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‘Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice (theatlantic.com)
315 points by theothermkn 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments



“Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” is another college-counseling standby of unknown provenance.

That is probably the biggest load of crap foisted on pop culture in a while. I love what I do, and I work every day. This morning's task is reviewing a help file for accuracy. Hol-ee shite, that's not why I got into programming computers when I was 12. But it needs to be done, and I'm one of the ones that can knowledgeably review it. I really should write that test plan, but I keep putting it off for obvious reasons. Oh, sure, I get to play Puzzle Solver by shuffling some bits around, and it's what I spend most of my days doing, but it ain't all fun and games.

And that's just Working for The Man(tm). Gonna start a brewpub? Maybe an online SaaS business? Oh, my friend, your crap work has just begun; so much so, you might have to leave the fun stuff to your employees. You will work every day, and hard.

Don't get the wrong idea, I look forward to going to work most days, and I've been doing this for a long while. But there's a reason they call it "work", and there's a reason they pay you. Enjoy the hell out of the enjoyable parts, and when the less enjoyable work comes, remember that you are (if of the average HN demographic) paid handsomely for it.


I decided, after burning out of Startupville a bit ago, that I was going to take some time off and... wait for it... write a novel. I love writing, I love blogging, so how hard could this be? It's the next natural step, right?

I thought this would be a dream experience, sitting at my computer and creating beautiful prose for hours a day, my creativity flowing like a river.

After about 20,000 words (a debut novel should be between 70-100k words), it turned into hard work. One thousand words a day becomes quite tedious, especially when the initial steam wears off.

Great, so I pushed through for months, putting in the daily grind. Draft complete at 90k words! First round of edits, cutting almost 20,000 words (about a month of work, all for "nothing"). Back at the writing grind again to get the word count and story aligned to be more marketable.

Edit number two complete. Edit number three complete. Beta readers telling me there are big holes here, there, everywhere, This character sucks, this character doesn't make sense, etc etc etc. Just now wrapping up edit number four, and I'm actually quite happy with how it reads.

But now... onto the business end of this deal, querying agents. Agents reject about 99% of the pitches that come into their inbox. The 1% gets a full manuscript request. Of those 1%, about 10% get offers of representation.

An offer of representation often turns into several more rounds of edits before the agent will sell it to a publisher. So if I'm lucky enough to get an agent, it'll be even more editing (my least favorite part of this process so far).

THEN, the agent has to successfully sell the book to a publisher. The odds that this happens also pretty low. And since I'm a first-time writer, I'd be looking at a pretty small five figure advance for what will end up being about two years of work.

Anyways... writing, my favorite form of art, has become a roll-of-the-dice grind. I'm not sure I would go back in time and do this again, but regardless, I've come this far so...

I think chasing a "dream career" whatever that is can be a tough lesson in setting realistic expectations in what it means to make money.


It sounds like you were doing another form of startup. Perhaps some writers bang out the prose and have an editor help to trim the fat rather than trying to wear all of the hats required to launch a new novelist. Also:

> Beta readers telling me there are big holes here, there, everywhere, This character sucks, this character doesn't make sense, etc etc etc.

I think what makes a great story, and novelist for that matter, are some of those rough edges and you should ignore the critics just like an opinionated CEO might be advised to do. Those people may be looking out for you, but you're the artist and can use your vision to create your world with your unique voice!


Thanks - That's a really fun observation, that I'm wearing a lot of hats that a more established novelist/executive wouldn't. I also appreciate the positivity (it has been very easy to be negative about this process so far).

And you're right, it's important to only take beta readers' opinions as just that, opinions. It is super helpful though to get their take, as I've been so close to the project where sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees.


You can also see that when an author becomes too famous and starts to ignore the editor(s), the books become heavy and repetitive. Editors are sharp. Trust them.


Fingers crossed I make it to the point where I have an editor =)

Definitely noticeable though, sometimes authors get too attached to the smell of their own farts to realize their writing is suffering under the weight of their own hubris.


Writing is a discipline. I'd expect it (like almost any other discipline) to take around five years to reach journeyman status. I think a lot of people assume that writing is a lot easier and simpler than it actually is. The folk knowledge says that you should expect to write around a million words before you find your voice.


I think the secret to all of this is that the energy and enthusiasm of passion is ultimately overcome by pain. And pain slows us down, makes us retreat.

But if you find your work fundamentally painless, you can put any amount of passion in on top: you're still getting it done on your lowest days, and on your good ones you will cruise into exceptional output.

As such you can derive the well-known market preference for "bandaids over vitamins" from the sum total of all individuals looking for a way to take more of the pain out of their work. But the biggest optimization you can make is simply in choosing which work to do.


Pain is more nuanced. People run away from pain. But pain is like brakes on a car, you need it to go faster.

There’s a reason why people take pride in being “a professional” or “tough”. You need to suck it up and push through sometimes.

“Find your passion” is trope, but it’s also true, because that obsessive passion that people have about the ordinary is what allows them to create the extraordinary.


I once self published a book. Biggest mistake I made was writing it before i had an audience to sell to. I would take small snipets of your book and distribute for free to places where your target audience hangs out. Then publish more free bits on your site for email address. Maybe some complete short stories. Then once you have an audience that likes your shit promote a book to them, and leverage those sales as social proof to go more broad.

I will teach you to be rich does this really well. I don't have a good analogy for fiction but I'm sure they exist.


You may want to consider self-publishing, depending on the book. It's pretty easy these days and there's no particular "vanity press" stigma on Amazon.


To make it easier, go back in time, choose different parents and become the 'first coder that be became POTUS', then write your novel.

Or go up to the top of a mountaintop at just the right time for the sky god to make an appearance and hand you the third testament.

Or, go back in time again, choose different parents and become a record scoring footballer. By adopting this strategy you would have the slight challenge of creating a time machine but you will also not have to write those 90000 words, a ghostwriter would be able to just magic out of thin air whatever you bark out loud. They would sort out the plot holes and the movie deal too.

Or you could go back to startupsville again and scratch this itch. It should be possible to crowd-source decent novels in a way that is not so humiliating and nigh on impossible. I know this has been attempted before but the nearest we have to it at the moment it self publishing on Amazon where people do reviews and people buy on the basis of those reviews. There have been success stories with this. But we know those reviews are bought and everything is corrupt.

Joking aside I do think that there is another way of getting published - write the book that needs to be written. Not a rehash of ideas, something new. A new story that does not fit into the existing pantheon of beginnings/middles and endings. Something that people must read and must get their friends to read, no publicity needed. You could make this free and entirely web based, no ISBN number or dead trees. Much like how musicians do stuff for free on YouTube and then a publisher courts them to do something for money. However, even this is not strictly easy and the stories you hear of this often involve a musician who happens to have chosen the right parents, e.g. Lily Allen and how she started on Youtube, only later do we learn of the famous and well connected dad.

Writing a book that has to be written might not be passion though. If you discovered some unjustice going on and were compelled to write then that would not be passion, more of a moral question of not staying silent.

Anyway, regarding the original article, why is it that 87% of people in the workplace are clock watchers, as if serving an eight hour school detention on a daily basis? Clearly they are not following their passion. But, of the 13% that don't clock watch and do have some passion for what they do, these people can be in any department, office or factory. They are not necessarily writing novels, making music, teaching yoga or directing films. Passion is more of a transferable skill that should be taught.


Well, you can't be satisfied all the time. That's not how brain chemistry works in healthy individuals.

You can enjoy what you do most of the time though. Thanks to your brain also. I find it harder when working for somebody because money is not necessarily a good enough motivator. But when working on my own project and faced with a tedious task (writing tests, fighting dependencies or whatever it is that you despise), I think why do I want to do it (e.g. I want my project to succeed it and it needs it). You can try to achieve your goal without the thing that you don't like. If you think that this is not possible, then wanting your project to succeed and wanting to do this task are the same thing. They are connected.

