‘Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice

A major new study questions the common wisdom about how we should choose our careers.

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, remembers asking an undergraduate seminar recently, “How many of you are waiting to find your passion?”

“Almost all of them raised their hand and got dreamy looks in their eyes,” she told me. They talked about it “like a tidal wave would sweep over them,” he said. Sploosh. Huzzah! It’s accounting!

Would they have unlimited motivation for their passion? They nodded solemnly.

“I hate to burst your balloon,” she said, “but it doesn’t usually happen that way.”

What Dweck asked her students is a common refrain in American society. The term “Follow your passion” has increased ninefold in English books since 1990. “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.

But according to Dweck and others, that advice is steering people wrong.

“What are the consequences of that?” asked Paul O’Keefe, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale—NUS College. “That means that if you do something that feels like work, it means you don’t love it.” He gave me the example of a student who jumps from lab to lab, trying to find one whose research topic feels like her passion. “It’s this idea that if I’m not completely overwhelmed by emotion when I walk into a lab, then it won’t be my passion or my interest.”

That’s why he and two co-authors—Dweck and Greg Walton of Stanford—recently performed a study that suggests it might be time to change the way we think about our interests. Passions aren’t “found,” they argue. They’re developed.



How to Avoid Taking on Too Many Responsibilities

By Marc Zarefsky, June 28, 2018

Given the pace of life today, it’s increasingly common to feel overwhelmed by a blizzard of professional obligations. To-do lists grow despairingly long; calendars fill with meetings and calls. Even those with laser focus can struggle to keep up.

But some of us are more susceptible than others to getting swept up in this frenzied accumulation of tasks, struggling to set priorities or say no. By trying to do everything at once, some of us end up falling behind.

Carter Cast, a clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School, spent several years examining career derailment. In his new book, The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made—and Unmadehe explores five common issues that impede career progress. Of the five, this is the issue people self-identify with most frequently.

“Careers can derail when people don’t deliver on promises,” Cast says. “This can be a real problem because fellow workers start to distance themselves when they think you can’t be counted on.”

Recognize this trait in yourself? Cast offers five recommendations on how to get organized and get ahead.

Be Clear on What’s Expected of You

Many employees, at least on paper, have more responsibilities than any single person can realistically tackle. A sales executive may have a vast client portfolio. An HR executive may be charged with the growth and development of hundreds of employees. A compliance director might technically have oversight over dozens of complex vendor relationships.


29 Life-Changing Lessons That Will Make You Successful and More Strategic

Go to the profile of Ryan Holiday
There is this myth that mentors are people you have to know and see. That it is some official designation to seek out. I’ve never met Tyler Cowen, the bestselling author, economist and thinker. We’ve never spoken on the phone. Our longest email conversation might have been three sentences. Yet he has been one of the most significant influences in the education and evolution of my life. By every definition, he’s been what you would call a mentor.

Lately, I’ve been trying to write about all the ways people have helped me. It’s been an exercise in gratitude but also articulation — in writing it down, I am remembering it and codifying it so I never forget the lessons. Below are just some of the things I’ve learned from this polymathic professor of economics, voracious reader and contrarian philosopher. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet him one day (I hope I am) but even if you don’t, he can still be your mentor.

Below are 29 lessons I learned from Tyler over the last 10 years. Hope you gain from them as much as I have.


When Life Forces Your Hand, Embrace the New Chapter


“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~Seneca

Like most people, I’ve tried to control many aspects of my life, and this hasn’t always worked in my favor. Just when I thought I had it all under control, life has inconveniently shown me many, many times that I was getting a little too cocky.

You name it, I’ve tried to control it—from my schedule and time (hello, Type A personality) to forgoing random opportunities because my mind was made up on going a certain direction. I even tried calorie counting at the height of my exercising routine because I wanted ultimate control of what I put in my body.

Now, none of these are necessarily bad. Planning your time leads to efficiency, forgoing things because you are on a mission means you might be on the path to your purpose, and calorie counting could help you get the body you’ve always dreamed of. But when you do these things day in and day out, all at the same time… well, let’s just say the process can be stressful.

