Don’t Follow Your Passion


Recently I talked with a few friends about passion and motivation in relation to work. After already being on my mind, almost serendipitously, I stumbled across a blog post that was relevant to our discussion. The post is from a blog that I love, The Art of Manliness. This is a great blog and I highly recommend it to anyone, man or woman. One of their podcasts discussed the book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” by Cal Newport which I wanted to share with you. The podcast was compelling enough, that I picked the book up from my local library and so far it is living up to it’s expectations.

At first the main theme of the book, to not “follow you passion”, is a bit disheartening. Especially because this mantra, to “follow your passion,” has been forced on me since as long as I can remember. So if you aren’t supposed to follow your passion, then what are you supposed to do?

The Problem With Following Your Passion:

  • It is a catch phrase. To “follow your passion” is generic and vague. It is really no help to anyone when you tell them this, or if you are telling yourself this. It is really just saying, “go do that thing” without any real direction as to how to do it. 
  • It can cause anxiety.  If you do not know what your passion is, it can cause anxiety and pressure that you need to find your passion in order to find happiness and fulfillment. It can create a feeling that your passion is out there waiting for you, if only you could find it. The catch phrase also assumes, that there is something you were born for, a “calling”. Which in some cases may be true, however in the case that you haven’t identified your “calling”, it can be troublesome. 
  • It is idealized. Often times people assume that if they follow their passion, it will lead to success and fulfillment in the workplace, all with what feels like little effort. This can lead to people jumping from job to job in search of fulfillment or dissatisfaction with their job if it does not live up to these lofty expectations.

What To Do Instead:

  • Grow Your Skill And Work Hard.  One of the assumed perks of “following your passion” is success and a fulfilling work environment. However rather than this originating out of pursuit of passion, it is found through skill and work ethic. As you become more competent with a particular skill and maintain a strong work ethic, success and control over your work environment follow. It is here that passion grows, as we put effort and time into crafting our skill and improving.

This post only briefly touches on the idea that “following your passion” is misleading. I think there is a lot of truth in this idea, to focus more on finding success through the brute force of developing a skill and work ethic. In a way, it is empowering, that success is in your hands and can be willed through dedication and hard work.

If you are interested in learning more about this idea you can check out this post from the blog The Minimalists, with an interview from Cal Newport. Also, in the video below, Cal Newport talks on the main points of his book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” and is an interesting watch.

For more on Cal Newport and his ideas, check out his blog Study Hacks, where he delves into success and reaching elite knowledge levels.

I would love any feedback, suggestions, or constructive criticism. So feel free to let me know what you think!

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  1. I totally agree with all of this. I just feel that there should be more to the “Don’t follow your passion” bit. It seems more of an unfinished phrase. “Don’t follow your passion, create strong work ethic.” Or something along those lines would possibly encompass more instead of dispelling a thought and creating resistance. Great blog post!

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