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Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Transform It: Why Following Your Passion is the Wrong Way to Find Occupational Happiness

August 13th, 2011 · 48 comments

Rethinking Plan B

A recent New York Times article opens with the story of Rona Economou, a young woman with a career saga that follows a familiar arc.

Rona was a lawyer at a large Manhattan law firm and worried that her job wasn’t her calling. After being laid off during the recession she realized that this was her “one chance” to follow her dreams. Inspired, she opened a Greek food stall in the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Market. She wanted to “indulge her passion, lead a healthier life, and downshift professionally.”

Almost every career blog and book on the planet would applaud Rona’s courageous decision.

She’s no longer so sure.

As the Times reports, Rona now works harder than she ever had as a lawyer. Six days a week she’s up at 5:30 am doing strenuous labor: “she hoists 20-pounds bag of flour, gets burned and occasionally slices open a finger.” Her one day off a week is dedicated to the administrative side of the business.

She makes much less money and has much less flexibility in her schedule. Something as simple as catching a cold can be a disaster: “I can’t afford to shut the shop down.”

Rona discovered that her dream job was not as dreamy as she had fantasized — and she’s not alone in recognizing this cold dose of reality. The Times article tells story after story of young people with similar experiences:

  • Mary Lee Herrington quit her $250,000-a-year law job to become a wedding planner. She exhausted herself working 17-hour days. When she crunched the numbers, she was making less than $2 an hour.
  • Charan Sachar ditched his software engineering job to sell teapots on Etsy. He was surprised to find that instead of leisurely days spent at the kiln, up to 70% of his time is now dedicated to administrative tasks.”He’s not only his own boss,” the Times notes, “he is his own accountant, sales director, marketing manager and shipping clerk.”
  • Jennifer Phelan left a marketing job to become a private pilates instructor. She found the 14-hour days to be physically exhausting. She has since returned to her old job.
  • And so on.

A Better Approach

After reading this article, I couldn’t help but think of a college friend who not that long ago was in situation similar to Rona Economou. He was a lawyer at a big firm in a big city, and he also felt that his life lacked a certain spark.

But instead of leaving the law to start from scratch, he leveraged his value as a highly-trained lawyer to take control of his career.

He moved to Colorado with his finacee, where they bought a house and a puppy. He makes less but this is balanced by lower living expenses. He finds the work challenging and feels recognized for his abilities: two crucial traits in loving what you do. Of equal importance, the pace of work is more reasonable than at his old office, giving him more time to spend at home, visiting family (who live nearby), and indulging his love of outdoor sports (a required activity in Colorado).

My friend is as happy as I think anyone can reasonably expect to become in their working life. He’s more happy than Rona, Mary Lee, Charan, Jennifer, or the countless others who hold out for the fantasy of a dream job — something instantaneously bliss-producing — waiting out there to be discovered and solve all their problems.

The Career Craftsman

The subjects profiled in the Times article represent the standard thinking on career happiness: only following your passion will make you happy, everything else is a capitulation.

My lawyer friend, by contrast, represents the Career Craftsman approach: get good at something rare and valuable, then leverage these skills to gain the career traits you care about.

The Career Craftsman approach is less sexy than the standard thinking on career happiness, but it recognizes the economic reality of satisfaction. Great jobs are rare and valuable, which means you have to offer value in return.

Put bluntly: No one cares whether your radical career transformation is your “passion” — if you’re not bringing a hard won skill to the table, you’re not likely to come away with a great work situation.

To summarize, I agree that you shouldn’t tolerate being unhappy with what you do. The best way to combat this unhappiness, however, is not to drop everything and start from scratch, but instead to become good at something valuable, then take this value out for a spin.

You might be surprised how far it takes you.

(Photo by bradbridgewater)

48 thoughts on “Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Transform It: Why Following Your Passion is the Wrong Way to Find Occupational Happiness

  1. Camilo says:

    I don’t know if these people are adequate to make your point. All of them, who cannot made “the dream”, quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs. Even if you loved hard your job, and quit it to open a business in the same area, the situation of creating a business from scratch is very strenuous.

  2. Shuttle Service says:

    Hello Cal,

    I’m a shuttle driver at a major semiconductor firm in Northern California. Every day, all I do is ride my shuttle from my point to the other – there are 2 stops as the campus isn’t that big.

    Please give me hints on how I can transform my career. Your blog posts are making me feel like a loser because I don’t have a fulfilling career.

