I have been doing a lot of research and reading on one of the most popular (but mostly useless) advice for young professionals:

“Follow Your Passion”

What does this really mean?

A quick response from most people I ask is “Do something you love” or “Follow your heart” etc.

I spoke to final year students of the Faculty of Business Administration recently at University of Lagos and I told them to ignore the ‘follow your passion’ advice.

Here are 3 reasons

  • Most people don’t know what their passion is and that is ok! Don’t stress out on following a passion you have no clue of; how about cultivate your passion. Be passionate about what you do. Carl Newport says it very well in his interview below. Whatever your hands find to do, do it well!


  • What if your passion can’t generate a sustainable income? – Then that means you will be very poor if you follow your passion. I really dislike that last sentence because it thrives on an assumption that your passion is preselected or even pre-ordained and that you are helpless. Instead, find another passion that is profitable. You are in control of what you can love to do.


  • Passion and Interests do change A LOT! – Think back to 10 years ago, do you still like the things you liked then? Most likely not. Your passion and interests have most likely changed. So why would you stress out to find something you may not like in a few years’ time?

People that ask us to follow our passion mean well. In fact they want the best for us, but they make living a good life doing what you love too simple and too magical.

Read this interview by Carl Newport – It will give you another view about this. (And why you shouldn’t follow what Steve Jobs said, rather do what he did)


Cal Newport, Ph.D., is a 30-year-old assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, is interested in why some people lead successful, enjoyable, meaningful lives while so many others do not



JFM: The advice often regurgitated throughout the Internet is simply, “You should follow your passion.” Why does this sound so appealing? Why is this bad advice?

Cal: It’s appealing because it’s both simple and daring. It tells you that you have a calling, and if you can discover it and muster the courage to follow it, your working life will be fantastic. A big, bold move that changes everything: this is a powerful storyline.

The problem is that we don’t have much evidence that this is how passion works. “Follow your passion” assumes: a) you have preexisting passion, and b) if you match this passion to your job, then you’ll enjoy that job.

When I studied the issue, it was more complex. Most people don’t have preexisting passions. And research on workplace satisfaction tells that people like their jobs for more nuanced reasons than simply they match some innate interests.

You advocate cultivating your passion, instead of following your passion. What are the key differences?

“Follow” implies that you discover the passion in advance then go match it to a job. At which point, you’re done.

“Cultivate” implies that you work toward building passion for your job. This is a longer process but it’s way more likely to pay dividends. It requires you to approach your work like a craftsman. Honing your ability, and then leveraging your value, once good, to shape your working life toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you.

In your research, what were some of the most common misconceptions you discovered about following your passion?

The biggest issue I run into is semantic. When I say, “don’t follow your passion,” some people get upset because they think I am saying, “don’t follow the goal of being passionate about your work.” But I’m not saying this. Passion is great. I just don’t see a lot of evidence that passion is something existing naturally, waiting to be discovered. It takes hard work and planning to develop.

In a recent speech, you told people to, “Do as Steve Jobs did, not as he said.” I thought this was great advice. Can you expand on it?

Steve Jobs, in his famous Stanford Commencement address, told the students (and I’m paraphrasing here): You’ve got to find what you love, don’t settle.

If you read the press and social media that surrounded the event, it’s clear that many people interpreted this as him saying, “follow your passion.” If you go back into the details of his biography, however, you discover this is not what he did. He stumbled into Apple computer (it was a scheme to make a quick $1,000) at a time when he was “passionate” mainly about Eastern mysticism.

But Jobs was open to opportunity. When he sensed that his scheme was bigger than he imagined, he pivoted and poured a lot of energy into building a company around selling computers. He cultivated passion. He didn’t follow it.

Often times, people get excited (i.e., passionate) about an idea, but they quickly lose steam and soon lose their drive to see their idea through. Why does this happen? How can we rectify this problem?

An issue here is that we rarely talk about what true passion feels like. The sensation of excitement about a particular idea is often a different sensation than the type of deep passion that drives people into a fulfilling career. Excitement comes and goes. True passion arises after you’ve put in the long hours to really become a craftsman in your field and can then leverage this value to really have an impact, to gain autonomy and respect, to control your occupational destiny.

If someone is lost and she doesn’t know what her passion is, what first step do you recommend to get her on the right track towards cultivating her passion?

Here’s the key: there is no special passion waiting for you to discover. Passion is something that is cultivated. It can be cultivated in many, many different fields. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say, “I don’t know what my passion is.” What does make sense is to say, “I haven’t yet cultivated a passion, I should really focus down on a small number of things and start this process.”

Cal Newport is a computer scientist and MIT graduate. His new book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, debunks the belief that “follow your passion” is good advice.

culled from – the minimalist

Want to find which career is really right for you? Take the 80,000 Hours career quiz.


Let me hear from you, what do you think about the advice to ‘follow your passion’? leave a comment.


FB Comment