Perhaps one of the most quoted phrases of all-time, "do what you're passionate about" brings everyone to that warm and bright place where nothing bad can happen and the sun shines all the time.
That may sound nice but it's far from what happens in the real world, or what Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA team Dallas Mavericks, would call a great lie.
"One of the great lies of life is 'follow your passions. Everybody tells you, 'Follow your passion, follow your passion."
In Amazon's Insights for Entrepreneurs series, Mark Cuban shares his core truths, lessons learned from decades of experiences and observations. Instead of following your passion, Mark Cuban advises following your effort.
"People talk about passion, but that’s not what you need to focus on. You really need to evaluate: Where are you putting in your time and effort? In order to be one of the best, you have to put in effort. You can control how hard you work and how much time you put in. So don’t follow your passions, follow your effort. It’s the one thing in life that you can control."
Don't Follow Your Passion. Follow Opportunity.
Another person singing the same tune as Mark Cuban is Mr. Dirty Jobs himself, Mike Rowe. According to him, we need to stop telling people, especially young ones, to follow their passion.
Following their passion typically leads young people down a path that potentially ignores good opportunities around them. Add to that the long road of expensive schooling and training in order to start feeling happy and fulfilled. After all is said and done, many people end up trapped, drowning in debt with no viable job options in sight.
But it doesn't mean that passion doesn't a place in the world. Rowe advises that young people find opportunity and take their passion with them.
"On 'Dirty Jobs,' I met countless people who were doing things that visually didn't look like anything you wanted to be doing. These jobs looked like the thing you would go out of your way to avoid. But then, when you sit down and talk to them, you find out that they make six figures a year, and they have a vacation, and they have enough balance in their life to coach their kid's little league team and they don't have any debt."
"Take your passion with you, but don't follow it around. Instead, follow opportunity."
A Stanford Lab Study Agrees
A series of laboratory studies by Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton examined the well-intended "find your passion" advice and tested its merits.
They found out that this mindset carries hidden implications. It implies that once you find a liking to an interest, pursuing it will be easy. But the research found that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes people more likely to give up and pursue other "passions" instead.
The idea that passions are fixed and fully formed implies that the number of interests a person has is limited. That can cause people to narrow their focus and neglect other areas.
What they think is a better, more fitting advice is to "develop your passion". Walton said:
“If you look at something and think, ‘that seems interesting, that could be an area I could make a contribution in,’ you then invest yourself in it. You take some time to do it, you encounter challenges, over time you build that commitment.”
"[My undergraduates] At first, they get all starry-eyed about the idea of finding their passion, but over time they get far more excited about developing their passion and seeing it through. They come to understand that that’s how they and their futures will be shaped and how they will ultimately make their contributions.”