    Thanks for your tips.

    Regards,
    Shuttle Service

  3. Terri says:

    You’ve been unfair in restricting yourself to quoting the negative parts of the New York Times article. The last section of the article discusses the positive side of these people making their career changes. What about this quote: “And with the exception of Ms. Vibert, everyone interviewed said that despite the unforeseen bumps, they would not trade their new lives for their old jobs.”

  4. James says:

    Yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t agree. Striking out on your own and making your own job description is hard. For most people, it’s worth the struggle and worth the risk.

    I don’t believe the thing they left their jobs for is their Plan B. I believe it was, in fact, their Plan A. Their jobs as lawyers or marketing execs or whatever- THAT was their Plan B. Amanda Palmer put it more succinctly when she said, “F@&* Plan B.”

    If following a dream wasn’t risky, everyone would be doing it. Sharing a few stories highlighting the risk and the pain involved is useful- since people should know what they’re getting into- but presenting that as the whole story is dishonest.

  5. Kevin says:

    I think the alternative to quitting entirely, is staring your “passion” on the side, while still working at your current job. This puts your side “passion” to the test if you really want to invest in it.

    I started my business on the side while I worked in insurance before going full time. This way I was still making money, and got to experiment with my new venture without the burden of *needing* to make money. I could afford to grow my business slowly. It took about a year before I went full time.

  6. Glenn says:

    I strongly agree with Kevin. I think the proper approach is to indulge in your “passion” as an activity outside of work and in addition to a career. Wrapped up in the world of photography, I see a lot of people who keep their day-jobs but heavily invest their free time in furthering their craft. It’s an approach that maintains financial security while still allowing someone to follow their dream. And if they master their hobby or interest–making a name for themselves–then they can find ways to take their hobby from a side-interest to a well-paying job, but not before realizing the demands and unexpected responsibilities associated in doing so.

  7. Yilin Wang says:

    Looking at the stories in the article, I noticed that the people you use as examples did not only pursue “passions”, but also lacked experience in their chosen “dream jobs”. In other words, they wanted to become entrepreneurs, to open ice cream shops, sell crafts, and serve as wedding planners, when they did not understand the hardships and risks involved. Naturally, they would fail. Their pursuits did not work because they lacked knowledge, experience, or both…

    If you want to pursue something, you should really learn about it. There’s a different between working towards real passions than having unrealistic expectations towards dream jobs.

  8. Jen Gresham says:

    The problem is not following your passion, it’s failing to do adequate research before changing careers! None of those realities of the new work should have come as a surprise. The real problem is that many people approach their second career much as they did their first: a whim, whatever opportunity landed in their lap, following in the footsteps of someone else who looked happy, etc. What people need is a system for figuring out what they want, why they want it, and then how to research the careers that are likely to provide what they want. It doesn’t have to be this big of a gamble.

  9. Michael says:

    The article is definitely a good reality check. Things don’t always work out for those who take the leap. But there are many examples of those who DO make it work – though my hunch is that there are many more failures than successes.

    Either way, I am glad you shared this side of the story because there are many more ways to “craft” a brilliant career. People don’t always need to jump into the deep end right away. As Kevin mentioned, starting on the side can provide a good stepping stone.

  10. “Mary Lee Herrington quit her $250,000-a-year law job to become a wedding planner. She exhausted herself working 17-hour days. When she crunched the numbers, she was making less than $2 an hour.”

    Pardon my French, but this is F’n AWESOME!

    When count the fact that getting a top tier Degree in the US is $20-40,000 a year prospect, it starts to look like a real suckers game.

  11. Zohan says:

    Hi Cal,
    I’ve been reading your articles for some time know. So I would like to bring up 2 issues that came to my attention.

    1. Great work! Love the articles. By the way, could you write a couple of articles about identifying an in-demand skill that leads to a lots of autonomy in work and choosing a path to foster the skill?

    2. I like what you have done with the web-site. Very nice look. However, every time I come on here, I zoom once and then read an article. I miss the big font. Please bring it back.

  12. Your ideas tie in nicely with the old adage that you have to put the hard yards in before you can reap the rewards. This seems much more realistic than the vague advice to simply “follow your passion” to find your dream job. In my opinion the latter suggests that these elusive jobs are out there simply waiting to be found. In reality, and as your case studies suggest, dream jobs are not found, but made by “leveraging skills.” It brings back a sense of control to the job seeking / crafting process.

