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Thomas Friedman Thinks You Should Stop Whining About Your Passion and Work Harder

Last night, I watched Thomas Friedman’s interview with Piers Morgan. He was talking about his new book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back. At one point during the interview, when Morgan asked Friedman his advice for young workers, Friedman replied, in his trademark catchphrase style, “the Age of Average is over.”

He then continued: “You should aim to be an artisan…everything thing you do, you should be proud of, willing to put your initials on it.

This sounds an awful lot like my Career Craftsman philosophy, which argues that compelling careers are crafted (not discovered), and the fuel for this process is producing things of real value. This philosophy requires that you approach your work, to use Friedman’s term, as an artisan, worrying about what you offer the world, not what the world can offer you.

In a hyper-competitive, globalized economy (to use more Friedman terms), believing that the working world owes you a dream job is no longer tenable.

What’s interesting is that Friedman is not the first Times columnist to echo the career ideas we’ve been exploring here. Back in June, David Brooks argued that “follow your passion” is bad advice — a theme I’ve been hammering home for years.

I think there’s only one conclusion to make in light of these recent events: The Gray Lady takes it cues from Study Hacks.

(Photo by Center for American Progress)


On an unrelated note, longtime friend of Study Hacks, Scott Young, just posted a bunch of free material from his popular Learning on Steroids student advice program. To find it, click here then follow the links on the right under the heading “Bootcamp Schedule.”

25 thoughts on “Thomas Friedman Thinks You Should Stop Whining About Your Passion and Work Harder”

  1. There’s a big difference between helping people be more effective at what they want to do, [ie. a study hacks philosophy] and telling people that they are not ‘entitled’ to a decent job, and must always strive to work harder. In the former, it’s about doing what one wants to do, successfully; the latter is a value statement about the relationship between individuals and the economy as a whole, and implies that people should work for the good of the state/corporations and not vice versa.

  2. OK this guy is an Artisan, that caught the lightening! Exactly what you have been preaching:

    My favorite quote from that article: “I’m not a fresh-faced young kid hitting it out of the park the day after landing on the LA tarmac. I’m a 37-year-old who’s been writing nonfiction (encyclopedias, reviews, software documentation) for a decade.”

  3. Right – cause the world doesn’t have to give you anything. (I love these types of posts, by the way.)

    On an unrelated note, I just started college and I feel so on top of things because of the red book. Is it weird that I’ve been looking forward to college for a long time just so I can use the strategies in the red book? haha 🙂

    Also… now that you’re an assistant professor at Georgetown, are you going to ask people to call you “Mr. Newport,” or just Cal?

  4. I agree. I am not happy unless I am perfecting something as a craft. The “sit back and hand it to me” mindset is not going to get you anywhere anymore. It is time to stop wondering how “they” (meaning those who are successful and a tier above the rest) do it, and start using our resources and doing. That’s how “they” did it.
    Could you imagine what this world would be like if we all took the time to master what we choose?

  5. “believing that the working world owes you a dream job is no longer tenable.”

    Straw-man argument if there ever was one.

    “He then continued: “You should aim to be an artisan…everything thing you do, you should be proud of, willing to put your initials on it.””

    Something you are proud of… care about…a body of work you can reflect on later… as opposed to being a F’n bank teller you mean?

    Sounds like Passion. Now I’m confused.

  6. I find this post very much supports the arguments presented by Geoff Colvin and David Shenk. We are not entitled to anything just because we want it. Our performance is realistically influenced by the time and intensity of effort we invest in bettering ourselves. Thanks Cal for your dedication in bettering all of us.

  7. Cal, have you had a chance to read zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance? It brings some new thoughts into so many of the ideas you write about in study hacks. I would like to know your thoughts on the book if you have a chance.
    Thanks and keep up the good articles, J.

  8. I agree with everything here but I also see intent to be an essential ingredient in sustaining my attempts to develop a rare and valuable skill. I have to believe in the inherent value of the thing before I can commit myself to a project that consumes so much of my life.

    For example your academic interests lie in computer science but beyond simply having expert knowledge and skill in the field of computer science you must have your own reasons for why you believe solving problems using distributed algorithm theory to be important. Right? I just feel there has to be some firm belief in its importance beyond just being talented at something and being recognized for it.

  9. These Friedman quotes were a truly excellent find. I connected very strongly with your post here, and was inspired to write about it on my own blog.

    I looked online for a full video and didn’t find one, but I did find a transcript of the interview on the CNN website. Just wanted to post the transcript link here in case you would want it, as thanks for the great thoughts and ideas you share on Study Hacks. 🙂

  10. Passion is what really drives everything, especially things in America. If you’re passionate about something the chances that you will succeed is up there. Consider great entrepreneurs like Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems and the entrepreneurs behind . The passion to educate children and to send them to colleges is what drove them to establish this business. Passion is what America was built on and we need more passion and willingness to work harder to achieve our goals whatever they may be. So Mr. Friedman you’ve hit it spot on!

  11. I really have to disagree here.
    “You should aim to be an artisan…everything thing you do, you should be proud of, willing to put your initials on it.”

    I think this is a dangerous precident to impose on someone who is a beginner at his craft. I think one needs to become comfortable with producing a lot of terrible product if one is later going to produce great work.

    If somebody begins crafting their career on the asumption that everything must be perfect then their self esteem will soon be destroyed and they will quit. There’s a reason bankruptcy exists. Because we all make mistakes. Its getting back on the horse thats the hard part.

  12. But, you see, if I follow my passions, then these ways of deliberate practicing become what they truly are: tools for me to get better at my passion.

    The world doesn’t owe me a dream job. That means nothing. I’m going to make it want to give me my dream job through work on something I can’t get enough of. A field that fascinates me to no end. That is motivation for utilizing the skills and tools that you describe in this blog. Otherwise, it’s meaningless.

  13. “Follow your oassion” is not bad advice at all— at the same time I strongly agree with the idea that a career or life should be carefully crafted. An amalgamation of both passion and long-term planning is ideal. Identifying exactly why you are passionate about something, and figuring out how to pursue it in a way that keeps other opportunities open (or at least creates a safety net) typically works well, in my experience.


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