Millennials: Here’s Why “Follow Your Passion” Is Still, And Always Will Be, Terrible Advice To Follow!


It’s been repeated so often by guidance counselors, career coaches and your parents that you’d think that they’re all getting paid every time they utter the words.

Indeed, “follow your passion” has become a hallmark piece of career advice.

Heck, even my own mentor, Warren Buffett, suggests that those who are starting out should do what they love. Follow their heart. Go towards what spikes their interest.

I get it. The general idea behind this advice is that if you’re doing what you love, then you’ll do your best work and when you do your best work, riches and advancements will come your way. Not to mention that you’ll also be very happy doing the work you love!

Simple And Daring

Sounds great doesn’t it? What makes this advice so appealing is that it’s both simple and a little daring. The problem with this advice is that although it is well intended, there are so many holes in it that you’d think it was swiss cheese. Holes like…

-It assumes that you have a preexisting passion, and you’ll be able to match this passion to your job and then you’ll enjoy that job. Most people don’t have preexisting passions. And research on workplace satisfaction tells us that people like their jobs for more nuanced reasons than simply a match to some innate interests.

-It assumes that you’ll love your passion once you make it your job. If a golf fan gets a job involving golf, but works with people he hates, has unfair pay, or finds the work meaningless, he’s still going to dislike his job. In fact, “following your passion” can make a person start to hate their passion in a situation like this.

-It doesn’t take into account that doing what you’re passionate about simply may not pay well. Your passion may be painting dragons on old bowling balls, but can you really make a living with that? Is what your passionate about needed in the market? Contrary to what you may have been told, money is very important. More on that topic in a minute.

-It assumes that what you’re passionate about today, you’ll be passionate about your entire life. Early in life, when it comes to making career decisions the gut is a very unreliable. How many people do you know of that changed their major in college half-way thru their education? Exactly. It’s difficult to predict with accuracy what will be your true calling in the future, especially when you’re young and haven’t experienced may different careers yet.

The point here is not that you need to have firm thoughts on all of these areas before you even get started. But in a world where bills must be paid, vast sums of student loans must be paid off, and competition is fierce, to neglect the more subtle nuances and practical implications of setting out to get paid to do what you love is simply dangerous advice.

So, what’s better advice then? Glad you asked.

My advice to millennials is this – follow the money, get paid and cultivate your passion as you go.

Before I break this down, let me address the 800 pound gorilla in the room – putting money first.

“Money does not buy happiness.”

How many times have you heard this ? Lots of times, I am willing to bet. Our culture sends two very conflicting messages about money. The first, a message that says money is everything. Celebrity culture, Wall Street, the slick Italian sports car that catches your eye as it speeds off.

Then, there’s the completely opposite message, the one that treats wealth – and the wealthy – with suspicion, that works hard to see the limitations that wealth has and the potential trouble it can cause. In some families, it gets to the point of feeling that money is somehow dirty, that it’s not a proper topic for conversation, that flaunting what you’ve got is tacky and that being poor is almost a virtue.

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What’s the truth? The truth is that money is important and any suggestion otherwise is unmitigated nonsense.

Money is important because…

…having money means that you will not be destitute. It means that you are not dependent on being employed, living paycheck to paycheck and having to put up with abuse by your boss because you badly need your job.

…it enables you to have more control over your life, more freedom to carve out your own path and less constraints on your choices.

…it means being able to give your children the best – the best education, the best health care, the best start in life.

…it means less financial worries. How can a person be happy when they’re worried about being able to put food on the table?

…it enables you to give back to your community, to pick the charities and causes you believe in and to support them.

In short, dismissing money as unnecessary is a mistake. Remember, money solves the problems that not having money creates.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to advice that’s better than just follow your passion…

Cultivating Passion Alongside Success

Many successful people are passionate, but often their passion was cultivated alongside their success, rather than coming first. Steve Jobs started out passionate about zen buddhism. He got into technology as a way to make money. Turns out Jobs had skills as an idea builder. As he became successful, his passion grew, until he became the most famous advocate of “doing what you love”.

Did you catch the irony there? It breaks down to something very simple: follow your skills and follow the money.

In part 2 of this article, I’ll explore this concept in more detail and offer what I think is the best way to incorporate “doing what you love” into your life. Come back next Saturday for the conclusion of this article!

Be free. Nothing else is worth it.

Financial Freedom Monty Campbell

Africa, Morocco - view of Erg Chebbi Dunes - Camel excursion in sahara desert

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Ready for more tips on how to achieve the free life? Check-out these articles from the blog archives below:

Infographic: Scary Things People Do With Their Money. WARNING: Some Of These May Frighten You!

Seven Interesting Ways That Reading Can Improve Your Life

Are You Moving Up Or Moving Down? Why Being Comfortable Is The Same As Moving Down

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  • Anna Lombardo

    “Money doesn’t make you happy!”
    ….

    “But neither does being broke.”

  • rob fraser

    Good advice – if you target the lifestyle rather than the job, then your plan has some hope of being realistic. All the people I know who followed passions in low paying fields like fine art work at jobs outside their passion and live with their parents. And I seriously doubt they’re happy about it. Looking forward to the continuation of the article.

  • RCole

    Great article, Monty, and very timely for me, too! My son is in his first year of college but feels he should be doing something else. As a father I’m inclined to follow conventional wisdom (which appears is not) and advise him to “follow his passion”. After reading this article it dawned to me how I came about my own transformation from being an employee to currently an entrepreneur, and realized just how wrong and unfair that advise would have been for him. Thanks for posting this.

  • haleyrosen

    I’m glad to see that someone else thinks the follow your passion is nonsense too. I’ve had many different passions over my life, and over time they fade.
    If I had followed my passion I would be stuck in a job doing that until I decided to chase something else. And then it’s often starting over at the beginning at the proverbial bottom of the food chain.

  • haleyrosen

    I’m glad to see that someone else thinks the follow your passion is nonsense too. I’ve had many different passions over my life, and over time they fade.
    If I had followed my passion I would be stuck in a job doing that until I decided to chase something else. And then it’s often starting over at the beginning at the proverbial bottom of the food chain.

  • haleyrosen

    I’m glad to see that someone else thinks the follow your passion is nonsense too. I’ve had many different passions over my life, and over time they fade.
    If I had followed my passion I would be stuck in a job doing that until I decided to chase something else. And then it’s often starting over at the beginning at the proverbial bottom of the food chain.

  • haleyrosen

    I’m glad to see that someone else thinks the follow your passion is nonsense too. I’ve had many different passions over my life, and over time they fade.
    If I had followed my passion I would be stuck in a job doing that until I decided to chase something else. And then it’s often starting over at the beginning at the proverbial bottom of the food chain.