  13. If readers are thinking about quitting their job and working for themselves, my advice is to start by moonlighting. Do experiments in your spare time and see how they work out. My first idea failed – it’s a good thing I didn’t quit my job. My second idea let me quit my day job and work for myself, and I haven’t looked back. And in fact, I *am* leveraging a rare and valuable skill that I was using in my previous job, just in a completely different way.
    An excellent resource for people thinking about this kind of decision is Ramit Sethi’s site iwillteachyoutoberich.com Lots of great advice and examples.

  14. Declan says:

    Cal,

    here’s what your articles says to me: if you’re a software engineer or lawyer –stick with it, you can maybe become a happier software engineer, but you’re not going to be able to undertake a radical transformation(i.e. become an actor or rockstar or chef, whatever) because a) it’s too late, at some point in high-school/college you either didn’t know what you really had a passion for or you took the safe bet, maybe even got stellar grades by reading cal newport, developed a skill valuable enough to get employed and now you’re stuck. Don’t f-up your life further by now maintaining pretensions that you can break away and do something potentially more fulfilling. I agree with you Cal. And I also agree that you need to leverage hard won skills. But why not advise these people to develop skills in an alternate area and then “take them for a spin,” as you say? Or do you believe it’s too late once you’re in your late 20’s, 30s? Are the decisions you made in that 4 year window during college meant to determine your entire life!? I think your posts are really, really valuable for people trying to land professions for which there are clear blueprints: lawyer, doctor, engineer, computer engineer, professor, etc.. But I think there’s much more to more unconventional professions. Most obviously, they’re A LOT harder to be successful in. So it’s not surprising that the world will be littered with upstarts and failures. That’s life. I don’t know what the formula of achieving that kind of success is, probably a lot of luck.

  15. Dan says:

    I read the article. You left off the end that follows up on each person’s progress:

    –Ms. Economou, the Greek baker, says she feels spiritually transformed. “I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary, and I love it,” she said.

    –Ms. Alpers, the cookbook photographer, said the hard work and anxiety are starting to pay off, creatively and financially.

    You’ve reinforced the idea that being an entrepreneur is very difficult, but I still think satisfaction can be found in other work a person is passionate about. However, whether these people will be more satisfied in the long run because of their new jobs is one question I’m curious about. It would be great to see the Times follow up with these people in fives years or so.

  16. Study Hacks says:

    Excellent discussion going on here in the comments (and in my e-mail). A few random reactions…

    I’m a shuttle driver at a major semiconductor firm in Northern California…Please give me hints on how I can transform my career. Your blog posts are making me feel like a loser because I don’t have a fulfilling career.

    I’m assuming you’re being sarcastic. I’m surprised by how often people walk out this reductio ad absurdum argument in response to career advice — both mine and other peoples’.

    The main strategy here is to say “here’s a circumstance where your advice doesn’t apply, therefore it must be bogus.”

    My advice, for example, says we pay too much attention to what our job is and not enough to how we do it (the latter often being much more important for enjoying your work). The reductio response here is to come up with some job that’s never going to be fulfulling — I’ve heard, for example, baggage handler, garbageman, etc. — and say “your advice wouldn’t help here.”

    Of course, the logical fallacy underlying this program is the implicit assumption that I am claiming to offer universally applicable advice. Obviously, I’m not. My career advice, like any such advice, is an effort to better understand the factors at play in a complicated issue.

    The last section of the article discusses the positive side of these people making their career changes.

    All Times articles are required to follow the same: on the one hand…but then on the other hand-style balanced presentation. The reader, however, can usually draw his or her own conclusions about which side of the argument is better supported.

    Sharing a few stories highlighting the risk and the pain involved is useful- since people should know what they’re getting into- but presenting that as the whole story is dishonest.

    There are plenty of people out there — like yourself plus basically every career advice and lifestyle design blog on the planet — pushing the wonders of starting your own business. I think that side of the argument is pretty well covered, and doesn’t need my lukewarm rehashing of what others have said better.

    (This matches my more general philosophy of the web: it works well when people each argue a particular view point and leave it to the intelligent reader to mix and match to get a broader view.)

    I think the alternative to quitting entirely, is staring your “passion” on the side, while still working at your current job. This puts your side “passion” to the test if you really want to invest in it.