Once you realize this it makes things much more simple. Most of suffering seems to come from some semi-conscious story in your brain: I want A but without doing B. Either it's possible to do that or it's not. If it's not then it's just wishful thinking that is only bringing you misery.

The way you think and wire your brain really matters. Instead of "I must do X even though I don't want it". Think "If I want A then X comes with it - do I still want A?". Or find a way to A without X.

For me at least, having that stated explicitly in my mind alters my perception of X. Because it really is hard to hold two logically inconsistent beliefs in your mind when you bring them both into focus. Your brain quick fix is usually some "but..". That's where you need to eliminate wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is imagining reality in some other way than it really is and only leads to frustration.

Accepting things that already are should come pretty naturally though. You may want to change something. But you can't change the past.


I agree, but you're not going to counter bumper sticker phrases with multi-paragraph quasi-Buddhist philosophy. :-) So I just stick with "what a load of crap".

But you're coming at it from a different angle, I feel. Instead of "finding your passion", I hear you advising a different way of looking at it such that one can find fulfillment (for lack of better phrasing) in whatever job by matching the story in one's head to reality. I'm on board. Hell, I've been happy doing janitorial work. Was it my passion? Well, no. But it needed to be done, and I could do it, they're paying me, and in the end there's something satisfying about a clean floor. That was enough for me at the time.


You guys are both right. You're saying "crap work" and "load of crap" figuratively, by my wife deals with it literally! She has a masters degree in marketing but rather run her own business than work for a boss. It's a dog kennel and three times a day she walks around the property poop-scooping. Her business is her passion, but it comes with some crap work. She's very happy.


Ray Lewis (NFL linebacker) said something along the lines of "I get paid for Monday through Saturday, Sunday I do for free".

I feel like that with coding a lot of the time. I get paid to deal with all the crap work, but those times I get to code something novel or unique are times I would still want even if I didn't have to work.


> Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life

corollary that should be equally well-known: "because nobody is hiring in that field"


My passion is audio but my job is writing software.

I have a lot of friends in the audio field, and something I've noticed is that doing your passion for a living can take the fun out of it.

For instance, my friends in the audio world don't sit around listening to new loudspeakers, or designing new loudspeakers. They mostly spend their time marketing products and filling orders. Working in audio isn't a whole lot different than working in any other retail field.

But when I work on audio projects? I can do whatever I please, because I'm not doing it to pay my mortgage.


> doing your passion for a living can take the fun out of it

I think this is really a corrupt idea that floats around, and many times influences younger people away from trying to find a career and instead landing themselves in crappy jobs.

For example, some people like to work on cars, but they don't get a job in that because their dumb uncle said this to them, so they spend their time grinding away at a fast food joint and going nowhere in life. Maybe they can poke at their 15 year old car once in a while, but overall their quality of life is not very good, and they basically never get to work on cars. If they had instead gone into professional car service, they would have a decent paying job and be able to reach a comparatively higher standard.

Does that mean that it's not work? Of course not. You will always have to do work and it's not always pleasant, but at least you can leverage your interests and strengths. If you get bored or annoyed at working on something you used to think was fun, then take a vacation or find something else do to over the weekends to get your mind off it. If you are annoyed that it's not fun anymore, then -- welcome to adulthood.

That is truly the difference between having a job and setting yourself up for a successful career.


In my opinion, you have to balance that position with the realities of the work force: what is in demand, what the compensation is, etc.

To give an example, two of my passions can be said to be writing code and playing music. Of the later passion, it is really difficult to make a career out of it that is anywhere comparable to any coding job, and (knowing what it's like in a local band) it's actually more work than a coding job in most cases; the best bands execute a lot on the sales / marketing / promotion side in any case, a side that I'm personally weak at. So music has becomes the "hobby passion", while the "code passion" pays the bills.

(Granted, in some cases it is actually possible to combine the two and do even better. DSP engineers for instance are in pretty high demand as far as I know.)


That pretty much describes my situation. Thankfully I enjoy both, and doing the one that pays well allows me to buy better instruments than I could as a working musician. Yup, I'm the guy in the corner with the multi-thousand dollar axe that can't play for shit. But, hey, mandolin makers gotta eat, too. And if it weren't for us "more money than skill" players, a lot more makers would go hungry. </shrug>


It depends on the passion as well. Not all passions are equal and can be easily transferred into a successful career. Assuming you have multiple passions, my personal advice would be to maximize money/time ratio for your career that corroborate with one of your passions to have some job satisfaction as well as pursuing your other passions.

For example, if you have a passion for say writing and computer science, I would recommend to get a job in CS, since money/time ratio is usually higher there.


Yes, this. And also to keep in mind what the article says - that passions can be developed.


From what I've seen, the truth is more like, "Following a passion of yours for a living is likely to take some amount of fun out of it, but the hit's usually pretty small; just realize that doing something as a profession tends to have some fundamental differences from doing it purely for fun / fulfillment."

Or perhaps the size of the hit varies - for some people / passions it's small or zero, for others it's big, with the peak of the curve being "some but not too much"?


> take a vacation or find something else do to over the weekends to get your mind off it. If you are annoyed that it's not fun anymore, then -- welcome to adulthood.

I drew another consequence and quit the field instead and in turn rescued my passion from fizzling out. And while I'm only passingly interested in what I'm doing now, for me, it was worth taking my hobby back.

It's not an entirely hollow phrase, but something to consider at least and maybe one should ask themselves if they're ready to be passionate about something for 8+ hours a day.


I don't know or have heard of anyone who had a passion for a well paid/achievable career and decided to do retail instead because they believed the career might hamper their enjoyment of hobbies.


> For example, some people like to work on cars, but they don't get a job in that because their dumb uncle said this to them, so they spend their time grinding away at a fast food joint and going nowhere in life

I think the dumb uncle is correct. Although, if you like something well enough, then you usually become good at it, which in some cases means that someone will pay you for it.

It's up to you if you want to extract the fun and convert it into cash. It may be worth it, or it may be not.


The best piece of advice I ever got is do what I like. Save my love for hobbies, but make sure I enjoy what I do.


The way I look at this is everything becomes a job if you have to do it enough. Ask a game tester what playing games can be like.


That's funny, I've been following my passions and now I'm a data scientist.

I can split my friends into two groups: those that followed their passions and are happy, and those that did not and have loans for silly things, egos that depend on their career, and a consistent need for validation by society.

Following your passion isn't about instant gratification, perhaps people are disappointed by this.


I think your division is only looking at the effect, not the cause.

Would it be more fair to divide your peers into people who searched for their passion, and those who just went with the flow?

When people say "find your passion", I think they mean to say "stumble upon your passion". "Find" is too passive a word, perhaps "search" is better.


Reminds me of how an excellent engineering manager I know calls such tasks like "review help file for accuracy" as Chimney Sweep—work that needs to be done, but is utterly mundane. And rotate such tasks across the team to ensure that no one person is stuck with too much "chimney sweeping".


My favorite euphemism for those tasks is "shaving the yak".

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/yak_shaving


shaving the yak refers to tasks that don't really need to be done. The parent was talking about mundane tasks that really do need to be done by someone, so you put up with it as just part of the job.


Yes, preceisly what allanienhuis says above. The Chimney Sweep taks are important, but mundane. E.g. some (a lot of) people dislike bug triage, but it's damn important. I like triaging (and fixing) bugs. To a decent extent, a bug report means something is bothering a real user. Fixing that is more rewarding (than writing features that might be useful for someone).

Edit: Just noticed SilasX below has a fuller example of 'yak shaving'. Thanks.


Really? The linked definition is:

"Any apparently useless activity which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allows you to solve a larger problem."

That sounds like necessary mundane tasks to me. Definitely mostly hear it used that way.


"Yak shaving" is for things that seem ridiculous at first glance but turn out to be necessary or optimal due to unexpected constraints and requirement -- washing your car requires you to shave a yak to get the wool to build a sponge.

