Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Mike Rowe: “Never Follow Your Passion, But Always Bring It with You”

 

When I worked as an ACT/SAT tutor, I sometimes got to chat with my students after the lesson finished. Given the opportunity, I’d offer the following advice: 1) In choosing majors, consider both what you enjoy learning about and what someone else will pay you enough to do to make a living, and 2) Understand that these need not be the same thing. People who are particularly diligent, talented, and lucky sometimes get to be paid to follow their passions; most folks don’t and very few who do get to do so straight out of school. Moreover, is there absolutely nothing dishonorable or disappointing in using your remunerative work to finance your actual passions. That’s the point about passions, anyway: You’re interested in them even when you’re not getting paid to pursue them.

In a new Prager U video addressed to graduates, Mike Rowe made not only that point, but took it several excellent steps further:

One of my favorite passages:

On Dirty Jobs, I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner, a multi-millionaire, who told me the secret to his success:

“I looked around to see where everyone else was headed,” he said, “And then I went the opposite way. Then I got good at my work. Then I began to prosper. And then one day, I realized I was passionate about other people’s crap.”

I’ve heard that same basic story from welders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, HVAC professionals, hundreds of other skilled tradesmen who followed opportunity—not passion—and prospered as a result.

Consider the reality of the current job market.

Right now, millions of people with degrees and diplomas are out there competing for a relatively narrow set of opportunities that polite society calls “good careers.” Meanwhile, employers are struggling to fill nearly 5.8 million jobs that nobody’s trained to do. This is the skills gap, it’s real, and its cause is actually very simple: when people follow their passion, they miss out on all kinds of opportunities they didn’t even know existed.

If you know kids who just graduated from high school or college, do them a favor and forward them this video. Few things will do them — or the country — more good than helping others find useful, remunerative work that suits their skills and abilities. And contra Senator Marco Rubio, this isn’t a choice between practicality and aspiration: It’s about, in part, giving people the means to finance their real dreams.

There are 47 comments.

  1. livingtheLoneStarlife Inactive

    Interesting timing, Tom. Just yesterday I started watching this other, longer, interview with Mike Rowe from a couple years back.

    My oldest is headed into his junior year of high school, and starting to think about what he wants to do for living. He’s still talking about the Marines, but a month ago we were talking at the dinner table about other options. I was insistent with both my boys that they find a spot in the market that has long term gain and for which many companies are desperate to find talent. And they both know I won’t pay for a pointless degree; any degree they get must provide the education necessary to start a career that will provide for a family in the future.

    • #1
    • June 8, 2016, at 6:46 AM PST
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  2. Marion Evans Inactive

    Be careful with this sort of advice. People who dislike their jobs are probably more likely to be unhappy, to divorce, feel depression etc. Better be of modest means and feel whole with your daily occupation, than wealthy and feel like you have sold your soul. I have seen it many times. After the basics (health, food, shelter, a little fun), money alone doesn’t get you a lot more, unless you are status-minded or prone to feeling envy.

    I am guessing that, like most people, the septic tank cleaner didn’t really have a passion, and is very much enjoying his success. Good for him.

    • #2
    • June 8, 2016, at 6:51 AM PST
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  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Mike Rowe’s great. And he sets the standard. It’s good advice and I hope parents will pick up on it. Thanks, Tom!

    • #3
    • June 8, 2016, at 6:51 AM PST
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  4. A-Squared Coolidge

    I agree. I’ve said on here before that “Do what you love” is usually horrible advice nless it’s immediately followed by “because if you do what you love, you won’t mind being poor.”

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: People who are particularly diligent, talented, and lucky sometimes get to be paid to follow their passions; most folks don’t and very few who do get to do so straight out of school.

    One of the problems with the advice is that it seems to always be given people that made a lot of money doing what they love and mistakenly assume the reason they made a lot of money is that they did what they love, when in reality they got extremely lucky and were in the right place at the right time with the right love, and very few people gets so lucky.

