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Passion vs. Practicality

When it comes to success there is no shortage of advice on how to achieve it. But, what advice should you listen to and which should you disregard? At a macro level, there is a big divide on the issue of passion vs. practicality. Some popular pundits have expressed their opinions on both sides of the argument.


If you listen to media guru Gary Vaynerchuck, you will hear him talk about the virtues of finding your passion and working hard to make money following that passion. He explains that to be truly successful you need to work hard and you need to put in a lot of hours. Maybe 10,000 hours? If you’re going to put in the kind of ‘hustle’ (Gary Vee, as many call him, loves to talk about hustle) it takes to be very successful, you have to be doing something you love, something you’re passionate about. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you won’t be able to put in the work it takes to be a success he reasons. Sounds like pretty sound advice.

One of Vaynerchuck’s reasons for preaching the follow your passion philosophy is simple: the Internet. He talks endlessly about how the Internet has dramatically changed the game with respect to everyone’s ability to follow their passion. He talks about how the Internet has expanded people’s options and access to so many ways to follow their passion and turn it into a business, not just a hobby. One example Gary Vee points out is the growing abundance of success stories of people who have started YouTube channels or podcasts centered around their passion and they developed huge audiences and achieved success. These are just examples, but there are lots of opportunities that technology and the Internet have brought to the table for anyone willing to hustle, anyone who is willing to put in the work.

You can listen to Gary Vaynerchuck talk about passion in this video: Follow Your Passion


Mike Rowe was a fixture for eight seasons on the Discovery Channel’s show Dirty Jobs where he took on a vast array of notoriously dirty jobs and he talks a lot about the importance of practicality when it comes to work. He thinks that advice telling you to follow your passion is, “Terrible advice.” His advice? Follow opportunity.

As Rowe points out, there is often a major gap between passion and skills. As he so eloquently points out, “Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.” If you’ve ever watched American Idol, you’ve seen this sad reality hit people in the face like a giant hand of truth.

Millions of people witquote-passion-is-too-important-to-be-without-but-too-fickle-to-be-guided-by-which-is-why-i-mike-rowe-94-6-0677h college degrees and tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt have been hit with reality when they head out into the world with their newly minted degrees, only to find there are no jobs in their chosen field. Meanwhile, there are nearly 5.8 million jobs that employers can’t find people to fill because there is a lack of qualified people with the requisite skills to do those jobs.

Rowe’s advice is summed up in this simple sentence. “Don’t follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

You can listen to Mike Rowe expand on his philosophy in this short (just over 5 minutes) video: Don’t Follow Your Passion


With such diametrically opposed philosophies about success being thrown around by extremely successful and influential people, which is the right course to follow? I’m not a philosopher, but I think that’s something you have to answer for yourself. I know my answer.