“Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Advice—Cal Newport Talk

Cal Newport: “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Advice from 99U on Vimeo

My friend Jason sent me this refreshing video on why “follow your passion” is bad advice. Cal Newport breaks down the message that Steve Jobs presents in his popular 2005 Stanford Commencement Address and then shows us case studies on successful people who love what they do, and how they really got there. His message? “Do as Steve Jobs did, not as he said.”

To summarize:

  • “Follow your passion” is too simplistic
  • Instead, build up a skill until you're really good at it
  • Your passion grows as you get better at something
  • Make time for “deep work”—focusing persistently and without distraction on a cognitively demanding and valuable task
  • Build a system of habits around your “deep work” to make sure you're working on improving your focus & skill
  • Later, use that developed skill for leverage to do what you want to do, to get into areas that you are passionate about

In deciding on what skill(s) to hone, I believe it should be a sweet spot between what you're good at and what you enjoy doing. Whatever skill that is, it's your tool to take you where you want to go in the future, so choose wisely. Once you decide what skills to hone, the rest is sheer work, practice, repetition. You can't cheat work—you have to grind it out until you get better at it. Once you have it, nobody can take that away from you.

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