"Tying your shoes" is for mundane but necessary tasks. "Sharpening your saw" is for tangential work that indirectly makes your output better.


There are subtleties in how the term "yak shaving" is used that aren't quite captured by that definition.

I wouldn't call it yak shaving to review a help file for accuracy.

My characteristic example of yak shaving would be, "I want to add a radio button (mutually exclusive pick-one option) to this form, but the framework's docs don't say how, so I'll implement it with the checkbox list and require only one to be checked, so I look up how to enforce input validation, but that requires installing an extra module in the build, which then installs a different version of one dependency we're already using, which the framework doesn't like, so I need to install another extension that lets you use two different versions of the same library in the build, but has an occasional bug..."

Those steps are necessary in the sense that the current system forces you to do them, but (like technical debt), they're completely artificial steps that shouldn't be necessary (in that sense) to begin with.


Or at least it's a rigamarole. For a folk etymology, I like to imagine that I'm making a costume for a costume party, and I need a fake mustache or something, and I can't find one anywhere so I look up how they're made, and it turns out most fake facial hair appliances are made from yak hair, but I can't find a supplier for yak hair anywhere, which is why my quest to dress up as Fu Manchu or Mr. Spock for Halloween has led me to a yak ranch 90 minutes out of town patiently explaining to a bemused yak rancher why I'm standing around his pasture with a straight razor.

"I need to shave a yak," I explain. "That's the only way I can get yak hair."

I'm in a deeply absurd situation, purely as a consequence of perfectly normal and understandable desires that just got completely out of control. I take in a deep breath, the smells of fresh air and yak manure and whatever the hell they feed yaks, gazing upon miles upon miles of gently rolling hills before rugged mountain peaks in the distance, awkwardly shaking my can of shaving cream. The rancher squints at me. I imagine him as an old man, his face weathered and wrinked, wearing suspenders and a red flannel shirt. "Why do you need yak hair?", he asks. I sigh. "It's a long story."


right, and I thought the implication is that at some point in that process we really should be unwinding the stack and fixing/resetting some assumption that will let us move ahead in a more efficient manner. So in that sense I've always thought of it as being in an undesirable state (like a code smell), not a necessary one.


Fair! Good example.


hmm, I've understood the term used to describe situations where people wind up wasting time doing things that seem important at the time (ie shaving the yak to get the wool to make the sponge to wash the car), but are really unnecessary - you should have just bought a sponge at the store and got on with washing the car...


Excellent summary, I have run my own business for 7 years and there are plenty of days that I don't enjoy. Fortunately there are enough fun bits and good moments that in the main I like what I do - I would not do it for free though, even if I didn't need the salary ... I'd probably go mountain biking instead.


There are a lot of things that people enjoy as a hobby on their own terms that they'd probably find a lot less fun if they had to do it every day on someone else's terms.

I was very into photography as a hobby at one point (still am to some degree) and I even toyed with the idea that maybe this is something I could do professionally. But the reality is that I would have unlikely become a staff photographer for Life or National Geographic and would much more likely have ended up as the photographer for the college news service--who was actually quite good but mostly took photos of rich alums shaking hands with the president.

Everyone differs of course. But, in general, one good strategy is to do something that you like well enough most of the time, you're good at, pays well and use your spare time and money to pursue things you like as hobbies.


I was a professional photographer for about ten years, and it definitely had a big negative impact on enjoying it as a hobby. The biggest factor contributing to that without question were the problem customers that came along. I enjoy creating. I do not enjoy the customer service or mundane business aspects.


I love the Brewpub example.

Your passion is drinking beer, so you are going to open a pub...

I hope your passion extends to cleaning vomit from hard to reach places, and the smell or beer mildew early the morning.


I once warned a friend of mine who was buying a business that he was actually buying a job. That turned out to be more correct than either one of us expected.


Lol or become a beer reviewer, small brewery, heck even a person in sales.


Finding your passion is just a way of saying Don't do what you despise for a living. There are a lot of people caught up in horrible jobs that they hate but can't leave due to obligations: family, bills, sometimes identity. Doesn't necessarily mean fun but manageable pain, with a little friction and opportunity to grow as a human being.


Working a "whatever" job also isn't finding a passion, yet it's a perfectly serviceable way of funding your life as you pursue things outside of your employment hours. As long as it isn't destructively draining you, and isn't assaulting your psyche, it can just be plain work.


> I love what I do, and I work every day.

I think the upshot of the quote is supposed to be something like this:

Figure out the set of interests which pique your curiosity. Know the difference between that set and the set of interests that society irrationally deems respectable through peer-pressure, propaganda, and other FUD. Pick something from the first set (possibly intersecting the 2nd set) and you are unlikely to feel like every day is filled with a sense of dread and drudgery.

But here-- as in the original quote-- there is a hidden premise that the audience already has interests in the first set. I think there's also a premise that the audience also has the tools to investigate a particular topic and grow in knowledge, skills, and self-awareness.

That last part is key. If nobody in an audience has the will or ability to investigate the world around them, it doesn't matter what platitude you feed them.


This is so true! After founding my own company I quickly learned that the price for having these joyful moments is also having to deal with stuff likes taxes, hiring, etc.

But then again, this can also become a highly enjoyable thing. I hated it for the first months but after a year, I actually enjoy the business side as well. It challenges me as an engineering person to leave my comfort zone, and provides for a chance to learn something new.

To find what you love is a good thing, always. The path taken may sometimes be unpleasant but in the end it will be rewarding if you stick to your goals.

There is so much truth in the Nike claim :-) "Just do it."


To play devil's advocate: it sounds like you let your 12-year-old self pick your career, not knowing what it would entail, and now you're trying to rationalize it. You say you love your work, except what you have to do this morning, and you're putting off another task that needs doing ("for obvious reasons"?). That's not exactly the behavior I associate with love.

It's called "work" because it needs doing, not because it's inherently unpleasant. Your boss won't make a penny more just because you don't happen to like doing it.

(I see the same thing with relationships. There are people I'd be miserable to be with, but that certainly doesn't mean everyone would. Likewise, many people pick a mate in high school and then discover 10 or 20 years later that their teenage self wasn't such a great decision-maker, or simply that they've changed as they've grown.)

I switched careers recently, after many years in software, and now I adore going to work -- every day, every task. I cannot believe they pay me for this. How would you know if all other jobs would also be "crap work" for you if you haven't tried any of them yourself?

EDIT: I'm glad I used a throwaway for this comment! Are people so offended by the concept of needing to try something to discover if it's pleasant or not? Or that another job might be a better fit for them?


Agreed that something being called "work" doesn't mean that it has to be unpleasant, but like you said, it's called "work" because it needs to be done, and in most cases ALL of it needs to be done, even the parts that a given individual might not enjoy. It also might be true that even though a person doesn't like some aspects of their work, they still get a lot of fulfillment from other aspects of their work, and are also compensated well financially, so as to make it worth the tradeoff to sometimes have to do tasks they don't enjoy. And really are there people that truly take great delight from reviewing a help file? Somebody has to get it done. As long as that kind of work doesn't become the only type of work you are doing, what's the problem?


Which career did you switch to?


That sounds sad, but it doesnt have to be THIS hard.


Don't take it so literally.


People can be passionate about something and it doesn't necessarily mean that the passion is a positive thing. You can be passionately angry, or passionately annoyed and upset. This is why it's useful to reframe passion as something that is not purely positive.


Advice that my father gave my siblings and me, "Make a career out of a field you're interested in, with colleagues you can tolerate, that affords a standard of living you can accept." All three of these criteria are fairly weak individually. The first is not passion, merely interest. The second is just "tolerate". And the last one is flexible in that people may have different expectations in income. The power is when all three combine: they should hopefully form a life of decent work experience and financial stability. Admittedly a lot more pagmatic than finding and making a career out of the thing you enjoy most - but considerably more achievable.

