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Disproving The Passion Hypothesis

Disproving The Passion Hypothesis


Have you ever heard the advice "Follow your passion"? Although it is said with good intentions, this saying may do more bad than good. Find out how this saying spreads a false outlook on the world that can lead to a less successful career. This podcast dives into a perspective described in a book called "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport.



The podcast discusses the concept of passion and the misconceptions surrounding it. It challenges the idea of following one's passion as a career path and instead emphasizes the importance of mastery and hard work. The podcast provides examples of successful individuals like Steve Jobs and Ira Glass, who did not initially pursue their passions but found success through other means. It also explores the factors that determine workplace happiness, such as autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The podcast concludes by suggesting that finding something one is good at and pursuing it may be a more realistic and practical approach to career success than solely following one's passion. All right, welcome to the podcast. I'm Kent Brewster, company H2. My first name is Nolan. Now let's get rolling. I'll see if I can get that. I'll leave it in. Okay. I'd like to introduce our co-host for today's podcast, cadet Nathan Brown of company A4. How are you, Nathan? I'm doing great. How are you doing? I'm doing great. Thanks for asking. All right, so basically Nathan will be kind of representing a blank state of mind, but more likely it's going to be like you or like general audience response. And I'm hoping that his responses are kind of like how you guys react. And I'll answer that accordingly. If not, then we'll just keep in mind this is Nathan's opinion and his responses and it's not going to be perfect one to one. So in this podcast, we'll be discussing passion and the misconceptions around it. So what do you define as passion, Nathan? I think passion is doing something, doing something you love, doing something you really feel brings you purpose in life. Do you have any passions that you kind of, that you have right now in your life? Any type of passions? Try to keep out the love interest, but... Right, right, right. For sure. Well, here at West Point, I'm pursuing a career in the military, so that's definitely a big passion of mine. Got it. Got it. We'll be discussing the passion hypothesis and how it plays into chasing your passion in your career. So good that you mentioned that. Before we get started, I want to say that most of my research is derived from Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You. It's a really good book. I recommend reading it. So Nathan, have you ever heard the advice, follow your passion? For sure. Great. Seems like good advice, right? Right. No. Introducing rule number one, don't follow your passion. What is the passion hypothesis? So whether or not you define success through loads of money is up to you to decide, but throughout this podcast, we're kind of going to put success and like a solid income together, which I feel like is a lot more common than people like to lead on. But you know, anyways, so this really rich person was actually Steve Jobs, CEO and founder of Apple, net worth of $750 million. And what happened was he gave a little speech in front of 23,000 people at Stanford Stadium in jeans and sandals, you know, classic millionaire stuff. But he talked about different lessons he learned from his life and he offered everyone the advice, quote, you've got to find what you love. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle. He received a standing ovation, a millionaire giving advice that makes sense. Of course, I think it's word straight from like, you know, the Bible, right? Wrong. So people recorded it, put it up on YouTube and went viral, receiving 3.5 million views. And then another 3 million after Stanford reposted on their website, people praised his advice, commenting statements and agreements such as like, follow your passion, life is for the living, everything like that seems right. The intent is there, but it's actually misleading. Basically, this general consensus is molded into what Cal Newport, the author of the book, defines as the passion hypothesis, which states the key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you're passionate about and then find a job that matches that passion. Putting this into the perspective of a freshman at college, aka, you know, me and you, we all looked into things we thought were interested in or even passionate about when choosing a path to pursue at college, whether that be through like your major, your collaborative college itself. Nathan, you said you came to West Point to harbor a career, harbor a career in the military. Are you passionate in any type of like major or anything? I'm passionate about pursuing a career in the medical field. So I'd like to major in life science. All right. All right. Cool. When pursuing your career in the military, what's passion? What's the reason behind it? Or was there something more? Well, I, I really enjoy physical activity. So during the military, I kind of gave a purpose, if you will, to like similar interests. Exactly. Okay. So I enjoyed pushing my boundaries and trying to better myself, which is part of the goal of military. Okay. Okay. I can understand that. Circling back. So most people think that to be truly happy, this is just looking off of like, um, the general consensus at the time, or at least what Cal Newport thought was, was most people thought to be truly happy to follow some sort of feeling