Follow Your Interest

I talk to a lot of young people about career advice.

I used to tell them to “follow their passion.” I now think that’s not the best advice. Or at least, not the most practical. I think it’s too stressful. There are very few people who are lucky enough to “follow their passion.” If I followed my passion, I’d be a either a homeless professional golfer or a homeless television watcher.

I found that a better – or more practical – heuristic is doing what interests you or piques your curiosity. Or generally, what just feels “right” for you. Not what you’re supposed to do – as dictated by peer pressure, family pressure, or self-inflicted pressure.

I made many career changes in my life – aspiring professor, engineer, lawyer, businessman, startup advisor. I made a lot of choices that I was “supposed to make.” I bet that a lot of bright, young people make choices subconsciously driven by what they’re ‘supposed to do.’ For me, those generally led to a state of being “not unhappy”, which is an even more insidious consciousness than being flat-out miserable. It’s like a frog in slowly boiling water. They don’t know they’re dying until it’s too late.

When I started making choices dictated by interest and “what felt right” to me personally, then it usually led to better outcomes. It didn’t always result in better outcomes. But it was never costly. Learning new stuff or being happy is never costly.