Thursday, May 30, 2013

CNN: Why 'follow your passion' is bad advice

English: The CNN Center in Atlanta.
English: The CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What's my passion?  What's my purpose in life?

Maybe it doesn't matter?

In August of 2012, CNN's "Route to the Top" feature included an article by Cal Newport. In this article, Newport argues that most evidence that supports "finding your passion" as the best career move is anecdotal; actual scientific studies don't bear it out.  Instead, people are happiest in types of jobs that may or may not have anything to do with their passions, but that fit their personalities well.

He then describes three ideas for helping you find work you love, "passion" or not:
  •  Passion is earned. Ideally, what you want is the levels of autonomy, respect, competence, creativity, and sense of impact that are right for you -- but you have to be good enough at your work that your boss will grant them.
  • Passion is elusive. Let's say, in a perfect world, I write the Great American Novel. I'm then going to have to spend years selling it, first to publishers, then to readers, then maybe to filmmakers. But if my passion were sales, I wouldn't necessarily be trying to write a novel, would I? You do the thing you're passionate about, and you'll still get stuck with a job you're mostly not passionate about.
  • Passion is dangerous. If we're just supposed to follow our passion and then find happiness, what happens when we're not happy? Do we just job-hop until we find the elusive perfect job -- which doesn't exist? Actually, that sort of sounds like "making the marriage work", advice, too, now that I think of it.
So I'm not sure I agree with Newport's thesis, that following your passion is a bad idea. But he makes a very good point that it's too simple an idea, and I think that's a good point to keep in mind. What do you think?
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