    • #4
    • June 8, 2016, at 6:54 AM PST
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  5. Richard Fulmer Member

    One way to bring passion to your work is to see your job as more than a paycheck. Jobs exist to serve others. If you’re in the energy industry, you’re powering cities and hospitals, lighting streets and homes. If you’re in telecom, you’re allowing people to easily communicate over huge distances and saving lives by allowing them to quickly get help in emergencies. If you’re a garbage collector or a septic tank cleaner, you’re protecting life by eliminating sources of disease.

    • #5
    • June 8, 2016, at 6:57 AM PST
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  6. Fricosis Guy Listener

    We hunger for meaning, but reject the idea of vocation: a calling to those works for which we’re meant. We want to steer our own ship, then shake our fists at a contrary wind…instead of asking “perhaps we’re supposed to change tack?”

    • #6
    • June 8, 2016, at 6:57 AM PST
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  7. drlorentz Member

    Yeah, Mike Rowe has his head screwed on right. And since we’re sharing Mike Rowe videos…

    • #7
    • June 8, 2016, at 7:28 AM PST
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  8. KC Mulville Inactive

    My passions are spirituality and philosophy, and I got degrees in philosophy. But far from being impractical, I was taught philosophy in a way that made it almost universally applicable. For instance, I now make a decent salary as a database programmer, which is little more than logic and language.

    You could take philosophy and get bogged down in triviality, and in obscure theories. But I’m betting most subjects have that same tendency to offer rabbit-holes. The salvation is in how you approach the subject, not just what subject you pick.

    • #8
    • June 8, 2016, at 7:40 AM PST
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  9. Boss Mongo Member

    My daughter is a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University. They have a gamut of marketable majors: Golf course management, event planning, finance, nursing. They emphasize practical application from day one. For example, the school gift shop is set up like a golf pro shop, and the students run it. The event planning school is set up like a convention center, and the students run all the various clubs’ and sports’ award ceremonies and dinners. Pretty cool.

    FGCUs claim to fame is that they place 90% of graduates in a job related to their major within six months of graduation.

    Money quote from the counselor that was discussing this during student/parent orientation: If you want to study the effects of lesbianism on Elizabethan literature, this probably isn’t the school for you.

    • #9
    • June 8, 2016, at 8:10 AM PST
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  10. drlorentz Member

    Boss Mongo: Money quote from the counselor that was discussing this during student/parent orientation: If you want to study the effects of lesbianism on Elizabethan literature, this probably isn’t the school for you.

    Oh, too bad. I was about to apply.

    • #10
    • June 8, 2016, at 8:27 AM PST
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  11. Kephalithos Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Understand that these need not be the same thing.

    They needn’t be identical, but they ought to overlap.

    I wonder, at times, whether particular populations follow Rowe’s advice too closely. “Choose a practical career” is fine counsel for a lackluster or lethargic student, but bloody frustrating for the fumble-fingered, bookish would-be philosopher.

    • #11
    • June 8, 2016, at 8:38 AM PST
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  12. drlorentz Member

    Christopher Riley:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Understand that these need not be the same thing.

    They needn’t be identical, but they ought to overlap.

    I wonder, at times, whether particular populations follow Rowe’s advice too closely. “Choose a practical career” is fine advice for a lackluster or lethargic student, but bloody frustrating for the fumble-fingered, bookish would-be philosopher.

    Mike Rowe is reacting to the platitudes we hear every day. Perhaps he’s overreacting but sometimes a point needs to be made forcefully so it can be heard over the din. It’s hard to get people off the “follow your dream” and “don’t listen to anyone” paths since that’s all they know.

    Moderation in all things.

    • #12
    • June 8, 2016, at 8:45 AM PST
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  13. livingtheLoneStarlife Inactive

    Perhaps we can substitute passion for a career with being passionate about how we operate within our career.

    I’ve never been passionate about any job I’ve had, and I’m not really even passionate about the industry in which I own a business. But I have been passionate about being the best, about success, about not letting anyone out-work me, about learning, etc… and these characteristics have been, in my opinion, the root of my success.