    That’s not a bad way of testing an idea, if you happen to have one. But I want to emphasize that often the best idea for making your career exceptional involves changing your focus within your current job — i.e., aggressively building new skills — not moving it to outside “passion” projects.

  17. Study Hacks says:
    The problem is not following your passion, it’s failing to do adequate research before changing careers!

    Arguably the real problem is thinking your unhappiness requires a radical career shift to solve.

    The things that typically define great work — autonomy, creativity, impact, and recognition — can be acquired in almost any job. And often, you’re best off leveraging skills you’ve already been building than starting from scratch in a new field.

    “Mary Lee Herrington quit her $250,000-a-year law job to become a wedding planner. She exhausted herself working 17-hour days. When she crunched the numbers, she was making less than $2 an hour.”

    Pardon my French, but this is F’n AWESOME!

    Whoops. My writing was unclear there. Mary was working 17 hour days, and making $2 an hour, as the wedding planner. As a lawyer, she worked much less and made $450 an hour. The only suckers bet here was her conviction that working for herself at a job where she had no special skills would make her happy.

    Your ideas tie in nicely with the old adage that you have to put the hard yards in before you can reap the rewards. This seems much more realistic than the vague advice to simply “follow your passion” to find your dream job. In my opinion the latter suggests that these elusive jobs are out there simply waiting to be found. In reality, and as your case studies suggest, dream jobs are not found, but made by “leveraging skills.” It brings back a sense of control to the job seeking / crafting process.

    A very nice summary of my thinking.

    An excellent resource for people thinking about this kind of decision is Ramit Sethi’s site iwillteachyoutoberich.com Lots of great advice and examples.

    I agree. His Earn1K program, for example, is a masterclass in career pragmatism. Though it’s as expensive as hell. (Which I kind of like, because it makes people take it seriously in their own lives.)

    And I also agree that you need to leverage hard won skills. But why not advise these people to develop skills in an alternate area and then “take them for a spin,” as you say?

    I think what I’m saying is that there are no “alternative areas” that are better than the skills they already have. When I say transform your current job, I don’t mean to imply that this it’s too late to do something better, I’m implying that there isn’t something better. People who love what they do have autonomy, creativity, impact, and recognition in their lives. These traits can be acquired with many different skills, including, most likely, the ones you currently have.

  18. Cal, more thoughtful stuff from you. As a successful online entrepreneur, I personally know just how completely lucky I am to have become successful. Yes, I work hard…but the timing, and all the things that came together were totally beyond my control. There are days that my work is harder than anything else I ever did for someone else, but it’s the freedom to explore my passion within my chosen career that really keeps me focused, engaged, and headed in the right direction.

  19. Su T says:

    Cal: I read the NYT article. Toward the end of the article, most of them go on to say they don’t regret the change. The wedding planner is actually doing really well, right now. I usually love what you write, but I feel you fudging around a bit with the article to make your point this time. xs

  20. Sir-revi says:

    hi cal, I’m from Fiji and I enjoy everything you wrote on your blog.Moce mada.

  21. Wells Baum says:

    If you can deal with initial hardship but more happiness than the previous gig then just do it.

  22. Shuttle Service says:

    Of course, the logical fallacy underlying this program is the implicit assumption that I am claiming to offer universally applicable advice. Obviously, I’m not. My career advice, like any such advice, is an effort to better understand the factors at play in a complicated issue.

    So, this raises a list of interesting questions, however.
    (1) How are we to know to which careers your advice applies to? This creates a convenient wriggle room where you can discount any instance/problem/counterexample that your views can’t deal with as ‘oh my thoughts just don’t apply universally’. In order to have a position with more content, perhaps you could flesh out what sort of careers are amenable to improvement with your ‘craftsmanship’ thoughts.
    (2) So you must agree that the current system is unfair in the sense that some people will be forced to do jobs that are intrinsically not fulfilling.
    (3) Finally, I suspect that since you’ve always been in academia, you don’t realize the extent of the industrial jobs that are basically like my job – i.e. shuttle driver – be it legal, medicine, engineering or other professions. Most jobs are jobs precisely because nobody would do them unless they were paid to do it.

  23. Tadas says:

    Su T Says: I read the NYT article. Toward the end of the article, most of them go on to say they don’t regret the change. The wedding planner is actually doing really well, right now.

    This reaction might be their way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance induced by their “wrong” decision

  24. FireEyes says:

    @Shuttle Service:
    I agree this might not be Cal’s best article ever. Maybe that’s why you’re missing the point here: what you’re reading is a BLOG.

