“Find what you love and don’t settle”

In the summer of 2005 Steve Jobs made this statement and it was misinterpreted by essentially most of the American media as “follow your passion”. This is not surprising as follow your passion is a statement that most of the western world is obsessed with. We’ve all heard this statement a million times, especially in relation to career choices and we even hold ourselves accountable with this statement. Do I really love what I do? But am I really passionate? Is there something better out there?

Online blogger Cal Newport has heard this statement a million times and he’s had enough of it. Newport’s Law states that “telling a young person to follow their passion reduces the probability they will end up passionate”. He believes the problems with “follow your passion” are:

  1. Pre-supposes you have a passion and one that is relevant to a career choice.
  2. Pre-supposes that passion alone can lead to long term job satisfaction.
  3. Steve Jobs stumbled into Apple and then ending up BECOMING passionate about Apple.

Bill McKibben like Steve Jobs is extremely successful and essentially gets to ‘do what he loves’ which is sit around his beautiful home and write passionate articles about the environment. However Cal Newport want’s us to know that this wasn’t always the case, Bill:

  • Wasn’t born a skilled writer.
  • Had an insane work ethic.
  • Wrote a huge number of articles before he first became an editor then a freelance writer.
  • Systematically built up his skill set then used this to be able to follow his passion.
  • Didn’t expect a really great working life, without being really great at something.

The educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom conducted a study interested in deducing how people build up world class talent and he found then generally followed this pattern of behaviour:

  1. Serendipitous first encounter (nice teacher, friendly teammates etc.)
  2. More persistence with practise
  3. Became slightly better than peers
  4. Persistance to keep going
  5. As they got better and began to develop skills their passion grew

Since were not all eight years old and can’t turn back the clock, how can we achieve great things in life if we didn’t have that serendipitous first encounter? Well Cal Newport believes the answer lies in ‘Deep Work’. Deep work requires the individual to pick a certain area of study say guitar playing, creative writing or playing tennis and devote a decent amount of time studying this subject, wherein the focus of study lies in purely building upon previous skill and challenging oneself to move beyond the current level of ability. By challenging yourself to move forward and having clearly defined outcomes for each deep work session you can ensure that you are continually improving, thus moving closer to the overall goal of building up a skill set.

“If you wan’t to love what you do, do what Steve Jobs did and not what he said” – Cal Newport

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson



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