like almost magical, but not really like a higher feeling that you, they labeled as passion. But if you get past the natural, like the initial positive reaction from the statement, you'll come to find that regardless of your love for something, it's always going to be a day when you wake up and go, dang, this sucks. Or like, I'm man, I'm not feeling going to work today. Yeah. It's always going to be those days. Right. Um, so anyways, do you know how Steve Jobs really, Steve Jobs really started his career? No, I don't. Um, are you aware about what actually predicts workplace happiness? No, not particularly. Great. This will be a very informative for you. All right. Both these answers are reasons why following your passion is actually not very good advice. And, um, we'll start with looking into Steve Jobs and how he's kind of like hypocritical of his own advice. And then we'll look into the actual like statistics about workplace happiness. So for Steve Jobs, he represents sort of like the origin of the passion hypothesis because you know, at the time he was like, um, groundbreaking innovation and like, um, super, super, super rich and smart. Um, so basically he attended a liberal arts college in Oregon where he studied technology clearly, but was actually interested in Western history and dance and occasionally Eastern mysticism. That doesn't sound like Steve Jobs. No, that's crazy. Right. Um, but anyways, actually after his first year, he dropped out and he remained on campus by staying with his friends and vulturing for spare food and scraps, like eating out of a dumpster. Like he was just a hobo on a campus, right? You wouldn't expect that to be this millionaire. He eventually left that and went through a spiritual journey through India and was employed and fired from various technology jobs. But really he was just jumping in and out of electronics when it promised him quick cash. And, um, so not really pursuing his passion. Um, eventually he ran into Steve Wozniak, a computer like genius who worked with him to design and sell computers on his little side hustles from a computer kit for around like $50. And on jobs first day, he went in to try and sell boards to Paul Terrell's computer store. Barefooted. He walked in and throw it like, man, you are out of your mind. And he said, I will not buy this from you. However, if you bring me a completely assembled computer for $500, then I will buy that from you. And I need 50 of them as soon as possible. So jobs, of course, like he's kind of bummed about not getting his thing, but he was like, Holy crap, I got to jump on this opportunity. And from this unexpected up for bam, Apple computers born. So in reality, job story really began from a lucky breakthrough on a path that kind of stumbled upon because of his need for finances. He wasn't actually there because his passion, he was just like, now you can quit cash and then boom, create a multimillion dollar company. Um, I'm not saying that jobs didn't eventually develop passion is work, but his story tells us it's good to enjoy what you do, which is, you know, pretty obvious, but it doesn't really help with a question of how to find work. You will eventually love, which is what we're looking into. Eventually like successful. And so let's take another look at young Steve jobs, listen to his own advice and decide to follow his passion at a time, which was spiritual and history stuff. We have begun his business in electronics. I don't know. Probably not. He probably would have became a really cool spiritual history teacher, but his story actually provokes questions like, should we resist settling into an uncertain career and instead try multiple small schemes, just hoping one of them takes off like his did like a little risk. And it doesn't matter what general field you explore because like he wasn't even passionate in technology. He was just kind of there and his prior experience led him to his, um, company. And how do you know when to stick to a career or not? Cause he kind of leaked off whenever, just because he got booted out cause he dropped out and then he couldn't have the finances. So it doesn't wait like it's, it just seems like a really lucky scenario. You know what I'm saying? True. So what do you think of jobs career? Was it really his own path or do you think it was luck? I think he got pretty lucky just jumping between careers and finding one that's stuck. Right, right. Um, do you think that the only way to become a millionaire or billionaire is through luck or is there a sheer good path that we're missing out on? Well I'm sure there's some effort involved, but it seems like luck is a big determinant of that fact. Um, I would agree. There's also, yeah, of course there's some like, look at like the athletes in the world. Like they didn't get there through luck. They worked their butt off to become the best that there is. Looking at another millionaire, um, Ira Glass, a radio host net worth $1.5 million from being a radio host. He said in the movies, there's this idea that you should go for your dream, which he then said, but I don't believe that things happen stages. In an interview, he stressed that it takes time to get good at anything. It took him years to master radio hosting to the point where he actually had good options. So contrary to jobs advice, Glass also said the key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come to you. That's the hardest phase unless of like follow something that you want. It's obviously this isn't something that anyone wants to hear. I know reading this quote, I was like, dang, that's not it. Work hard. Sucks. Suck it up. And that's life. Right? But other millionaires and scientists who have achieved