    It’s not meant as a simple 3 step guide to career happiness. It’s meant to give you a broader look, a perspective change, which you can then use to come up with ideas on how to handle career issues etc. BY YOURSELF. So Cal’s highlighting the possibilty that quitting your job to pursue an undiscoverd passion isn’t always the key to happiness, isn’t all that silly, given the numerous articles that have tried to convince us of the opposite. He’s simply filling in the blanks, completing the puzzle if you will, so people like us are fully equipped to make independent decisions.
    My answer (not Cal’s) would be:
    (1) by independent thinking, instead of attacking an idea and the person behind it simply because you can’t blindly follow it.
    (2) unfairness is universal. If I may say so, I don’t think Cal is denying that, but it doesn’t deny HIM of the right to help the luckier people (students etc).
    (3) Isn’t this the same as (2)? No one is denying that there are a lot of shitty jobs out there. Trust me, I’ve worked at McDonalds with pregnant teenagers (though conditions there have improved over the years). I’d still be there if it weren’t for the gouvernment who pays for my studies. Just saying: it’s not because Cal’s a succesful person, that he didn’t have to work hard for it. It would surprise me very much if he wasn’t aware of these problems. Can’t speak for him of course.

    Also: it’s not my intention to attack you in any way, I am merely pointing out the irrelevance of a rather frustrated comment when you don’t get the goal of this blog.

  25. Stephanie says:

    I agree with Cal’s advice. I worked in IT-related consulting. One thing I’ve noticed that when you’re interviewing for a job or project, the employers are very picky about credentials (do you know this specific tool, do you have experience doing this particular task, etc.), but once you’re on the inside of a company and have proven yourself, you may be allowed or even asked to take on much broader and different responsibilities. This may help you find the flexibility and/or interesting projects you’re looking for. So for example, maybe the lawyer could have found work that used her legal skills in a different capacity, such as mediation, in-house counsel, etc. Maybe the software engineer could have used his IT skills from a different perspective, such as technical writing, quality assuance, or writing requirements. In order to get these opportunities, though, you have to be working in a related field and work from the inside. In a way, following these passions is sort of “dropping out” of your regular job and I think you need a good amount of luck and timing for that to work.

  26. Jun says:

    It’s interesting to think of what would’ve happened had those unfortunate case studies combined their careers and passions rather than dropping one for another. For example, Rona could have instead tried to find a General Counsel position in a food corporation– thus engaging both her hard-won skill and her interests. To me, the success of following one’s “passion” is also determined by what form this passion takes. Charan Sachar could have used his software engineer skills to design a program or site that focuses on antiques and teapots.

    It is also quite fascinating, yet a little scary, to realize that a lot of the day job quitters are in big law. You would also think that the skills attained from a J.D. education would transfer to other fields of business (negotiating, writing, knowledge of the legal system, etc).

  27. dottywine says:

    This is what people I admired did. They did not quit their day-job. They kept it, got highly educated in their passion on the side, PRACTICED their passion on the side until they had enough money saved and enough value to go balls to the wall.

  28. Jim B says:

    Cal

    Thanks for opening up this new paradigm in your thinking and writing. I have been applying so much of your thinking from the student world to my working world and it’s wonderful to see this new area of discussion opening up.

    The pure passion myth has been cultivated for too long in the self help market.

    Some of my most successful peers have spent 20 years weaving a career with at least some consistent themes along the way.

    Thanks again for the inspiration.

  29. Hi Cal,
    My colleague linked me to this article. Interesting!

    Two thoughts:

    1) We humans suck at emotional forecasting, or predicting what will make us happy, i.e. we keep having children despite the fact that they make us less happy. Perhaps the lack of occupational zeal crippled that ability even more for these select few. Anything might have been better than where they were or how they were living.
    2) Let’s rethink happiness. Perhaps happiness is not this ebullient, smiley disposition, but contains something a little more morose, like confusion, grueling work, or even despair, which can ultimately resurface as something resembling meaningfulness. Yes, I like meaningfulness much better. Thanks for the words!

  30. GroupTable says:

    This is a very interesting article. I’ve come across people who have dropped everything for what they truly love, and haven’t found as much success as before. I’ve also come across people who gave up their career and found their passion much more successful. There is no way to know how things will turn out, but that shouldn’t stop you from achieving what you really love! 🙂

    Rebecca

  31. Aaron Fung says:

    @Cal Newport

    I find much value in your blog, especially the superstar strategies and study hack tactics. I am an avid reader of your blog, and have used many of your tactics to great success in my own academic career.