There are plenty of things I am more passionate about than software development, but doesn't fulfill the other two categories. Those make for good hobbies, but usually not good careers.


The advice isn't bad, it's just being interpreted badly.

You may find computer programming totally boring, and you may find environmental volunteering very fulfilling. But you're good at programming and it pays well. So take your passion, environmental volunteering, and work hard to get a programming job that is related to environmentalism. Now you're doing something boring, but in service of a cause that is meaningful to you.

> "How to cultivate a “growth” mind-set in the young, future-psychology-experiment subjects of America? If you’re a parent, you can avoid dropping new hobbies as soon as they become difficult. Beyond that, there’s not a clear way to develop a growth mind-set about interests"

...Or, don't tell your kids what they should do, don't prevent them from trying new things, and engage them in different subjects in a way that inspire wonder and instill a sense of possibility and accomplishment.


I respectfully disagree. I think this is precisely where the "follow your passion" advice logically concludes a lot of the time and it results in a painful search for gainful employment. I spent years trying to follow this mantra and it left me unfulfilled, confused, and resentful.

As soon as I went back to doing what I am innately good at, I became much happier. I instead focused on improving my skills and having a positive impact at my workplace with the people I work with. This has lead to far more fulfillment than when I was "following my passion."

I also would like to add that I think "follow your passion" is largely broken because its hard to know what that even is a lot of the time. And then taking something fleeting and attempting to build a life on top of it is reckless. This week I might enjoy cooking and trying to get better at that. Should I then drop everything and go to culinary school? This week I enjoy carpentry, should I start a carpentry business? Now its gardening, should I become a landscaper? etc...


Well first off, I'm sorry you had that experience, that sucks, and I'm glad you're better off now.

I think what I'm suggesting is that if you have an idea that your passion might be gardening, you don't have to become a landscaper. You could work for a company that develops non-patented disease-resistant seeds, or a company that grows plants for sale in big box stores, or maybe even a small start-up that tries to connect small farmers that grow unique crops to restaurants that want to provide a unique menu.

Maybe it should be re-worded as "try to combine your skills with your interests".


It is worth remembering that the skills and the interests need to be combined in your life, not every day at work. Maybe you are passionate about gardening so you have a good job that pays well and keeps summer hours, letting you spend your weekends gardening.

I have a passion that I engage with for a living (math) and it's currently keeping me underpaid. I'm also very interested in art and so I go to museums, work on learning how to paint, etc -- and if it was my job, I'd stop liking it. I like it so much because it's a complement.

Some passions are like hot sauce -- a sprinkling makes almost every food better, while a full bowl gives you the runs.


> try to combine your skills with your interests

This is 100x more grounded, clear-cut, and actionable than "follow your passion".


I disagree with that. If you don't know a long term passion then obviously you can't just find gainful employment. The point of 'follow your passion' is more of opportunity and what your passions are worth to you. You don't just quit your job and launch into the wild, you make responsible decisions over time that can lead you into something that is more fulfilling in your life.

I'm glad you figured out what works for you, and I agree the mantra of 'follow your passion' is very misleading. But if we're all comfortable being where we're at nobody goes anywhere. And at the same time only following what you wanted also tends to lead nowhere.


There is only so much need for programmers in environmental volunteering. There is a great need for programmers who can write software for insurance companies. I know a number of great programmers who have left those jobs because they are doing boring. The ones who remain find things to enjoy outside of work. Some love programming and are happy to be paid to do it, but most are just great programmers doing a boring job 9-5 and going home at night to something they love. The only thing they love about their job is it is 9-5, overtime is rare, and they have to take a two week paid vacation every year (a fraud prevention measure to make it hard to cover any wrong doing).

Likewise, nobody is passionate about hauling my trash to the dump. (I have kids in diapers so my trash stinks) Nobody is passionate about cleaning septic systems. The jobs have to be done though.

All of the above jobs have something in common: well paid compared the the level of skill required. The people who do them have learned to do their job, and they have learned to find something else in life to enjoy.


What do you mean by "(a fraud prevention measure to make it hard to cover any wrong doing)"?


It's not all that common for developers, but forced vacations are fairly normal in accounting and finance - or at least they were in another lifetime when I worked in accounting.

There have been cases where an employee has been committing fraud, but it wasn't discovered for years because the person never took a day off and so was able to continually cover up their wrongdoing.

There's a decent discussion of it here on Stack Exchange: https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/107060/mandator...


but forced vacations are fairly normal in accounting and finance - or at least they were in another lifetime when I worked in accounting.

It probably hasn't been ten years since my aunt's most recent husband got caught in that exact manner, and I'd frankly be surprised if it weren't still common, given that it appears to work.

(As a footnote, it was an interesting phenomenon to watch. "He's an accountant at some no-name company, and she sells Mary Kay. Where the hell are these Bahama vacations and the big house coming from? Mary Kay didn't give her that Cadillac, she bought it because no one buys Mary Kay. I dunno, must be up to their eyeballs in debt." Of course, looking back now it was friggin' obvious. His unfortunate solution to the hammer that was soon to fall on his head involved a 12 gauge shotgun.)


I could be inspired to haul trash. If I knew the system put in place was designed to get people to minimize their actual trash, that organic waste was being reused properly for compost, and that multi-stream recycling was in place, I would feel pretty good about what I was doing. Work in waste management: save the planet.

I don't know how to get established cities to follow such a program, but Taiwan seems to have figured it out. https://www.wsj.com/articles/taiwan-the-worlds-geniuses-of-g...


Hauling trash in USA is a terrible job. Overflowing with criminals and safety hazards.

https://features.propublica.org/sanitation-salvage/sanitatio...


I think there's quite a big difference between the trash business in New York City and most other places in the country.


Sure there will be boring tasks to do in every project, but there are usually interesting ones too. If you can have fun with your co-workers, it also makes boring work more enjoyable.

The most boring job I ever held was working in an office supply store. The people were boring, the customers were boring (and there weren't that many of them). I even worked in a warehouse on a packing line. That was pretty boring work, but the staff there found ways to amuse themselves and it was always busy. The days went by quickly.


> Now you're doing something boring, but in service of a cause that is meaningful to you.

Finding your passion is much better advice than doing what you think people want you to be doing with your life. I honestly think that's all it means. Do something that connects to you. People don't like to think about being all alone in the world, but the hard truth of life is one day we might be. You don't want to stick yourself in a panopticon of memories reminding you of choices you didn't choose independently. It's not the worst thing to happen to a person, but it's very similar to the abstract functionality of PTSD. Trying to escape yourself while finding your own value system can be just as imprisoning, especially if your value system actually winds up aligning with whoever chose whatever for you.

I've made these mistakes in life, so, trying to return to a version of myself where I had my own passion. But it just loops back around, and that's...it sucks. Finding stuff to do that resonates as crystal clear true to you is really, really important. Don't knock it because being respected and valued and admired by others is nice to experience. Here in an instant and gone in a flash. And if those things don't connect to you at core, it's really, really hard rebuilding yourself without going completely insane. It breaks you down and you have to build yourself back up again. Over and over. It seems to come at a cost I can't identify entirely. Sort of thing that makes you want to stare for a thousand miles and just wonder 'why'. And if you can't find anything in your life to be joyful and accepting about, it just leads to a silent variant of rage. Strong arguments, prickly, walled off people. This gets compounded if the only things you seem to enjoy may be a bit on the stigmatized side of things, or simply, not in line with current trends. So this cycle, of being broken and having to rebuild yourself, you don't want it to control you. You want to have control over it.

Finding your passion, accepting it. Very important to being happy and being able to improve lives around you.


> ...Or, don't tell your kids what they should do

I disagree here. Telling our kids what they should do is a good-sized chunk of a parent's job, all the way from "Don't touch that stove" to "Pick a public place to meet strangers from the internet." "Don't major in art history at a $30k/year school unless we win the lottery" is the same class of advice, and you can be sure my kids will hear it from me.


