Is Following Your Passion Good Advice?
Updated: Mar 19
The following is an article “Is Following Your Passion Good Advice?”
by Marc Primo.
We’ve all heard this classic piece of advice at some point in our lives: “the secret to success and happiness is to make a living doing something you are passionate about”. Chances are, we all agree that this is the kind of wisdom that one cannot argue with. After all, who wouldn’t want to get paid for doing something they absolutely love?
Passion is just the beginning
The argument in favor of such a sage but clichéd life hack is further strengthened when we witness firsthand the real life fairy tales of athletes, musicians, and entrepreneurs who followed their passion and reaped the rewards in a way that even they never imagined.
Brazilian football icon Pelé, Liverpudlian fab four The Beatles, and visionary Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple in the garage of his parents’ home, all shared one thing in common: they were passionate about their craft and went the extra mile to excel at it so that they could be the best that they could be.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Keeping it real
But not everyone agrees that following your passion is the smartest thing to do. Take it from billionaire Mark Cuban, who once told CNBC, “The things I ended up being really good at were the things I found myself putting effort into. A lot of people talk about passion, but that's really not what you need to focus on”.
Cuban then went on to illustrate what he meant by sharing how he was so passionate about baseball and basketball in his younger years, but aborted any ambitions of becoming an athlete when a reality check revealed that his physical capabilities were nowhere near the standard on display in the Major League or NBA.
Instead, Cuban believes that one has a better chance of success when they make the extra effort to excel at things they already spend a lot of time doing. His theory is supported by experts on the subject who have devoted much of their life to research and studies in the pursuit of determining just what exactly the formula for success and happiness is.
Practice makes perfect
Author Malcolm Gladwell, whose bestselling book ‘Outliers’ takes a close look at some of the world’s most successful individuals, has theories of his own that could explain what it is that makes high-achievers different from everybody else.
One of his hypotheses states that it takes more or less 10,000 hours to master something. Of the world’s population, only a select few have the commitment and discipline to allot that many hours to doing just one thing.
But as Gladwell points out, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr not only logged in that number of hours perfecting their craft, they even exceeded it by a wide margin. It is for this reason that the author is convinced The Beatles went on to become arguably the most successful and influential band in music history.
So, is following your passion good advice? The answer to that question is, ‘it depends’. As Cuban also says, “In order to be one of the best, you have to put in effort. So don't follow your passions, follow your effort".
The Beatles definitely knew what their passion was, but as Cuban and Gladwell point out, following your passion is moot if you don’t put in the effort and the thousands of hours that should come with it.