happiness. This concept can be broken by a recent video I saw on the Ellen Degeneres Show. A mother with three children worked really hard to get things working. I am sure many women like her are doing things just to get by, not necessarily because they absolutely love their job. If given the opportunity, they might jump at the chance for an easier or more glamorous and better paying job. Based on psychological studies I have read about or heard talks on, I know there are human psychological mechanisms that allow us to learn to adapt and attain a certain level of happiness with whatever situation we are at. It is not all-encompassing to a point where any horrible situation for an extended period of years can be adapted to attain a level where you learn to love or at least be satisfied with your work or adapt a certain level of satisfaction or happiness. Just look at those depressed individuals doing mindless cubicle work for decades on end that are miserable. Regardless, I do think there is an element of learning, constructing, and improving a job you are not exactly passionate about yet to make it better.

Job satisfaction seems to be inversely correlated with the amount of times “Follow your passion” comes up in books. Perhaps this free idea may be causing the dissatisfaction. But we cannot conclude this. Correlation does not mean causation.

His model is this: Pick something interesting. Then repeat the first two steps I detailed above.

What he said at the end I mostly agree with: doubling down on one thing and devoting your time to it even if you don’t love it while your friends switch between 9 different jobs/majors. That way you create a valuable skill/asset based on the time you spent. You can then use that as leverage to get the traits you want. The moral behind this, which I agree with, is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and energy to better yourself at a skill. Flip flopping around will put you farther behind every day as you have to start from scratch. The most successful people in life have all focused on one thing and avoided flopping around. Once they excel very well at that one thing, they may expand out to similar areas. I find this eerily similar to the advice preached by the professionals in choosing a role and champion for League of Legends and climbing the online solo queue ladder (League is an online MOBA).

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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