Is Following Your Passion Really a Good Idea?

Is trying to be the next Steve Jobs causing you to miss out on a good career?

By Henry Adeleye on October 17, 2014 


You know the old sayings:  Follow your passion!  Live out your dream!  Be the next Mark Zuckerberg!  Be the next Miley Cyrus! (OK, maybe not the last one, but you get the picture).  Everywhere you go, people are telling you to follow your dreams and don't do a job you don't want to do.  I'm guilty of telling people that, as well.  But have we been doing ourselves a disservice by spreading this mantra?  Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe seems to think so.  In an old TED Talk he did that I recently came across, and a subsequent rebuttal of someone who thought he was joking when he said it, he states that following your passion is "bad advice," and that he doesn't think people should "limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate about."   

Does he have a point in all this?  He goes on to list countless very successful professionals who do some jobs that even The Most Interesting Man in the World would cringe at.  Like a guy who castrates sheep for a living, or a guy who uses cow dung to make biodegradable flower pots that now sell in Walmart (if you bought one, it's probably too late to take it back).  The dung is now more valuable than the milk.  Or even a hog farmer who feeds his pigs scraps from Vegas restaurants because they have more protein.  He was offered $60 million for his farm but declined it.  Maybe you can't put a price on passion, but $60 million is $60 million.   

Who's to blame for this?  There has been a huge shortage of people who know how to work with their hands.  A lot of guys can't even change the oil in their cars.  Rowe points the finger to Hollywood, where once upon a time, they portrayed blue-collar workers as the group of guys sitting on a steel beam of a half-completed construction project eating a manly turkey sandwich.  Now it's just a plumber bent over with half his butt showing.  He also points to shows like American Idol that teach people to go out and try to be a singer even if you suck really bad, adding that "just because you're passionate about something, doesn't mean you won't suck at it."  Whatever the cause, the challenge is real.  There's a war between wing tips and steel toes (why is everything always a war?).  America's infrastructure recently received a D+ grade, and there's a lot of opportunity on the table for the men and women who want to get their hands dirty in fixing it.  Is Rowe being a dream killer, or is he spot on? #QuestionsThatNeedAnswers.