I recently stumbled across a video that offers some interesting work-related advice from Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs. His advice: Don’t follow your passion.
On the surface it’s easy to dismiss this as a ridiculous statement and not give it a second thought. But what if it’s not such a ridiculous statement? What if it’s actually pretty great advice?
The more palatable, and oft-quoted, advice we like to give and receive sounds something like this:
- Never give up on your dreams!
- Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!
- You can fail at what you don’t like, so you might as well take a chance on something you love!
Nice sentiments to be sure. Very inspiring. But terrible career advice for the overwhelming majority of us.
When it comes to passion, leave that for your hobby. When it comes to work, follow opportunity instead.
Don’t Follow Your Passion
Whether by force or through self-realization, most of us don’t get to go to work doing what we dreamed of as a kid – they’re called dream jobs for a reason. But being practical does not mean you are risk averse. Practicality is not born out of fear. You’re not giving up on your dreams at all. You can still pursue your passions, just don’t hitch your livelihood to it!
Follow opportunity, not passion, to find and build your fortune.
In the video below (you really should watch this short video) Mr. Rowe tells us that his passion was to be a craftsman, just like his grandfather was. Mike followed this passion for years until one day he realized that just because he had the passion to do something, didn’t mean he had the skill-set required to make it a reality.
Had he followed the popular advice of “never give up on you dreams” he might have become an poorly rated contractor on Yelp struggling to make a living and hating every second of it.
Mike gave up his passion after speaking to that same grandfather that he looked up to, and followed opportunity instead. Along the way he’s managed to entertain and inspire millions, become famous, make more money than he ever imagined and, I think it’s safe to assume, that he was able to discover a new passion along the way: the trades.
Make Your Work Your Passion
Mike Rowe clearly has a passion for trade work. Over the years, he has:
- Met with presidential candidates to discuss how to create shovel-ready jobs
- Testified before the U.S. Senate about the skilled trades
- Talked to our kids about this topic on Sesame Street
During this time Mike Rowe has hobnobbed with the 1% and labored with those below the poverty line, and the man says that people with the “dirty jobs” are, as a group, the happiest people he knows.
They are balanced. They have life symmetry. And probably NONE of them have followed their passion. Rather they followed opportunity.
Dream Jobs Are Just That
The hard reality is that most of us really aren’t anything special. Most of the typical “dream jobs” are available only to a tiny fraction of the population and we just don’t have the skill-set required to turn our passion into our career. Consider this quote from an old newsman, Jenkin Lloyd Jones
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed.”
If your passion is painting, or photography, or river rafting, or mountain biking, or whatever, that’s great, but there just aren’t enough jobs for you to support yourself doing this. This graph is a meme; a joke. There is no data behind it, but it made me chuckle and it illustrates the point well.
So when it comes to your career – don’t follow your passion – look for the opportunity instead.
Here’s the video I mentioned earlier. It’s just 5 minutes and 18 seconds long and well-worth the time to watch it.
What do you think? Great or terrible advice? Are you earning a living doing what you’re passionate about? Or is your job something more practical? My guess is that many of us are pursuing financial independence so passionately so that we can have the time later on to pursue our true passions! Whatever you think, let me hear about in the comments.