Bad advice from Mark Cuban: “Ignore your passion”

Mark Cuban just wrote a blog post, advising people to forget their passions and just invest more hours into whatever they doo:

I hear it all the time from people. “I’m passionate about it.” “I’m not going to quit, It’s my passion”. Or I hear it as advice to students and others “Follow your passion”.

What a bunch of BS. ”Follow Your Passion” is easily the worst advice you could ever give or get.

Why? Because everyone is passionate about something. Usually more than 1 thing. We are born with it. There are always going to be things we love to do. That we dream about doing. That we really really want to do with our lives. Those passions aren’t worth a nickel.

Instead, Mark says you should look at where you spend your time, because:

  1. When you work hard at something you become good at it.
  2. When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more.

That’s basically telling all the people working 80-hour weeks in soul-sucking jobs, that if they hate hate what they do, the solution is simply to put more hours into it.

Looking more closely at the two statements above, it’s clear to see that they’re both flat-out wrong. In fact:

  1. Plenty of people work looooong hours at jobs they are not very good at.
  2. I know some very successful, highly paid people who are stellar at what they do… but don’t particularly like it. Many people are good at what they do, yet don’t ultimately enjoy it, precisely because they have no passion for it.

I maintain (and the science backs me up on this) that if you choose (or create) a job which makes you happy, you are more likely to be successful at it.

Now, I’m not knocking effort. Effort is crucial and being happy at work does not mean your work days will always be fun, easy and effortless. Being happy at work is also about working really hard on tough challenges. Especially if those challenges are meaningful to you.

It’s really about finding the intersection of these three areas:

  1. Something you’re passionate about
  2. Something you’re good at
  3. Something people will pay you to do

Telling people to ignore their passions in this equation is common-place but misguided, because it simply leads people to slave away at jobs they ultimately don’t care about.

7 thoughts on “Bad advice from Mark Cuban: “Ignore your passion””

  1. Alexander – You’re exactly right. And (as you know) there’s also plenty of science to backup that when people are happy at work doing what they want to do then productivity levels are higher, efficiency levels are better, staff attrition rates are lower, etc, etc, etc.

    Mark Cuban would be well served to move with the times and understand more about the links between enjoyment at work and personal/company performance. He might like to start with the Harvard Business Review of Jan/Feb this year….

  2. All very true! In fact, I would say that there is even more to account for when discussing work happiness. Factors such as atmosphere, flexibility, and group dynamics also play a large role in determining whether or not you enjoy your job.

    With passion comes inspiration and drive. If you have no passion or love for what you do, it will limit your motivation and likely hood of success.

  3. What do you do when none of the things you enjoy are marketable, or when there is nothing you enjoy enough to spend all day at it?

  4. That’s certainly difficult. I suppose there’s two ways you could approach it:
    1. To find something enjoyable in what you already do – Even starting a small part/task/person/attribute of your current job. Find something that you like and focus on that – extend that if you can. If you can’t find anything, then it could be an ideal time to explore other options. And hunt for a job that has at least some element of it that you would enjoy.

    2. Develop something you do enjoy that’s completely outside of your current role and then make it into something that could become your work. Of course this is much harder and probably more of a longterm project than #1. It also means we almost always have to stand back and look at our skills sets, our passions and our experience from new, different points of view. The challenge is to rethink and repackage them, to see how they might become something we can market…

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