Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles CAL NEWPORT: Good morning, everybody. So I'm going to talk about career advice, my topic. I want to push back a little bit on some of the ideas that we assume are true and don't question much anymore. And I'm going to try to replace them with some ideas that I think the evidence actually supports better. And I figured being at Google, the right place to start would be saying controversial things about Steve Jobs. So I think that's a good place for us to get going. So in particular, I want to talk about the summer, early summer of 2005, when Steve Jobs took the podium at Stanford Stadium to give his-- I recognize someone down there, Chris [? Pleho ?] AUDIENCE: Hey, how's it going, man? CAL NEWPORT: All right. There we go. You remember those ages. Anyways, I'm sorry. I'm not going to get distracted with Chris stories. So let's go back to summer of 2005. Steve Jobs takes the podium, Stanford Stadium. He's there to give the commencement address to the graduating class of Stanford. So this is kind of a big deal, because Jobs did not give a lot of these sort of personal talks, reflective talks. It wasn't really his style. But he did give this talk. He came. He did wear sandals under his robe, but he did come. And he gave this talk, and it was a good one. And if you look at, say, YouTube views-- and I think that's the authoritative way of ranking social impact-- the two videos of this talk have 6 million views. So this was an important talk. It went really far. So he had a lot of points that he made, but I went back and looked at the social media reactions and the news reactions that immediately surrounded the talk's release. And what you could see is there was one point in particular that seemed to get people excited. And that's about halfway through this speech where he says, "You have to do what you love. And if you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle." So, again, if you go to these social media reactions, you go to the news reports that surround the speech, it's pretty clear how people interpreted what Steve Jobs was saying there. They interpret him as saying, guys, if you want to love what you do for your living, you need to figure out what you love, and then you need to go match this to your job, and then you'll have a career that you love. This was people's interpretation. Now, in popular slang we often summarize this with the phrase "follow your passion." Jobs didn't say the phrase "follow your passion," but this was people's interpretation of what he meant with that point in his talk. So, of course, Jobs was not the first person to introduce this idea that you should follow your passion. In fact, I actually went back to research where did this come from. When did this phrase enter into our cultural conversation? Right? What's the history of this phrase there right now that seems so universal? And once again, because I seem to rely on Google for just about everything I do, I used Google's Ngram Viewer. Do you guys know this tool from Google Labs? So I used Google's Ngram Viewer to try to understand where this phrase came from. So if you don't know this tool, you can put in a phrase. And it will actually go through the-- Google's corpus of digitized books and try to understand the occurrences of this phrase in the printed English language over time. So you can put "follow your passion" into this tool and see where does it show up in printed books, and when do we actually see it raised. And I was actually surprised. Here's my early-morning trivia question-- when you think the first decade was that we actually see the phrase "follow your passion" show up in the printed English language? What would you guess? AUDIENCE: '60s. CAL NEWPORT: '60s. AUDIENCE: '80s. CAL NEWPORT: '80s. AUDIENCE: 1700s. CAL NEWPORT: I don't think they go back that far in the Ngram Viewer. But I'm sure if they did, it might be there. It was actually in the 1940s and '50s. There was a play in which a group of three woodcutters stood around. And someone uttered for the first time that I can find in the printed English language, "Follow your passion." But they were talking about a different type of passion, and I wouldn't recommend using this play as the foundation for your career advice. So that was the '50s. You see a kind of spike up throughout the '60s as that play is reprinted. It's really the 1980s that we start to see "follow your passion" show up in the context of career advice. In the '90s that graph of occurrences begins to trend upwards. By the early 2000s, it's really spiked and hit its peak. By the time Jobs stood up there and gave his speech at Stanford Stadium , "follow your passion" had become a sort of de facto piece of advice for American career planners and seekers. It got to the point where non-technical career guides don't bother anymore to try to explain what the strategy is or try to give a justification for why this is a good strategy. They assume you know it. They assume that you agree that it's the right strategy. They just jump right into how do you figure out what you're passionate about, how do we build up the courage to go after our passion. So when Jobs stood up there and said something that people