    I really appreciate your minimalist approach to academics, and have attempted to apply this approach to my own life.

    However, I don’t completely agree with your article, and the above commenters have voiced my opposition; I see no reason to repeat as Kevin above said pretty much what I would have.

    I just want to add that the main thesis of your article, to become good at something rare and valuable and leverage these skills, can be applied to each of these case studies. It would take more creativity than following a set career path, and will be more uncertain, but it can be done. Mr. Ramit Sethi’s Earn 1k program mentioned above seems like it may be a good starting place for coming up with ideas to do this (though I have no personal experience with it, and cannot personally recommend it).

    The trick is to do something rare and valuable within this “passion” (I hate that word, but cannot find a more useful word). As an imaginary example, the software engineer could examine his market and find that there is a very difficult glazing technique that is very in demand amongst hardcore teapot collectors from the Charleston, By investing in his education, working harder than he would for his software degree (he’s competing with all the thousands of teapot crafters on Etsy and elsewhere) he would have a very valuable skill that is in line with his “dream job.”

    Or he could find a new innovative way to produce and sell his ceramics; it worked for Josaiah Wedgewood.

    Just one more point, @Shuttle Service may in fact be a troll; I think this is unlikely as he provides just enough detail of his job that suggests that he actually works in transportation. However he is not guilty of reductio ad absurdum; at worst, he is guilty of the straw man fallacy; he refutes a single weak point and assumes it refutes your entire argument.

    However, I do think @Shuttle Service brings up many salient points. Although he commits the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy (claiming you are an out of touch academic with experiences only in an ivory tower)

    I think the rest of that point about there being many folks with crappy jobs is spot on, especially in our current economy. I know many in my own life who have recently graduated from college who have had to take crappy jobs, particularly blue collar jobs, unrelated to their field of study. I also know many working class individuals who have unfulfilling jobs because of their responsibilities to their family, the need to feed their children.

    To paraphrase your friend Ben Casnocha, is your advice to be the best baggage handler you can be? In our current economy, this is not reductitio ad absurdum, but a very real concern for many, even many recent graduates with a degree. Perhaps it is a temporary job that I am a afraid will become permanent quagmire.

    To such a person, the advice of passion coming from mastery rings as hollow as “follow your passion”.

    I think the correct response to Mr. Shuttle Service is that this particular article is irrelevant to his situation; he is not a highly trained lawyer or software engineer: based on his comment his job knowledge is neither rare nor valuable and cannot be leveraged.

    My own advice (take with a grain of salt) is to utilize his free time to learn a rare and valuable skill that can be leveraged. This probably should be one that is niche, as even attorneys and software engineers are a dime a dozen today; it is arguable if general legal or software skills are rare in the 21st century.

    As I don’t know anything about driving a shuttle, I cannot say if you can leverage that at all, but perhaps there is a hobby or pastime that you practice that can be leveraged. For example, do you read law books or write code for fun? 🙂

    I would then advise Mr. Shuttle Service to read Mr. Cal Newport’s posts on becoming a superstar; though not directly relevant, they are along the right path as the goal is to be a superstar of sorts in a given field; Mr. Newport’s philosophy here is spot on, just modify the tactics for your situation.

    Now @Mr. Cal Newport. I hope I didn’t come off as too critical, as I have gotten so much value from your blog. I actually agree with the thesis of this blog post, it is in the premises that I disagree.

    Respectfully yours,
    Aaron Fung

  32. Catherine S. says:

    Amen! My favorite part of the entire article was when you said “get good at something rare and valuable, then leverage these skills to gain the career traits you care about.” That has been a big deal for me as I decide what to study in college and to make a career out of!

  33. Ismail says:

    Sorry for nitpicking, Cal, but it looks like you misspelled fiancée in the post. Otherwise, it was interesting to see examples that take apart the false dichotomy that so many of us assume is true.

  34. Y says:

    I think it comes down to what people have been doing all their lives. A passion rarely comes out of the blue unless you’ve been honing your craft for the past 10-15 years. At that point, it becomes enjoyable and a passion. Passion exists – it’s more likely built than acquired on the first try.