But I tried anyway because I figured I might as well try to control what I could since life was going to be random no matter what. It also gave me satisfaction, almost a somewhat false sense of accomplishment, that I was shaping my own destiny.

I think most of us fall into this way of thinking, because we all want to foresee things before they can potentially happen in order to feel safe. But ironically, when try to control life, we end up missing out on possibilities that may have come our way if only we’d let go and allowed life to happen.

It’s hard to say what exactly I’ve missed out on because of my former desire to control most aspects of my life. I won’t worry myself too much about it, because it’s a pointless exercise. But I can think of a couple big areas, one of them being a complete career shift that could have happened much earlier on in my life had I not resisted so much.

Instead, I was rigid and decided that I wanted to stick to a career that I didn’t enjoy because it was my college degree and I was making great money. I did end up switching careers eventually, just not in the area I had a unique opportunity in at that time.


5 Ways to Create a Work-Life Balance in Your Small Business

Tips for Becoming a Happier Person and More Successful Business Owner

Small business owners are known to have busy schedules, many different responsibilities, and a steady flow of important decisions to make. Despite the fact that we may want to get it all done, all the time, the simple truth is that there are only so many hours in a ​day, and so many things you can do at once. Many times, our personal life suffers and we find ourselves becoming a slave to the business, which often results in burnout.

To remain successful long-term, small business owners must find a balance between their business and their personal life. Here are five ways to create a work-life balance.

Set Boundaries

The most important step for creating a balance is setting boundaries with customers, employees, and vendors. Your boundaries don’t have to be completely rigid, but you do need a clear idea of how you want your business relationships to be structured so you can create habits that enforce that vision.

Think through the areas where you feel you need to create more structure, and be clear on how you want to communicate and interact with your business contacts. Then you need to share those policies so you can create boundaries that honor your time.


How to Deal With Rude People

In this week’s episode of the Upgrade, we spoke with Danny Wallace: comedian, radio host, and author of the book F You Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness—And What We Can Do About It.

Listen to The Upgrade above or find us in all the usual places where podcasts are served, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and NPR One.

Discussed in This Episode

  • Why we’re all becoming such total a-holes
  • How noise can make us less polite
  • Why we seem to love rude people on television (and in politics)
  • How rudeness can spread like the common cold
  • How we can cope with rudeness
  • How Danny is British, and thus can get away with using a term like “tickety-boo.” (We may not have discussed this, but certainly thought it.)

And so much more.


You Don’t “Find” Your Passion in Life; You Actively Develop It

You might spend your whole life trying to find your life’s passion, or passively hoping it comes to you. Many have done so and, tragically, have never discovered it. Were they looking for purpose in all the wrong places? Maybe. Or maybe the idea that our life’s calling waits out there for us to find—like the fairy tale notion of a one true perfect love—is kind of crap. That’s not how Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton put it, exactly, but their research suggests that “the adage so commonly advised by graduation speakers,” as Stanford News reports, “might undermine how interests actually develop.”

In other words, when people think of interests or talents as “fixed qualities that are inherently there,” they are more likely to give up on pursuits when they encounter difficulty, believing they aren’t destined for success. Working with data acquired by Stanford postdoctoral fellow Paul O’Keefe (now at Yale), Dweck and Walton explained some recent research findings in a paper titled “Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing it?” The article is forthcoming in Psychological Science, and you can read a PDF version online.

The paper describes five studies on “implicit theories of interest” and contrasts a fixed theory with a “growth theory” of interest, an idea that comes out of Dweck’s prior research on what she calls a “growth mindset.” She has published a bestselling book on the subject and given very popular talks on what she calls in her TED appearance in Sweden above “the power of yet”—a phrase she derives from a high school in Chicago that gave students the grade of “not yet” when they hadn’t successfully passed a course. This hopeful assessment encouraged them to keep trying rather than to think of themselves as failures.