interpreted as saying "follow your passion," this was not the introduction of the idea. It was more like the idea was being canonized. So we can think of this as sort of the de facto moment when "follow your passion" became the American career gospel. I mean, this is how we think about building a meaningful career in this country. So as I mentioned, this got people very excited, if you look at the reports surrounding the talk. We shouldn't be surprised that they got excited. If you look at this idea "follow your passion" objectively, we see that it's a sort of astonishingly appealing concept. Because it tells us that not only can you have this working life in which you love what you do and it's very meaningful and engaging, but that it's actually not that hard to get there. It's a simple equation. You have to figure out what you love, which maybe takes you a month of introspection. You do some strength finders or whatever. You got to figure out what you love, and then you match it to your work. Problem solved. You'll love what you do for a living. So it's sort of a astonishingly appealing piece of advice. But here's the problem. The problem is that "follow your passion," in addition to be astonishingly appealing, also happens to be astonishingly bad advice. And that's the idea that brought me here today for this talk. So I just published this new book, and the idea of this book was to answer a simple question. Why do some people end up loving what they do for a living, while so many other people don't? Now, obviously I'm young. So this book was not me saying I will now draw for my years of career wisdom and share my advice, having been in the career market for two years now, if you don't count grad school. The point was I didn't have these answers. I was at a key transition point in my own early working life. I was just finishing up my academic training, was about to enter the academic job market. And if this is done right, a professorship is supposed to be a job for life. So I was about to do what might have been my first and last job interviews of my life. And on the other hand, I had these really tight geographic constraints, and it was a really bad academic market. So there was this chance that I would have more or less have to start from scratch after having trained for something. So in that period of transition I said if there's any time in my life that I need to understand how people build careers they love, this has to be the time when I understand this. If I wait 10 more years, it might be too late. So the book actually came out of me needing an answer for that question. It doesn't chronicle my own wisdom. It chronicles my own quest to get this wisdom from other people. So you can think of the book as roughly being in two parts. The first part I lay out my argument for why "follow your passion" is actually bad advice if your goal is to end up passionate about what you do for a living. And then, roughly speaking, the second part is about, well, what should you do instead. If you study people who do end up loving what they do, if they're not following their passion, what was it that they did instead. And that's more or less the second part. So I thought what I would do today was tell two stories. I can tell one story from the first part, and we can draw some lessons from that about why I think "follow your passion" is bad advice. And then I'll tell a story from the second part, and then we can draw some lessons from that about what I observed seems to work better instead. And then we can go to questions after that. So let's jump right in. The first story, I want to return to Steve Jobs. But now I want to rewind time back a little further. Let's say you had a time machine and you could go back to meet a young Steve Jobs. Probably the first thing you would do is go buy Apple stock, but let's say you go back even earlier than that in a high-school age Steve Jobs. The biographical sources we have today suggest that if you talk to a young Steve Jobs, you would not come away with the idea that he was passionate about building a technology company. He did not have at that point in his life a passion for changing the world through technology. Right? So Steve Jobs did not go to Berkeley to study electrical engineering, which is what you would have done in that time and that place if you were really passionate about electronics. And he didn't go to Stanford or UCLA to study business, which is probably what you would have done in that time and that place if you're very passionate about entrepreneurship and business. But he instead went to Reed College, a liberal arts school up in Oregon. He studied history, studied dance. Pretty soon afterwards he dropped out and hung out on campus, walking around barefoot, experimenting with sort of extreme diets, bumming free meals from the Hari Krishna temple. Eventually, he got fed up with being completely destitute, came back to California, took a night shift job at Atari. And that was very specific, because he wanted flexibility and not too much responsibility. And he began to study Eastern Mysticism, way more seriously. It had just arrived on the shores of the West Coast in this period. He went on a mendicant's journey to India in this point.