In the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport makes a convincing argument that the passion hypothesis (that we must find our passion to have a satisfying and enjoyable work life) is wrong. His belief is that passion comes after we put in the hard work to learn a skill, not before.
This can be a very liberating philosophy. Instead of worrying that we’ve found the right career, we realize that we can do well and be happy in a variety of careers. It gives us the freedom to try new things, not afraid we’re missing out on our ‘passion.’
Whatever job we’re in, Newport recommends building “career capital,” so when and if we’re ready to make a move, we’ll have options:
- Work on a craftsman mindset. In other words, work on getting better at a job, not on trying to find the perfect one.
- Find out what’s needed in the field.
- Seek feedback.
- Minimize the time spent on activities that won’t improve job performance.
One of the major problems of the “Passion” mindset, according to Newport, is that we spend too much time worrying about what the job is giving to us instead of working on the contributions we can make. We end up with the same skills we had when we started the job, something that doesn’t make us look very attractive to potential employers.
So when we are giving advice to college students, maybe we need to back off on the passion part. Or at least temper it.