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.