    So isn’t that really the message we should teach our kids? Never get out-worked, never give up, strive always to be the absolute best of who you are. And develop marketable skills that someone will pay you for.

    • #13
    • June 8, 2016, at 9:12 AM PST
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  14. Douglas Inactive

    The United States would be better off if its young followed Rowe’s advice. But I fear the headwinds are just too strong, when everyone from the media to public schools to the President of the United States is telling kids that every single person should go to college.

    • #14
    • June 8, 2016, at 9:14 AM PST
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  15. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    Your passion is why God created elective courses.

    ;-)

    • #15
    • June 8, 2016, at 9:54 AM PST
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  16. Chuck Enfield Coolidge

    There should be a law that every kid between 16 and 25 should be required to watch this once a year!

    Yes, I know, so much for my libertarian principles. But since we’re going to pass unjustifiable laws anyway, they should at least make sense.

    • #16
    • June 8, 2016, at 9:58 AM PST
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  17. Kephalithos Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Moreover, is there absolutely nothing dishonorable or disappointing in using your remunerative work to finance your actual passions. That’s the point about passions, anyway: You’re interested in them even when you’re not getting paid to pursue them.

    Passions are rarely worth pursuing in isolation. If a person’s choice of career places him among others hostile to that passion — if a great cultural rift opens between him and his coworkers (and neighbors) — he has chosen poorly.

    • #17
    • June 8, 2016, at 10:13 AM PST
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  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Fricosis Guy:We hunger for meaning, but reject the idea of vocation: a calling to those works for which we’re meant.

    But if you don’t reject the idea of vocation, you put yourself in a pretty sticky spot, Rowe-wise. Belief in a vocation inspires passion, and if passion is not supposed to be a thing you follow…

    Maybe this sounds cynical, but it’s possible that the worst career rut to be in, passion-wise, is the rut where you genuinely believe God has called you to it. Because how are you supposed to gainsay that, or not be passionate about it?

    • #18
    • June 8, 2016, at 10:22 AM PST
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  19. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    A-Squared:I agree. I’ve said on here before that “Do what you love” is usually horrible advice nless it’s immediately followed by “because if you do what you love, you won’t mind being poor.”

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: People who are particularly diligent, talented, and lucky sometimes get to be paid to follow their passions; most folks don’t and very few who do get to do so straight out of school.

    One of the problems with the advice is that it seems to always be given people that made a lot of money doing what they love and mistakenly assume the reason they made a lot of money is that they did what they love, when in reality they got extremely lucky and were in the right place at the right time with the right love, and very few people gets so lucky.

    Yes, they got extremely lucky. But, they probably also went all-in on it.

    So, though I completely agree with you, it’s also true that these high-risk, high-return vocations aren’t usually for the hedgers. There are world-renowned performers with degrees in biomedical engineering, but let’s not kid ourselves that even most world-renowned performers could pull off that kind of double life.

    • #19
    • June 8, 2016, at 10:26 AM PST
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  20. Flagg Taylor Member

    There is another important consideration here. Even in the case where your work is in fact your passion, your passion then becomes work. Work has a kind of corrupting influence–it can squeeze the joy out of something that you once performed purely out of joy. There is something to the cliché: “They call it work for a reason.”

    • #20
    • June 8, 2016, at 10:40 AM PST
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  21. Susan Quinn Contributor

    When I left college (short of a degree but completed later), I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I knew I had to work. I landed a job as a teller in a savings and loan (remember those?). I made my way up to assistant manager, but in the meantime, I worked on training manuals and as I was about to get a job somewhere else (I had literally been offered a job elsewhere the same day), I was offered a job in the training department. I was thrilled! I loved to train people. Eventually I started my own training businesses. So sometimes it’s “get a job, then find your passion.”

    • #21
    • June 8, 2016, at 10:48 AM PST
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  22. drlorentz Member

    Flagg Taylor:There is another important consideration here. Even in the case where your work is in fact your passion, your passion then becomes work. Work has a kind of corrupting influence–it can squeeze the joy out of something that you once performed purely out of joy. There is something to the cliché: “They call it work for a reason.”

