VictoriaF wrote:I am reading So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport. The book starts out by dispelling the Passion Hypothesis, i.e., a common advice to follow one's passion in selecting career. Newport's alternative to starting with a passion and then becoming good is becoming good ("so good they can't ignore you") and acquiring the passion in the process.
I think it's relevant to the Bogleheads discussions of jobs, including those related to the career paths of family members. One can become a highly skillful accountant, actuary, economist, or pursue some other profession infamous for being boring, and achieve both financial rewards and emotional fulfillment. It seems a preferable alternative to becoming a struggling artist, especially because a fulfilled actuary can pursue art in his free time.
Haven't read the book, but took the time to read an article by Newport and I think his take on "follow your passion" is somehow misleading (at least it confuses me). IMO, discovering a passion is discovering and beginning to understand one's self, either deliberately and consciously or intuitively and subconsciously or a combination. It's natural and wondrous and as we also learn about and develop (separately from passion I believe) our various skill sets, it can help us decide which skills are most important to us and then choose a career where they can be best applied. Once in that career, passion for the work will help get us through the inevitable career downsides.
Again, I haven't read the book, but this is how it worked for me and for people I've known and read about.
Newport describes how "follow your passion" is a treacherous guidance, because it intuitively feels right, it's widely promoted, and at the same time it's likely to lead one to a failure. In some areas, such as arts and sports, for some
people, following passion works well. But the majority of people are being misled by this advice. People don't know what their passion is when they are in their thirties, forties, and beyond, let alone at seventeen when they are choosing a college major. The conviction that their passion exists and that they must find it holds people back, causing them to change jobs, change college majors, drop out from college.
Instead of following passion, Newport recommends building career capital. He contrasts these two alternatives as follows:
- Follow your passion
means looking for something that the world offers to you
- Building career capital
means offering something to the world
that the world will reward you for.
Newport is not against passion; he is against a lifelong fruitless search for passion without offering anything in return. His point is that as you develop rare and valuable skills to offer to the world ("career capital"), you find a job with rare and valuable traits, a job that you will be passionate about. You don't start with passion, you earn it.
Newport profiles musicians, comedians, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others pointing out how they achieved their ideal work environments not by following their passion but by becoming so good that others could not ignore them. Newport also provides some examples of how following passion has led some people to disastrous results.
People who had succeeded were changing their paths as they were building a greater career capital and as they were discovering themselves and their needs. A woman software developer was so good that her employer could not afford to lose her and allowed her to take time off to take university courses in philosophy. A man learned to build superior surfboards that eventually led to his paradise life on the beach. The more these people had to offer the more they were able to steer their lives in the direction of their evolving interests and passions.
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