"Don't major in art history at a $30k/year school unless we win the lottery"

If you put it in precisely those terms, I would wager one of your kids will, of all possible career choices, choose to major in art history for exactly $30k/year.


Any parent will tell you that inducing a desired teenager behavior while maintaining the illusion of free will is a simple wording trick:

"I would love to see you succeed in any career you choose; of course, society values things very materialistically, for example an art major will never afford a fancy car and clothes, a big house with a pool and trips around the world. But you will have your love of art and lots of art albums if that's what really maters to you."


> Now you're doing something boring, but in service of a cause that is meaningful to you.

I think this is a good balance.

Another way to look at it is from a "theory of change" [1] mindset. I discovered this idea a few weeks ago, from a HN comment, I believe. You envision some type of change that you want to bring about in the world, and then you work backwards in concrete steps in order to figure out how to make it happen. What's cool about this is that it gives you a clear purpose for going outside of your comfort zone and learning new skills. E.g. maybe you're a programmer, and you want to get the US on renewable energy. You're good at programming, but through your analysis you realize that persuading people (politics) is the most likely path to your goal. So you start improving your interpersonal skills.

[1]: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/theoryofchange

As far as growth mindset, it's strange that the article said "Beyond that, there's not a clear way to develop a growth mindset about interests." The canonical book on the topic [2] offers many more ideas on how to cultivate growth mindset.

[2]: https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0...


I agree. The advice should read, "Find something you can be passionate about that you can also make a living at"

Personally, I feel like people who take "find your passion" literally are just using the advice to rationalize their own entitlement.


meh, I develop software for a genomics company, biology being my childhood passion, still feels boring and unfulfilling as hell.


A much older Atlantic article argued for exactly the same point: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/follow-...

A sample:

But not everyone has the potential to be Steve Jobs. Not just because most people are rather more ordinary, but because there are a limited number of jobs that are really fun, greatly admired, and fairly well remunerated, which is what most people want.

The problem is, the people who give these sorts of speeches are the outliers: the folks who have made a name for themselves in some very challenging, competitive, and high-status field. No one ever brings in the regional sales manager for a medical supplies firm to say, "Yeah, I didn't get to be CEO. But I wake up happy most mornings, my kids are great, and my golf game gets better every year."

That's most people. But what does Steve Jobs have to tell them?


I find that even when I'm working on projects I'm passionate about, there are still days - and plenty of them - when the work is a relentless grind of frustration and dullness.

Even when you're doing exactly what you want to do, it's still going to be tedious a lot of the time. And even if you're in the lucky position of being able to hand grunt work over to other people, admin, management, planning, and other distractions are never going to go away.

Interestingly, top CEOs rarely talk about their inner lives, so we have no idea how happy or fulfilled they truly are.


The first thst happened when I became a lead is that I got to do a lot more of the thankless grunt work so that my teammates can focus on implementing the (relatively) fun new features.


>Interestingly, top CEOs rarely talk about their inner lives, so we have no idea how happy or fulfilled they truly are.

Musk is depressed so I guess it is not always sunshine and rainbows.


At least he has a goth gf?


>there are a limited number of jobs that are really fun, greatly admired, and fairly well remunerated

This is somewhat a negative view of the world as a zero sum game.


There is a world in which it's not a zero sum game, but the number of really fun, admired, well-paid jobs is still quite limited.

But it's true. Reality for many people is that their job is something they tolerate, not something they love.


Are you implying it isn't true? The world is most certainly zero sum in a lot of areas - how many people can make it as famous actors?


> how many people can make it as famous actors?

In what way do you mean this question? If the point is that there are only so many spots for talented actors, I disagree. It used to be there were 3 networks with, say, 4 half-hour slots per evening in prime time. There were maybe a handful of movies out per month. And maybe there were a dozen plays on Broadway (? - not much of a theater goer, so maybe I'm wrong on this).

Now with cable, DVDs, internet, mobile phones, computers, etc. there are thousands more slots available for talented actors. There are thousands more slots available for mediocre actors. There are movies in the theater, movies that go straight to streaming/DVD, made-for-TV movies on the traditional networks and the thousands of smaller cable networks. There are series on traditional TV, series on cable networks like HBO and Showtime, series on streaming like Netflix and Amazon, series on free services like YouTube.

If, on the other hand, your point is that being good at acting is limited to people with some talent, training, and time, then I agree. Most people would not be good actors. But there's no shortage of space available for actors if they want it.


That's a strange question. It's conflating fame and acting, which are (mostly) orthogonal. Would you ask how many people can make it as famous software engineers?

There's probably a limit to the number of 'famous' people in the world, depending on your idea of fame, because people simply can't know about an unlimited set of other people.

But the world can have more artists, of all kinds. We're nowhere close to the limit on the number of great actors our society can support. We'd need more theatres, acting teachers, costumers, lighting designers, etc., but I don't see why we couldn't have 1000 more Anthonys Hopkins (in skill, not fame) in my city.


Everyone wants to be the exception, no one wants to deal with reality. Especially in the age of social media where we can watch the exceptions enjoying their life all day long. And the few moments where it might show that they aren’t, you don’t even see those. We even try to mimick what we see by broadcasting our own lives into the ether in the hopes that somone sees it and tells us how great we are.

The reality for most people is they will not have a fulfilling or meaningful career. Most people do mostly worthless work for a paycheck they can enjoy elsewhere. This is oddly MORE true in tech than in many other jobs like trade. If you’re a plumber and you fix a pipe at least you know somone used it. You can spend decades in tech working on things that go nowhere, never get released or idle and then collapse and make good money doing it.

But that’s the system we have. You are paid whatever you can convince society that it owes you and the correlation to your actual contribution is increasingly more and more loose.

I think for the vast majority of Americans their passion is simply making money. Some are better at it than others.


This seems very similar to the premise behind "So good they can't ignore you" by Cal Newport [0].

I haven't got around to reading it yet, but I'd be interested to know if anyone here found it useful.

[0] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/034941...


I help people get data science jobs for a living (and I'm an otherwise annoying career advice giver to others) and this is the ONLY book I recommend everyone to read. I've read it probably 10 times and it's a quick read, finds a good balance between stories and developing his framework further, but much harder to implement the advice.

But he installs a powerful mental framework for thinking about careers and gives you a new way of looking at the world. You may not see "results" immediately, but it really helps you focus on how to determine what work traits are meaningful for you and the types of career moves you should make to match.

Deep Work is an excellent follow up on the tactics / daily practice, and also a must read for knowledge workers.


I read it, and I found it very useful.

In particular, I used the advice in the book to help me stay motivated when working on code bases that old, large, occasionally crufty, and once in a while downright nasty. Over time, I've grown to actually enjoy this kind of work.

And as it turns out, it's pretty useful to enjoy the 'dirty jobs' of programming. Companies don't run big old code because they're on love with it. They do it because the code is making them money. And because it's making them money, and they know it, they're not afraid to pay to improve it. And the neat thing is that when working on this kind of code, you often get to work with fun newer bits of tech, too. For example, there's no reason you can't use React to spice up an old ASP.NET Web Forms site, as long as using React is the best/fastest way to deliver value for the task you're trying to accomplish.

I'm not sure if any of that it useful, but at least it's one bit of data indicating that the book motivated someone to push through the pain and become good at (and enjoy) something that wasn't a passion at the start.


Didn't read the article yet, but this is the premise behind that book and a lot of the writings on his blog. I highly recommend this book as well as Deep Work if you're a knowledge worker.

One of the bigger points he makes is putting in the hard work and eventually you'll get to a place where that thing develops into your passion and affords you lots of free time, flexibility, autonomy, respect, etc...


I’ve just finished reading it. He comes up with a series of rules and backs them up with anecdotes though I don’t think they are thoroughly tested. But they do help you think about it more deeply. It helped bring these different ideas I’ve heard before into a more coherent form. Though personally I think you should follow what you’re interested in or suited to as it makes it a lot easier.


