Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • 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.