great things also said the same thing, which all points to the same fact, which is compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion. So let's take a look at the actual science and research behind passion. And, uh, first, what do you, why do some people enjoy the work and some people don't? What do you think? Oh, I think some people, uh, settle for less in their passion. Like if somebody finds their passion, they pursue it and they're going to be a lot happier in their career. But if they don't, then they're going to settle for less. So what do you think makes them settle for less is because they don't have enough skill or they don't like the people or what? Could be. I think, um, the amount of work they're willing to put into their career is a big, has a big effect on their outcome. A 2002 study shows that 84% of college students have passion. However, the top five identified passions are dance, hockey, video games, reading, and swimming. So they all have passion and stuff, but they aren't very applicable in the corporate world. In fact, less than 4% of the passions of the study were actually work related. So how do we follow our passions if we can't provide us income? What's something you're passionate about? For example, I like lifting for sure, but I mean, not very applicable. So yeah, sure. You'll be enjoying your passion, but will you enjoy that passion enough to sacrifice a comfortable life as in like a good income? You'll have to, you know, get some type of side hustle, some type of side job anyway. So the last perspective is bookshare that we'll be discussing on this podcast is the passion is a side effect of mastery. Essentially saying that passion comes from things you're already good at and that your competence and achievement in that field leads you to becoming passionate. Personally, I can relate to this. Like most of my reason for my choice in computer science as a major is because I was interested in it, which originally came from my natural like talent from it. When I took it in high school, I just kind of was like, you know, like what's relevant today. Say I'll take some computer technology course. And then I was pretty good at coding. So like, crap, I'm, I'm interested. I'll, I'll, I'll major in it. Have you had any of the same experience where you kind of were competent in something and then ended up meeting and you liking it? Well, for sure. Part of the reason I wanted to, or I'm interested in pursuing a career in the medical field is because I really enjoyed biology and chemistry in high school. And I did really well in those classes. So it gave me a, an output that could be a career. Exactly. So other factors of determination, passion, the workplace, our autonomy, which is feeling at control every day. Obviously people don't like to feel like they're being governed. Um, competence, self-explanatory, basically. Uh, it's just like, you're good at what you do. And then relatedness, the feeling of connection with your environment, people around you. Cause if you hate everybody in your environment, you're not going to want to go to work. Right? So these factors are things you look for when you find passion, which actually lead to success and less of like some magical, like, um, feeling that you get about thinking about a topic. Anyway, the book, the rest of this book goes deeper into how having that passion, that dreamy mindset is actually dangerous. And that the reality of it is that you have to go through the hard work and mastery and then find autonomy and relatedness in order to be successful in your career. It's not most, what most people want to hear, but that's the truth of the matter, you know? So not everyone can and is willing to be a professional tennis player and millionaire. And that's why, you know, there are not many people that are. If you'd like to look further into this book, it's so good. They can't ignore you by Cal Newport. Basically title says it all becomes so good. They can't ignore you. It doesn't matter on luck. It's you running your own life. I'll conclude this podcast the same way the author concluded his thoughts by restating that you find your passion is a very well-intended advice. It's nice, but it might not actually be very applicable to reality. So the author found that in a new study by Stanford psychologists examining the hidden implications of the advice, mantras like find your passion carry in implications that imply that once an interest resonates, pursuing it will be easy. But the research found that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes it more likely that people will surrender their newfound interests. The idea that passions are found fully formed implies the number of interests a person has is limited. That can cause people to narrow their focus and neglect other areas. So to conclude, it's not great advice. And if you're going to give someone advice about deciding their future major college, it should be more like find something that you're good at and pursue that. Anyway, I think this book is really trying to say what a lot of people don't want to hear, which is less of like the outlook of looking towards college, thinking like, man, what can I feel passionate about? What does the world have to offer me? I think it's actually the opposite. What skills do I have that I can capitalize on, create a passion and to have a desirable outcome and less of more of like, what can I offer the world? All right. Thank you for listening to the podcast, everyone. I hope this broadened your perspective on passion. I hope you learned something. And thank you, Nathan Bryanis for co-hosting my podcast. Thanks. Bye.

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