Why "follow your passion" is flawed career advice.

Last weekend, I joined 999 other bloggers, entrepreneurs, global travelers, philanthropists and dreamers from all over the world at Chris Guillebeau's annual World Domination Summit here in Portland. (Yes, that Chris Guillebeau - same one that recently launched my current favorite professional book, The $100 Startup.)

I could write for 10 hours on all of the amazing people I met, heard and saw (including Brene Brown, Chris Brogan, Scott Harrison of Charity: Water and my pal Jenny Blake).

But one speaker stuck out rather unexpectedly for me: The dude who stood up and matter-of-factly announced that the ever-popular (and almost always believed without question) phrase "follow your passion" was fine and dandy, however ...

It's completely faulty advice.

In fact, not only do we not have scientific evidence to prove that following one's passion actually works, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary.

What the...?

Who was this cat?

The speaker was Cal Newport, a computer scientist from Georgetown with a soon-to-launch book that explores why some people lead successful, enjoyable, meaningful lives, while so many others do not ("So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love")

Through extensive research, Cal discovered that the path to a more passionate life is often far more complex than "follow your passion." And then he studied the patterns of people who love their work.

The conclusions he came to through the research? You are much more likely to lead a successful, enjoyable and meaningful life if you recognize that what you do for your work is much less important that you think it is. Instead, Cal says the formula is this:

  1. Get good at something that is rare and valuable.
  2. Once good at something rare and valuable, use this as access to gain access to the things that truly matter to you (e.g. flexibility, autonomy, creativity, freedom, etc.)

In other words, if something interests you and seems like it could, ultimately, give you access to the traits you value? You can use this as your platform to build a remarkable life.

Cal did caution, however, that people often encounter a potential snag as they progress to the point at which they can leverage their rare and valuable skills -- pushback.

"Once you're valuable, that's exactly when you'll get the pressure (presumably, from your employer, family, etc.) to stay the course on your current path," he explained. "That's something everyone needs to watch for as they work toward a remarkable life."

So the moral of the story, according to Cal Newport:

You don't have to figure out in advance what your passion is and then make it happen. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a goal of being passionate about your work.

I'm dying to know -- how do you feel about "follow your passion" as career/life advice? Did you follow your passion and find fulfillment and success? Wanna weigh in? Please leave a comment below.