June 30th, 2018 · 51 comments
An Earlier Book
New readers of this blog might not know that back in 2012 I published a book about career satisfaction. It was titled So Good They Can’t Ignore You.
The book draws from interviews and relevant scientific research to answer a simple but important question: How do people end up passionate about what they do for a living?
Early in the book I make a provocative claim: the popular advice that you should “follow your passion” is counterproductive in the sense that it will likely reduce the probability that you end up loving your work.
I detail two reasons why “follow your passion” is bad advice:
- The first reason is that most people don’t have a clear pre-defined passion to follow. This is especially true if you consider young people who are just setting out on their own for the first time. The advice to “follow your passion” is frustratingly meaningless if, like many people, you don’t have a passion to follow.
- The second reason is that we don’t have much evidence that matching your job to a pre-existing interest makes you more likely to find that work satisfying. The properties we know lead people to enjoy their work — such as autonomy, mastery, and relationships — have little to do with whether or not the work matches an established inclination.
What works better? Put in the hard work to master something rare and valuable, then deploy this leverage to steer your working life in directions that resonate.
(This is what I call career capital theory. For more on these ideas, c.f., my New York Times op-ed, my CNN article, my talks at Google, 99u, and WDS, or my Art of Manliness podcast interview.)
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June 19th, 2018 · 77 comments
Beyond Digital Wellness
Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an article on the digital wellness movement, which attempts to use technology to help cure some of the issues caused by technology.
This movement, for example, is responsible for an app that “plants a tree” each time you put down your phone, and then shows the tree withering and dying when you pick the phone back up. It also produced a popular plug-in that displays, each time you go online, the number of days left in your expected lifetime.
Even Apple is getting involved in digital wellness. Their new suite of “wellbeing” features in iOS includes a wake-up screen that helps you “gently [ease] into your day” when you pick up your phone in the morning, and an improved Siri that makes suggestions about optimal notification settings.
I recognize that digital tools have a useful role to play in productivity. I’ve long advised, for example, that people use internet blocking software like Freedom to help jumpstart deep work training.
But something about this growing digital wellness movement makes me uneasy, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on the source of my concern: it’s infantilizing.
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June 8th, 2018 · 40 comments
The Price of Funny
A reader recently pointed me toward a 2014 interview with Jerry Seinfeld on Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing. Around 34 minutes into the conversation, Seinfeld provides a fascinating insight into the success of his eponymous television show:
“Let me tell you why my tv series in the 90s was so good, besides just an inordinate amount of just pure good fortune. In most tv series, 50 percent of the time is spent working on the show, 50 percent of the time is spent dealing with personality, political, and hierarchical issues of making something. We spent 99 percent of our time writing. Me and Larry [David]. The two of us. The door was closed. It’s closed. Somebody calls. We’re not taking the call. We were gonna make this thing funny. That’s why the show was good.”
Lurking in this quote is a lesson that applies well beyond the world of entertainment.
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