  35. Ben says:

    Being a software developer myself I was interested in the guy who gave up his career in it to create and sell pottery and wow, have you seen what he creates? I havent seen such beautiful things made out of clay before. So I guess there are alternative careers for some people. But he was testing it on the side while staying in his day job.

  36. Jian says:

    I think passion is very important to keep you going, when the going gets tough. But, passion along doesn’t equate to making good money to support yourself.

    Also, you might lose your passion if venture you are getting into doesn’t make enough money.

    So, I would advice that it has to be a balance among passion, money and your skillset.

  37. Yadgyu says:

    Occupational Happiness is an oxymoron. There is no way to gain happiness from working for a living. Happiness is for the evening and the weekend. You work to make money to have fun.

    Get over your “happiness” and get to work. I swear, more Americans are lazy, self-indulgent, fat, and dumb. No wonder everything is Made In China!

  38. Sophie says:

    I always wanted to drive a mini shuttle bus. I see the Sir who drives the bus for my estate and just think he look so cool when he leaps off the bus and gives the door a slam. 😀

  39. Sri says:

    I was always inspired by the life of a violin legend in our country who set a standard that no one before him had thought possible. In an interview he stated that he sometimes did not like the intensity of his training and once confessed he thought of running away, but after he gained repeated success and delved very deep into the art, he realized how everything fit when he looked back. He never ever regretted the fact again…now he says that he just sees God in his music … and that takes years. The way he saw music as a kid was different from how he saw it at 70. It takes time (a very long time in fact) for people to realize the value of the things they excel in and that’s when real passion actually begins. Until then I wouldn’t call it “passion” at all because it’s usually motivated by things that don’t last. You slog through just to clear that exam and brag to the world, your drive is gone once the exam is over and the results have come.

    One reason why the dream job doesn’t turn out to be all so glorious is simply because people wanted to get that job, but they haven’t thought ahead of what they’d do after they have that job or they have unrealistic ideas about their job life. When reality ensues, the beliefs powering them are broken and It’s very important to examine their belief systems (The book I read calls it their spiritual capacity) because the way we react to anything is because of how they are structured. What the majority of people need is not really another “dream job” or a “new passion”, but they need to connect their work to something that has real and lasting value. You can think about working out as something that your wife is nagging you to do or you can see it as something you’re doing for good health that will keep you going in the long run — the attitudes and beliefs have a HUGE impact on the way people see things.

    I don’t believe that real passion can exist when there is nothing of real value to keep it going. A passion powered by imaginary ideas and lack of real experience won’t last.

  40. lindabillet says:

    Cal, I found your blog because you were mentioned by Alyson Stanfield. She said she was glad you “debunked” the passion myth…so I HAD to look you up. I only got to this old article because I clicked on your passion link. A decade ago, I would have agreed with all you said in your article. Now, I agree with the majority of your commenters who say FOLLOW!

    I applaud the comment from BEN who says that he looked up Charan Sachar. It made me look him up too. While at his site, I realized that when you (or NYTimes) said he gave up his job to sell teapots on etsy, you were not telling the whole story there either. The guy has a lot more going on than teapots on etsy and it has not all transpired since the article. You could not support your theory if you shared all. I would imagine Sachar was one of the ones that says he does not regret. Seeing his site, I feel that he was born to do this. Nobody can learn that kind of creativity, that is passion (or as some would say- that is the hard work that it takes to become great.) Dan, when you said you never saw such beautiful things made out of clay, I hope it nudged you to buy or to at least tell friends about him.

    If you are equating more money as more happinness, don’t quit your job. Ironically, it seems like the people that make the most money following their passion, did not do it for the money. And really, pure logic will tell you (all your friends and fam will tell you) don’t quit your day job. Do you think there is no risk in keeping the job you have? I generally advise passion followers to keep their job as long as possible. When the time is right YOU will know. Your friends will think you’re nuts. They are not paying your bills.

  41. Kshitiz says:

    A book titled Master your Mind by Adam Khoo asks the following question:
    “Suppose you have million dollars, then what is it that you will do for free?”
    His concept: That is the thing you should do for work.

    Bertrand Russell (Conquest of happiness) and Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-cybernetics) identify zest or striving towards a goal as a key ingredient of happiness.

    Paul Samuelson, Nobel laureate in economics, identified secret to success as : doing what you like to do and finding someone to pay you for it.

    The challenge now for me is to go beyond theory and apply it to my current boring job.

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