Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Isn’t Always The Best Advice


You’ve heard it a thousand times from motivational speakers: the key to success is to follow your passion. It’s an appealing notion, but as Mike Rowe points out, just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at it or that it’s a viable path towards creating a career.

In addressing the “graduating class” of PragerU, a free, online educational resource, Mike Rowe explains how passion and ability don’t always coincide and your aspirational dreams might inhibit your enjoyment of the job you already have.

That might sound a little dour, but Mike goes on to explain that happiness at your job doesn’t have much to do with the work you’re doing — a lesson he learned from a septic tank cleaner who focused on becoming good at his work until he found prosperity.

Rather, he suggests you follow opportunities and while you shouldn’t follow your passion, “you should always bring it with you”.

Don’t Follow Your Passion [PragerU]


  • Andy, Andy, Andy.

    Your measure of happiness appears to be money, money and money. What a shallow view for anyone to hold. I have made many decisions in my life that reduced my wealth but brought me happiness. This includes career choices and spending decisions.

    For example, my son loves animals. He has honed in and expressed a desire to be a vet. However, he’s likely to make more money in IT. As the current bandwagon of “IT regardless of if you like it” (a theme that LifeHacker promotes), maybe I should force him down that path, because that’s my background? He could even create a game with an animal in it.

    Instead, i’ve introduced him to experiences with animals. The RSPCA run a good program for animal rescues. We’ve look at helping at the Zoo and other community programs. He may find that he doesn’t enjoy surgery on animals, but he loves marine biology or working in a zoo or any other number of similar vocations. But, here’s the kicker, I expect his career to be linked with animals even if he’s not a vet. However, I also recognise he may change his passion of his -own- accord, which I will support too.

    Any parent or mentor worth their salt knows that you encourage a person’s interests. They may need broadening of the focus on their passions to help them understand themselves, their skills and their passions better. This mentoring is the trick to helping a person find a link between their passion and a career.

    If you can make a reasonable living doing what you love, or more money doing something that doesn’t interest you, ignore the money.

    As for “follow the opportunity”, opportunity favours the prepared. Where do you put your emphasis on preparation for life? In your interests. Voilais! You’ve come full circle. If you happen to discover a new passion by accident through an opportunity, all the better.

    Follow your passion.

  • I have several passions that I think I would very quickly burn out and lose my passion if I pursued them as employment. So definitely something to consider before enacting “follow your passion” single mindedly.

    • Absolutely – having to get up and do something for money might take the shine off it very quickly. By all means do something you like for work but often passions are best left as a hobby/interest outside of work.

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