    I’ve not found this to be true. Even today I still joke that I’d show up even if they didn’t pay me. It’s only a joke because I fully expect to be paid but that’s not the only reason I go in.

    • #22
    • June 8, 2016, at 10:54 AM PST
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  23. Mike H Coolidge

    Flagg Taylor:There is another important consideration here. Even in the case where your work is in fact your passion, your passion then becomes work. Work has a kind of corrupting influence–it can squeeze the joy out of something that you once performed purely out of joy. There is something to the cliché: “They call it work for a reason.”

    This is true, but it’s still easier for me to make myself do physics than it is to make myself learn programing.

    • #23
    • June 8, 2016, at 11:22 AM PST
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  24. drlorentz Member

    Mike H:

    This is true, but it’s still easier for me to make myself do physics than it is to make myself learn programing.

    Preach it, brother! If I had to do that all day long I’d be unhappy.

    • #24
    • June 8, 2016, at 11:28 AM PST
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  25. Pelayo Member

    I tell my kids to find something that is both economically “in-demand” and aligns with their areas of strength. If those two things don’t intersect at any point, compromise must follow.

    • #25
    • June 8, 2016, at 11:33 AM PST
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  26. Kim K. Member

    drlorentz:

    Christopher Riley:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Understand that these need not be the same thing.

    They needn’t be identical, but they ought to overlap.

    I wonder, at times, whether particular populations follow Rowe’s advice too closely. “Choose a practical career” is fine advice for a lackluster or lethargic student, but bloody frustrating for the fumble-fingered, bookish would-be philosopher.

    Mike Rowe is reacting to the platitudes we hear every day. Perhaps he’s overreacting but sometimes a point needs to be made forcefully so it can be heard over the din. It’s hard to get people off the “follow your dream” and “don’t listen to anyone” paths since that’s all they know.

    Moderation in all things.

    Platitudes. At my daughter’s high school graduation recently we sat through several “follow your dream” and “reach for the stars” and “you CAN do what you want” student speeches. It really hit bottom (top?) when one of the speakers said, very seriously, “remember – you are INFINITE.” I think I rolled my eyes so hard they got stuck.

    • #26
    • June 8, 2016, at 11:39 AM PST
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  27. Flagg Taylor Member

    drlorentz:

     

    I’ve not found this to be true. Even today I still joke that I’d show up even if they didn’t pay me. It’s only a joke because I fully expect to be paid but that’s not the only reason I go in.

    Lucky you!

    • #27
    • June 8, 2016, at 11:54 AM PST
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  28. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Mike H:

    Flagg Taylor:There is another important consideration here. Even in the case where your work is in fact your passion, your passion then becomes work. Work has a kind of corrupting influence–it can squeeze the joy out of something that you once performed purely out of joy. There is something to the cliché: “They call it work for a reason.”

    This is true, but it’s still easier for me to make myself do physics than it is to make myself learn programing.

    Definitely can relate!

    • #28
    • June 8, 2016, at 11:59 AM PST
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  29. drlorentz Member

    Kim K.: I think I rolled my eyes so hard they got stuck.

    Priceless.

    • #29
    • June 8, 2016, at 12:34 PM PST
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  30. Arahant Member

    Many years ago…Okay decades ago, as I was going through college, I came to a crossroads. I decided I no longer wanted to pursue the career I had intended. Rather than continuing on at an expensive private university, I came back home to the local junior college. I started looking over the majors, trying to figure out what I would be when I grew up. One that stood out for me was horticulture.

    My mother’s reaction was “No, you need to have a major where you can get a four-year degree and a good job.” Sort of by accident and default, I wound up with a degree in business administration.

    A few years later, she said to me, “I just found out what an arborist makes. Maybe I shouldn’t have steered you away from horticulture.”

    • #30
    • June 8, 2016, at 12:36 PM PST
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