I'm a big Cal Newport fan. Compared to other authors I've read, his books seem to have a good mix of practical, technical, and high-level advice. "So Good They Can't Ignore You" in particular is absolutely worth the time to read


Except it's universally true that the most "successful" people in the world did "follow their passion."

A different way to say it is that, people who make big impacts on the world are obsessed with the right problem at the right place, and the right time.

We all know the crank who has been obsessed with some problem or some technology forever, but was just at the wrong place and wrong time to be successful with it.

The VR field has many of these people floating around all pissed off that Palmer Luckey got the glory.

Both people followed their passions, being "successful" just happened to line up for one of them instead of the others.

The reason "follow your passion" is awful advice is because there is no way for an individual to really predict what is going to be a sustainable way to live and most "obsessives" end up only marginally contributing to whatever their field is because the timing is wrong. This pattern seems to hold everywhere, sports, comedy, physics, economics etc...

However I can't think of one example of someone who was wildly successful who was not obsessed or "passionate" about what they were doing. Whether or not you accidentally find it or deliberately seems to be irrelevant.

I for one would like someone to describe how you know if you're passionate/obsessed with something - cause I know for myself I can get obsessed about many different things.


"This study was a preregistered replication, meaning the authors stated at the outset what their hypothesis and methods would be. This process is meant to prevent p-hacking, a shady data practice that has cast a shadow over many psychology studies in recent years."

This is a very promising development.


Yes I noticed that too. I'm starting to think psychology may end up ahead of other fields actually - the replication crisis is much wider than just psychology but it seems to have come to the surface there first. And so they're the first to tackle it.


More useless clickbait nonsense. All advice is awful and useless in one form or another because life is complicated.

"Find your passion". One person could take that advice and becomes einstein. Another takes that and become a failure.

"Stay in your lane". One person takes that advice and is content. Another one takes that advice and becomes a bitter old man who wonders about "what if".

How about life is a crap shoot and we leave it at that? Every advice article/book/etc is just lazy greedy people trying to make money off of you.

Reading carnegie's "how to make friends...", graham's "intelligent investor" or kiyosaki/robbins/etc isn't going to make you successful, happy or content. It's just going to make the writers or their estate money.

It's funny how many new self-help and advice nonsense is out there? If any of it actually worked, there wouldn't be a market for new self-help and advice nonsense year after year.


I don't disagree with self-help being nonsense. Most that I've read is certainly written to be authoritative when they're not, drawing on a fresh selection of recent 'scientific' studies that are really cherry-picked to fit the author's opinions.

So why not treat self-help as opinions? They might click with you or they might not, but in the end they represent someone else's thoughts of how the world works, not a general truth of the world. That's still valuable. Sure, some of those opinions can be popular and sell millions of copies (e.g. Carnegie), and yet are real useless for many readers. But is it really fair to say that they're awful and money-grabbing for that reason?


Find your passion is great advice, in a world of increasing loneliness, isolation, exposure to news, etc. I think having a passion is a wonderful thing. I don't think your passion has to align with your career however. Programming is a great career for me but it is not my passion, I don't do side projects, open source, etc. etc. But it pays well and provides a standard of living that allows me to do the things I am passionate about.


How about "Figure out how to exploit your own knowledge and talents", cause that's the way the rest of the world is looking at you. It might not be something that is your passion but at least you might feel like you're in charge of your future.


To paraphrase Lucy Kellaway, it's very silly to apply a term which until very recently has been used to describe deepest intimacy and suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross, to describe something most of us wouldn't do unless we were paid for it.


But the word recently has a well understood meaning, which means, something you want to do, something you would choose to do if there were no barriers.

HN literally seems like the general sentiment has shifted to the opposite of what it used to be a decade ago. What happened?


For comparison: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=&sort=byPopularity&prefix&page...

My take: gradual shift in user base especially since HN has gotten more popular, not to mention just a difference in zeitgeist. This implies the old guard have changed how they communicate or use the site as well. So just the same as anywhere else.


“Find your passion” is ultimately tremendously selfish. It’s saying “I’ll do what I want regardless of what the world needs.” It’s learning to be a juggler rather than a dentist on an island with ten jugglers and twenty toothaches.


That would make all the dentists selfless people. Its not that straightforward.


Sure - obviously dentistry on this island will pay better than juggling, and adding an eleventh juggler will only further reduce juggler wages. It’s not an exact science, because pay does not equal value, so you have people becoming investment bankers etc.


Scott Adams wrote about this in the WSJ a while back: https://www.wsj.com/articles/scott-adams8217-secret-of-succe...

He says we see successful passionate people but have the causality backwards: success does not follow passion, but passion follows success.


So did this guy do any serious research into how people chose their careers? Did he work as a career counselor? Has he done extensive interviews with people at the top of their field?

Oh no, he's apparently qualified to talk about this because he wrote Dilbert.


LOL like that is how you gain insight into human happiness. Scott Adams also never was a politician, never interviewed politicians, never administered a poll, never ran a campaign. And yet he accurately predicted the results of the last US presidential election, while nearly all news outlets, professional polls, and political "experts" failed to do so.


LOL The night of the election, I put cat food in two bowls labeled "trump" and "clinton." The cat ate out of the trump bowl first.

My cat was never was a politician, never interviewed politicians, never administered a poll, never ran a campaign. And yet he accurately predicted the results of the last US presidential election, while nearly all news outlets, professional polls, and political "experts" failed to do so.


Or, it's neither of those things. Scott Adams is just being contrarian, as per usual.


One of the things I keep saying is that I made a mistake when I made a hobby (software development) into a career.

I used to love it, would go through hours on my own free time to code usually completely useless stuff, for fun. Only occasionally this would yield something useful. And that was fine.

Fast forward many years, and it's been a while since I've last written a single line of code at home. I don't even have Emacs installed in my home machine anymore.

I can still get excited when a task requires me to learn new stuff. I can still have fun some of the time. But that flame is no longer there.

I guess anything will become a chore once you do too much of it, specially if you are doing it not because you want to, but because you are required to.

That said, you could not pay me enough to do something like sales. So I guess the advice would be "find something that you don't absolutely hate" and you'll do ok. It's called work, not "fun", for a reason.


I've seen/read/experienced this process a lot. My personal theory is that when your hobby becomes a job, you find other hobbies.

One way I've managed to deal with this is by changing what I work on in a fairly frequent cadence. So either within the same company or in different companies, changing your squad/org and working on something totally different kinda satisfies my inner craving for programming. Its not easy or always possible to do so, but I've been lucky so far to be young and single and thus flexible with moving. Not sure how I'll handle this after I'm settled down and stuff.


I think most people are just not passion-developers. I know I'm not. There are people who seem to be very single track in some areas. They like one thing and they like that one thing. Often they liked it from a young age. And they don't care that much for various other things around them.

I was never like that, I was never single track. There are a lot of things I find interesting, but there's no particular thing that is so all-consuming it can eclipse everything else.

There is no good advice because building a society is not about giving individuals good advice, it's about building a good society that a variety of individuals can thrive in without following esoteric advice.


People want you to have passion until you disagree with them.


"Find your genius" may be intimidating but it may also be more honest and accurate. It certainly appears that some people's brains are full of passionate intellectual curiosity and most people's aren't.

It seems entirely possible that if you haven't developed a passion around any topic by the time you're an adult, you probably aren't the kind of person that does.

Maybe the goal for people that don't have passionate intellects should be to focus on the intellectual strengths they do have.


That was my problem with the OP's research. It presumed that techies differed from fuzzies because only techies like tech. Bzzzt. In fact, many techies have very broad interests, including fuzzy fare and math and science. Stratifying your population using a flawed premise is a bad start toward producing results that usefully describe more than a niche group or two.

Then to presume that an article on black holes which is complex and challenging would cause those with an interest in them to lose interest... That conclusion is just silly. The right conclusion is that these people now have less interest in reading complex and challenging articles... perhaps on any topic.

