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Career Advice: Part 2

As career advice, the glib suggestion to “follow your passion” is idiotic. Here are four important refinements to that classic career advice.


Qualifications. One needs to focus on a career that roughly matches one’s skills. If you are a klutz but your passion is surgery, it is irresponsible to encourage you to pick up a scalpel. The counseling is not as snappy, but it is more accurate to say, “follow your passion if it leads toward a career to which you have at least average natural abilities.” Duh.

Yes, there are occasions when a total incompetent can rise to a respected position, especially in the arts or politics. But the odds are against it.


The hoosegow. What if your passion is embezzling or molesting innocents? Those strike me as poor career choices. Shouldn’t the career advice be, “Follow your passion as long as it leads in a direction that is not obnoxiously criminal”?


Supply and demand. One needs a career that will pay the bills. Best if it is some activity that people value and which not everyone and her uncle can do. Pretending that the intensity of your passion is the only thing that matters is foolish economic advice. 

So be careful if your passion is building model railroads or sculpting portraits in butter. Unless things change, the demand will remain tiny and the competition fierce. 


Happiness at work. Hiding in the recommendation to “follow your passion” is the assumption that your job should be a source of gratification and happiness. Not necessarily. It is perfectly valid strategy to work to get money and use your spare time, weekends, and retirement to follow your passion.

In fact, separating work and play can make each of them far easier to manage. So here’s the right career advice. “For happiness, find a job to pay the bills where there is enough mental challenge to keep you interested and where you encounter pleasant people who think you or what you do is special. If your passion lies elsewhere, use your own time to indulge in its pursuit.”

I recognize that no one ever takes any of my advice. (See previous blog.) But I’ll include this disclaimer to be safe. 

DISCLAIMER: This career advice is offered for entertainment only. No one who follows this advice should expect positive outcomes or hold the author responsible for the terrible results that ensue. Always behave in a rational manner. Seek the counsel of qualified healthcare professionals, attorneys, and accountants before you act. Never pay the least attention to ridiculous advice in ridiculous blogs. 

Summary: Follow your passion—sort of, a little.

Pittsburgh, August 8, 2019

9 Responses

sara west

November 14, 2019

Don, Discovering your products and reading your blog, you just sound like some one I’d like to know. Cheers!


November 09, 2019

Actually, your advice is spot on. Believe it or not, as a former career counselor, I discussed with my students being realistic with whatever their passion is, and if will make them an actual living. Most students I encountered had no clue as to their “passion”. I provided the tools to help them discover their strengths and observe their natural talents, then helped direct them toward potential options that would pay an income. Explained that it’s probable their passion will not provide an adequate living, at least not for a long time, and to still feed that passion and become a well rounded person, they can still engage their passion on their time off. But for a paycheck, and to avoid an ulcer working in something they hate, we’d look into career fields matched with their inherent skills, strengths, and personality type. Over the years working in this field, I witnessed many, many ah-ha moments and complete change of majors by students who were able to figure this out. So, I understand your blog topic was to entertain, but you were accurate in your observations! 😉


August 30, 2019

I always thot the advice “you can be whatever you want to be” a load of tripe.

Hardy Harr

August 12, 2019

seems hypocritical coming from a maker of odd disaster-themed porcelain..


August 11, 2019

Excellent advice! It’s similar to what I tell my children. Not that they listen to anything I say anyway. They’ll figure it out the hard way. Like the rest of us.

Heidi Fieschko

August 09, 2019

Spot on Don! However, I do remember my Dad’s dubious looks when I presented the two career options I had settled on: a career in Musical Theatre or a career in something called Design – both at CMU. He recommended that the lesser of 2 evils would probably be Design, even though he didn’t know what that was and was still worried I’d be a jobless vagrant living on his dole. Fortunately things turned out okay on the Design thing, and I get to do community theatre every once in a while too!

Cynthia Gregory

August 09, 2019

Well that worked for me. I am new happily retired and following my passion for ritual and music. There were a few days during my work life when I felt like joining the bums drinking on the park benches that I passed on my way to the office but on the whole I had great people to work with several of whom are still close friends 10 years after I retired.
Love your attitude.


August 09, 2019

I’m going to laugh at this all week. Maybe all year.


August 09, 2019

Wait….’Act in a rational manner’? What does that even mean?

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