By Jay Hull
We often hear statements like this: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” or, “Follow your passion.” We can all appreciate this sentiment, and we’re happy when friends are able to spend their days working in areas that bring them joy. But the idea of only taking work you love, or only sticking with work you love, is unrealistic for most people. For one reason, passions about work are notoriously difficult to assess before you spend sufficient time actually working! And at the same time, the “follow your passion” advice can simply increase the level of frustration and burden on those who don’t view their work this way but feel trapped because of financial pressures, interpersonal or family-business commitments, or other reasons.
In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Georgetown University Computer Science professor and author, Cal Newport, recommends a different approach for loving our work. Passion for work is a problem: a CNNMoney survey from 2010 reported that 64 % of younger workers say they are actively unhappy in their work. (Page 23.) He writes, “It’s my hope that the insights [in this book] will free you from simplistic catchphrases like ‘follow your passion’ and ‘do what you love’ – the type of catchphrases that have helped spawn the career confusion that afflicts so many today – and instead, provide you with a realistic path toward a meaningful and engaging working life.” (Page 19.)
Reading Newport’s book is well worth the investment of time, and we’ll return to some of his key ideas in the weeks to come, but for now, here is a key to unlocking his recommendation for loving your work (or loving it more): “Passion”, Newport writes, “is a side effect of mastery.” (Page 17.) In other words, if you want to love your work, get really, really good at it. Of course, this doesn’t solve every challenge in loving your work, but Newport makes a powerful case, with supporting research, that a key to loving your work is “becoming so good they can’t ignore you”. Expertise is intrinsically rewarding and it opens doors that would otherwise stay shut. He discusses the impact of the 10,000 hour rule, and the role of deliberate practice, and other practical suggestions for getting better at your work and loving it more as a result.
What do you think? Might your passion for your work grow if you get even better at it? If you want to talk, TruNorth Partners can help.