In all, I don't hold much hope that the results of this research will replicate well.



You can genuinely find something in the world of professional work that holds your interest -- a sense of being capable and engaged in the tools of your trade should be a point to look for when engaged in something you can find a career in. Now, if I really like computer science research but I really need to feed my family I'm probably going to consider working in engineering or administration because that is where my comfort in the toolset is going to pay me. That's not to say you can't pursue something you are genuinely passionate about in the field (the notion that all fields of profession exist in general terms and not in nuanced niches is the ignorance in this "Find your passion" statement) but if you're in any business because you want to put food on the table, you probably drift towards work that is within your comfort zone just enough that you don't hate it.

One of my professors laments the lack of interest in my university's "computer science" specialization over engineering or administration in the compsci degree, but how many people hedge their livelihood on becoming a researcher in experimental fields? It's a passion best chased when you have a baseline already.


Is it possible...and I'm just conjecturing here, that this advice is for the 0.01% of humanity. Think about it from an extremely high level POV. If giving this advice to everyone in the entire world, and if 0.01% is able to follow through with it...this is how we get standouts like Beethoven, Einstein, Gates, Jobs. etc. Is this terrible advice then? Sure, it doesn't help plebs like us, but it sure does help the world move along...


Beethoven, Einstein, Gates, Jobs. etc, all put in the grueling hard boring hours doing the things that weren't fun. They did what they were good and successful at, which when you become an expert at becomes very fulfilling.

There's a guy at our Home Depot who might be the best Home Depot salesman in the country. Just fun to be around, great with customer service, knows everything about the store, and always training new employees, and honestly seems to enjoy his job.

But I doubt he was thrilled when on his first day he was sweeping the floors after close.


Cal Newport addresses this very well in the first 10 mins of his talk at Google - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOdU02SE0w


I love the work I do. In the first few years of my career I thought to myself, many times, "I can't believe they're paying me to do this." I wouldn't have done it for free, but man, it was fun. Most days it's still fun. I've been doing this since the late 1970s.

Some days have not been fun. Hell, I've had a few years of that. It happens.

The trap is that, when it's not fun and you have to push through the inevitable shitty stuff that crops up (an awful boss or co-worker, a project run by psychopathic and abusive managers, a series of layoffs or a company going down the tubes) you need to figure out whether to keep your resolve and keep plugging away and try to fix things, or throw in the towel and start fresh somewhere else. Doing what you love requires that you do the difficult stuff, while not being taken advantage of. It can be tricky.

So yeah, follow your passion, if it pays enough and if you're not taken advantage of. If not, find something else.


There used to be a used bookstore near where I lived (McIntyre and Moore in Davis Square in Somerville). They had a sign on the wall about the kind of books they wanted to buy. They wanted books in fields where it is hard to make a living. I always thought that was an interesting heuristic. I guess that's where the passion is.


Mike Rowe has a short video on this: https://youtu.be/CVEuPmVAb8o

Just rewatched his TED talk and he brings it up around ~12 minutes in: https://youtu.be/IRVdiHu1VCc


If you need to find your latent/pre-determined passion, that ultimately means you don't really have a choice of what you do with your life. You just need to find what was already chosen for you.

Conversely, the growth-mindset restores choice to your life. You can choose what to be interested in, instead of limiting yourself to what you're already interested in. That's very powerful and self-affirming, and actually has a lot in common with the philosophy of existentialism, which is about making your own meaning. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism


Your latent passions are very likely non-specific, an affinity for particular facets of your lifestyle that resonate with you; not some specific regiment of what your business (as employee or otherwise) actually does.

So no, it doesn't predestine you down a particular career path where any deviation will leave you miserable. Your passions can apply very broadly.


Unfortunately, though, it appears to be false. It appears we have strong innate interests that we're not in control of.


What if you're interested in everything, what do you choose then?

I need to find a new job as the ceramic arts based one I'm doing now isn't working out financially. I'd like to do forestry, or maybe be a laboratory scientist, or perhaps a maths teacher, or work in a kitchen, drive an ambulance, pen tester, perhaps return to IP, or data science, or a car mechanic, or ...


"Find your passion" breaks down when we assume that every passion should pay our bills. Sometimes a job is just a job and our passions can be pursued because we are willing to put in 40 hours plus.

Some passions do pay but don't pay enough to support yourself. This is the nature of life and the economy as it is.

For example, working as an IT Engineer is not my first passion but it pays a salary adequate enough for me to provide a comfortable life for myself and my family.

If my mountain biking skills were such that they would pay me six figures a year to ride a bike then I could say that I wouldn't have to work a day in my life


Always the same vastly simplified discussion.

Obviously, having a deep interest in your work, something you may feel "passionate" about is a good thing.

Obviously, the opposite, hating your work or what it represents is not good for you.

Obviously, every work, no matter what, has boring parts.

Obviously, if you like chocolate cake and eat it every day you gonna hate it.

Obviously, waiting to find your "passion" is not gonna help you. It is just an excuse to procrastinate or avoid work.

So the truth is somewhere in the middle. Obviously.


Nonsense. It's wonderful advice for agents of the business entities that provide it. These companies can get millions of students per year to sign up for academic programs financed entirely by federally-guaranteed jumbo loans with no money down and no credit check. The institutions can then deposit the checks from those loans into their accounts and use them to build cool buildings and to pay big paychecks.

As for the people receiving the advice, who cares about those idiots? By the time they suffer any negative consequences from it, the checks will have already cleared.


Working is shit. But working can be rewarding, even if it's not what gives you the biggest and longest dopamine hit.

I don't know exactly what my passion is. I know that I love coding, and solving problems that I care about. I also know that I love telling stories, trying new things, and generally feeling good.

I also know that pain feels bad and that hardship makes me question my choices.

But for all of this, I'm content with my life and where I think I'll be in five years, probably.

I think that's plenty. And if I think that's plenty, doesn't that mean my life is good enough?


My advice to anyone would be to pick a career/job that at least relates to something that interests you. In the end it will make work a little more enjoyable. But as others have mentioned here, at some point you have to actually work and sometimes it's going to suck. That's just life. You can find a career that you enjoy, or sparks your interest enough to keep you doing it, but the idea of "never having to work a day in your life" (or however the mantra goes) is complete crap. So, get a job! And get a haircut!


Waiting to find your passion is a dead end. But seeking out what you're really interested in and enjoy, and making that your career is great advice.

Maybe you don't know what you love yet, that's fine, go figure it out.

I'm coming up on 40 now, and I tell any young person I talk to that they should figure out what they enjoy and pursue that. If you fail, ok but trying is worth it. Life is short and work is a huge part of it. Spending 8+ hours a day on something you don't enjoy just for a paycheck is a tragedy.


Isn't it more like "Love what you do" instead of "Do what you love" ? No matter how bad a job is, it is up to you to a certain extent as to what you make of it.


> with the right help, most people can get interested in almost anything

Yes, but those cultivated interests might not overlap with your natural talent.

You might decide to cultivate an interest in accounting, but be really bad at numbers since a young age, and will always be at a disadvantage towards someone that is innately good with numbers.

I think the best advice is: find something you enjoy learning about, and that fits well your natural talents and it will be much easier to make a career out of it.


> You might decide to cultivate an interest in accounting, but be really bad at numbers since a young age, and will always be at a disadvantage towards someone that is innately good with numbers.

This implies some very linear progression as to working with numbers ability, which is not really how these things work. And it's accounting, you do not need to be a numbers genius.

What you are saying is mostly true for hyper-competitive fields like music, sports, acting, etc.


The problem is, today almost everything is highly competitive. In the 60's you could have a degree in something that is not aligned with the persons natural talent, and still make a career out of it, because there where so few people with a degree.

Now, if someone takes a degree in something that they are not naturally talented in and still tries to make a career out of it just out of sheer persistence, it's not enough anymore.


