Don’t Follow Your Passion
Starting April 6, for the next 30 days, I’m writing a brief essay every day and posting it to my Medium account in an effort to get off social media and focus on doing something good for me, both personally and professionally. To read my last essay, click here.
There’s an infamous rant from Scott Galloway — better known by his online persona of Prof G — that I’ve seen pop up time and time again on platforms everywhere from YouTube to LinkedIn to Twitter. It regards what he says is the worst advice you’ll get in business school: to follow your passions.
Most of the time, he says, when guest speakers come to speak at universities weekly, they’re a billionaire, or super interesting, successful people. Of course they’re going to tell you that everything will work out when you do what you love — it did for them, and they’re rich because of it!
Yet you’re probably not Jay-Z, Prof G says. Jobs in popular industries like media, food, and entertainment are near impossible to come by, don’t pay particularly well, and often lead to burnout and feelings of low self-worth. Instead of following your supposed “passion,” he thinks that the key to happiness is working hard at something you’re good at, sacrificing to become great at it, and learning to love it along the way.
I don’t agree with the whole take. For example, Galloway goes on a tangent about no one growing up wanting to go into tax law, but the best tax lawyers “get to fly private and have a much broader selection of mates than they deserve.” While there’s merit to some of this point, the implication that these outcomes are inherently desirable things that everyone should pursue is a little misguided, particularly when Galloway himself has referenced studies that show money only contributes to happiness up to a certain point.
The main thing Galloway is getting at, though, is something that I’ve written about in the past. History is written by the winners, right? Therefore, we shouldn’t judge our success by looking sideways when at the end of the day, we’re probably not Jay-Z.
Which brings me to what’s become known as the “Craftsman Mindset.” We could all stand to learn from the likes of carpenters, plumbers, and electricians: in whatever you do, put your head down, get better at your craft, finish projects, and provide tangible value that lets you live a steady lifestyle. Don’t give up on your passions and side hustles, though — “DJ on the weekends,” Galloway says.
I’ve seen, read, and heard this advice in different capacities, yet I don’t think it resonated as thoroughly as it has the last couple of weeks, now that I’m done with college and trying to determine how I can fit into the broader professional landscape. Startups are a little different in that they’re all about wearing multiple hats; nevertheless, I’m still honing in on what I’m uniquely adept at bringing to the table, as I think that’ll take me far in both work for others and my own ventures in the future.
In all, Galloway’s overarching take isn’t as negative as it sounds. We should cultivate our passions because they — along with our relationships — are the things that make us human. But happiness isn’t always found by dropping everything and chasing a pipe dream, no matter what billionaires may say.