Monday, July 16, 2018

Follow Your Skills, not your Passion

Well, after 29 days on the road, touring the Midwest and Northeast, I'm back in the High Country and ready to return to regular blogging about things that interest me (and hopefully you) in my continual pursuit of being "a person on whom nothing is lost." While I will have much to say about the travels - especially the college visits and cultural highlights - the first contemporary issue on my mind and in the news is about a favorite theme - the problem with the advice to "follow your passion." While this seemingly counter-intuitive insight has been bandied about among social critics and ideas gurus for the past decade or so, The Atlantic recently wrote on how "a major new study questions the common wisdom about how we should choose our careers." Psychologist and education guru Carol Dweck of Stanford (and the "Growth Mindset" fame) has co-authored a paper for Psychological Science which basically asserts that "Follow your passion" is really bad advice.

I'm really glad that someone of Dweck's prominence has finally keyed in an invaluable piece of insight that Georgetown professor Cal Newport has been writing and talking about for years. I discovered Newport back in 2012 when he published his analysis and challenge of the "passion hypothesis" in a wonderfully insightful and inspiring book called So Good They Can't Ignore You, and I have promoted his ideas to my students ever since. The idea has been promoted by people such as Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame, as well as ideas guru Daniel Pink, whose book A Whole New Mind is also invaluable for inspiring people to develop their skills rather than seek or follow their passion. Basically, our skills and talents are what lead us to meaningful jobs and lives, and both Newport and Pink correctly advise us to cultivate our skills by learning more about who we are.

Good for Dweck in catching up to Newport, and thanks to the Atlantic for publishing the story.

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