There's no space for things to be more competitive than any other time period. These things are population driven and you're always generally average in the middle of some population, so the various effects will cancel out. It might have been less competitive for someone with a degree, but more competitive to get a degree in the first place.

Progress is generally not made out of sheer persistence. I think the problem might be with perceiving persistence as important, when the important thing might be doing the right thing at the right time, trying to increase the opportunity pool, etc.

I can totally buy that someone might not be able to find the information to become an accountant, or that someone might have issues with test taking, but the idea that someone should not even attempt numeric professions because they had some difficulty numbers growing up is absolutely preposterous. Where does that put all the programmers who didn't know what a for loop was until college?

It just doesn't follow, at all, lots of people can learn new concepts quite fine or better outside of the school environment. The only important factor is whether the job is in demand and accounting appears to be in demand to me.


The thing is, if someone is forc example not good at numbers growing up, they where probably good at something else.

Everybody is good at something, its a matter of trying different things out.

We will be better of persuing our natural tendencies and talent areas, and spend our persistence there rather than in some other area that we are not naturally gifted at.

There is usually a natural overlap between the areas we are interested and the ones we are talented.

If we follow that intersection of interest and talent our changes of being able to make a career in that area are higher.


While I very much endorse the growth theory (within reasonable limits I guess) and have experienced myself that things I didn't immediately find interesting grew on me, the downside for me nowadays is that I never really know whether things just aren't for me or if I'm just lazy and not trying hard enough.

Guess the trade-off of exploration vs. exploitation strikes even here, in career choices (or less consequential, hobbies and such).


What if you’ve been doing the same thing for over 10 years and are bored with it despite being good, I’ve been moving into design and went back to school to learn it properly but it’s hard to get into and doesn’t pay as much. I just don’t want to be bored 8 hrs a day doing html,css,etc over and over. I’ve been at it since 99. And backend coding is more boring so I’m stuck on the front end


I agree to a degree but the issue that I tend to have with these sort of articles is that they don't present a viable alternative. The idea that you should just pick something and get really good at it (e.g. as presented in the book "So Good They Can't Ignore You") seems like it is going too far in the other direction and seems like it relies a lot on survivor bias.


Some people at a very young age have a passion that is very difficult for them not to follow. For the rest of us aimless souls finding your passion is probably poor advice. For us creating the venn diagram of "don't mind doing", "can make money", "has no moral compromises" is not a bad place to start.


Larissa Lam from Finding Cleveland once said something along the line of "passion is not enough, you must find your purpose".

I find that exceptionally insightful and succinct. Purpose is what keeps you motivated during difficult part of the journey, without purpose, empty passion will not survive through the hardships of pursuing any dream.



I wonder if absolutes are not coloring this incorrectly... As well as maybe an underlying "I want it now" expectation?

I work part time and earn a full time income doing something that is _mostly_ fun... But sometimes it is not fun, and it took me 25+ years to get to this point.

Luck and perseverance both had roles to play for me...


Whatever you do, in the beginning, has to provide enough interest for you to want to improve.

Beyond that, all I can tell you no matter how passionate you feel about something now, you will feel more passion about it some days, and on some days (considerably) less.

To me, that's a sign you're on the right track.


I love video games, yet I have trouble pursuing my game project. I work as a developer instead, in domains I don't really like.

Maybe Im lucky that I can adapt my skills to realize my passion?

The only obstacles being money, discipline and project management.


Mastery gives passion as much as passion gives mastery.

Become incredibly good at something, so that when you do it, you can do it quickly and go back to leisure or work on really tough problems where people look up to you as the expert.


Terrible advice. Similar to telling someone to find their soulmate...Just not going happen for everyone, and if you one of the select few, understand it was more luck than your superior self awareness.


This is still wrong. “Soulmate” is a silly false idea. There are many people a given person could be happy with. Every relationship takes work, conscious effort and compromise. You don’t find your ideal mate you choose them and then develop the real lasting bond


That mindset is self fulfilling.


I felt my youth is wasted because I only do things that I like(my passion) anyone can give me some uplifting words about this feeling?


I think it's best when what you do is at the intersection of what you can do, what you should do, and what you want to do.

Unfortunately, those three things don't always align in reality.


Valid long-term advice tends to be invalid short-term advice, otherwise the valid long-term advice would have been marketed as valid short-term advice...


I’ve found that I’ve had an interest in everything, from mundane things to amazing things.

Where do you go from that?

I suspect it’s the same answer for people that have no interests in anything.


this sort of reminds me of RPG games. i never know what class to choose, they all seem cool in most games. so what i usually do is look at the end level content for what a class will be capable of and choose based on that, even though i never have time to actually get to that stage anyway. but the concept of working towards something is super valuable to me. i know its not exactly directly applicable to real life, but perhaps finding youtube videos or something on what is possible if you're an expert at said subject would probably help you choose something


Just pick something and see where you can take it.

The problem with talents/careers/skills is that they all have a valley in between the "just started learning" high and the "I'm actually good at it now" high.

When you first start, you're learning quickly, and you can celebrate the small wins as they roll in because your growth is very visible. Once you're good at something, people start to recognize you as an expert, and the external feedback helps a lot to motivate you.

The valley in the middle is the tough grind that gets to many if not most people. If you are lucky enough that your enthusiasm and passion carries you through it, then good for you! But if you aren't, that middle valley is where willpower and persistence are very valuable.

I've personally experienced both. I was lucky enough that a combination of formal college "do it for the grade" motivation and some inherent enthusiasm carried me through that valley for coding.

But for piano... there was probably 5-6 years in the middle that was a real slog. I eventually got good enough that with practice I could play almost any music you put in front of me, and now I enjoy it, but it was a slog for most of the years I spent learning.


"Anyone can do anything" is a big lie -- people just find it hard to admit themselves are just as normal as anybody else.


If everyone is normal then people who do extraordinary things are normal too.

Don't squish people before they have a chance to blossom.


Correct -- you should at least try and then make a fair judgment of yourself. However, that judgment is still hard to make.


It's always hard. Doesn't mean squish yourself with some preconception of normality, expectations. Predicting things about yourself from limited data you can't analyze in entirety is a hard problem, because the actual history of an experience always contains more information than you were able to aggregate at the time. So we refine, filter, get a perspective of ourselves. That judgement is impossible to make accurately.

It's like trying to bite your own teeth. It's always balancing act. Partially judgement, partially pushing boundaries. Letting one overtake the other, I mean, if judging is what you like doing, go you. But sometimes you just have to take action instead. You can't get better at anything without doing at least that.


This article seems too focused on the idea that even if you're not passionate about something today, you can be more passionate about it tomorrow and it's easier to become passionate if you don't have a fixed mindset (imagine that!).

But it still overemphasizes the importance of passion in a career IMO. I think the best career advice is to declare what's important and find a career that seems congruent with that. If the important things in your life don't pay much or require money, be prepared to select a career that's lucrative but tolerable / benign.

Personally, I'm not leaping out of bed to get to work, but it pays well and I like that it supports my hobbies. I certainly wouldn't have chosen this career if I had followed my passion. However, I think I get to enjoy my passions more because I have some financial resources to pursue them and I get to enjoy them more on my own terms.

The reality is this - work is lucrative either because it's unpleasant (plumbing), hard to acquire the skills (doctor / some lawyers / software engineering), performance oriented and intensely competitive (financial trading, top level management). Things that people are passionate about tend to be pleasant, easy, or doing things that are broadly appealing. It's hard to imagine that being passionate.

The only people who should follow their passions are people with passions that are lucrative to follow. If you love managing projects / products, follow your passion. If you love horses, consider doing something lucrative so you can buy your own horse.


I guess they should have specified that if you are choosing between being a doctor, a lawyer, or a software engineer you should select one of those specialties not randomly but based on your preferences (aka passion).


"X is awful advice" is awful advice


False by recursion :)


That's awful advice. To be fair, so is this.




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