I have been seeing some pretty crazy advice floating around on the webby-webs in the past couple months, which is starting to go beyond mildly annoying and moving right into danger of pissing me off. The “advice” isn’t really advice so much as filler, or a restatement of the obvious.
An extreme and ludicrous example of the advice to which I refer goes like this.
Take a commonly held idea — like, “We need oxygen to breathe” — and then write a headline indicating the opposite.
“You Don’t Need Oxygen to Breathe!”
“Breathing oxygen: It’s Bad for Your Health!”
“Why You Shouldn’t Breathe Oxygen”
“Top 10 Ways to Stop Breathing Oxygen”
“Freedom at Last: Never Breathe Oxygen Again!”
Which would be fine, if it wasn’t bullshit. Obviously we have to breathe oxygen. Duh.
But it’s not just the caption, headline, title, or what-have-you that is all kinds of FUBAR. It’s also the article itself. Because then? It goes on to talk about breathing oxygen, but you know, just LESS of it. Or maybe like, MORE of it. Or even like, THROUGH YOUR NOSE instead of your mouth.
That kind of thing.
So the header is not just stupid for being counter to common sense — it’s also stupid for not being a true indication of the article to follow. That’s stupid (((times))) two. And bad math seriously infuriates me.
Now that I’ve presented my premise, I’m sure you want a “for realz” example to explain WTF I’m talking about. Allow me to elucidate.
There has been a lot of enthusiasm and encouragement lately follow your passion, do what you love, be true to yourself, and all that kind of hippy stuff which I absolutely adore. Pursue happiness — um, yes please! Why wouldn’t I want to go that route?
But I guess that the message “follow your passion” is TOO OVERDONE. So now, to “write against the grain”, a handful of brainiacs have decided to shout the opposite direction.
“ ‘Follow Your Passion’ is Crappy Advice”, touts one article.
“Don’t Follow Your Passion”, advises another.
“ ‘Follow Your Passion’ is bad advice. Do this instead…” instructs a third.
Seriously? Come on guys. You know that’s utter rubbish. Those titles are ON PURPOSE written to make people scratch their heads in dumbfounded fashion.
Right now people want to be encouraged to BREATHE OXYGEN. They want to be pushed to FOLLOW THEIR PASSION. And you just sucker-punched them in the gut, making all their excitement and air *whoosh* out in a salty mix of “HUH?”
As if your headlines aren’t bad enough, your articles don’t even back what you’re shouting!
In the first example, you step back and say something to the effect of, “Well, you know, CULTIVATE a passion, and then do that.”
Meaning, you can’t follow your passion if you don’t know what your passion is… so figure it out by slowly building on things you like and working from there.
Which is… stay with me here… following your passion.
Just, you know, at a pace slow enough for personal discovery.
You also talk about passions maybe changing over time. Um, yeah. So what? Are you trying to indicate that a person shouldn’t drop painting to take up writing? Our passions likely go through growing pains right along with us. I’m perfectly okay with continuing to follow my passions, where ever they may lead.
The admonition to “follow your passion” is NOT crappy advice. It’s crappy advice to urge anyone NOT to find, grow, and pursue that which makes her happy.
In the second example, you discuss learning mastery over something as opposed to pursuing your passion. Which isn’t going to happen in any way whatsoever if you aren’t interested.
Mastery over anything requires dedication and motivation. These things don’t grow on trees. They must be nourished, which is only going to happen with… stay with me here… passion.
Don’t tell me not to follow my passion and yet urge me to undergo years of training and hard work for something about which I don’t love. That’s just backwards and stupid.
In the third example, you talk about FINDING your passion, which is not even the same thing as following it. You talk about people trying to figure out what they want to do, which has very little bearing on those who already have a clear idea of where they are headed.
If you really want to write, and you know that’s what you’re meant to do with your life, then you are going to pursue this path by practicing the craft, learning everything about it, connecting with others in your field, and, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a spouse or parent pay your bills, find a job related to your interest.
Your instructions to “do this instead” are nothing but a repeat of what following your passion is really all about.
Look. Following your passion is excellent advice.
Yes, you should first figure out what the fuck that passion is. No doubt about it. You would be a dumb-dumb to buy a map for a trip whose location is as yet undecided.
And no one ever said following your passion is easy. You can BE PASSIONATE about something and that is absolutely NOT the same thing as following your passion. I have loved writing all my life, PASSIONATELY, but I did not decide to follow my passion until this year.
The advice you’re trying to offer, but dodging around in an overly educated, harrumphing, stodgy, uppity, snobby fashion, is what I just said. If you are going to follow your passion, which is terrific and I’m happy for you, don’t just say it — put in the work. Show up. Do what needs done. Pick it and get there. Don’t dilly dally and dance about it, poking it with a stick. Pull up your sleeves and dive in. Master that bad boy!
All three of these writers name the source of this newfound inspiration to ditch passions as Cal Newport. He sounds like a douche. I’m just saying. He might NOT be a douche, but if he is encouraging people to stop following their passion, that’s a pretty douche-y move right there. And if the shoe fits, Cal, you should wear it. With passion.
*** UPDATE ***
Yeah, I checked out Cal’s website, and he has a new book out called SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU, which “argues that ‘follow your passion’ is bad advice, then chronicles my quest to figure out what works instead.”
Sounds like he is writing about following your passion INTELLIGENTLY. Which, you know, is still following your passion. Douche.