"Follow your passion" is bad advice.
It seems an almost blasphemous thing to say. And yet in this book, Cal Newport argues that it is, indeed, generally a bad idea to try to base a career on a pre-existing passion.
Firstly, as blunt and uninspiring as it may sound, most people don't *have* a passion to begin with. Hence the need to "find yourself" or figure out what you want to do with your life. People who do have a passion are usually passionate about something that can't provide them with a career, such as supporting a local sports team.
Secondly, passions are usually the *result* of a successful career due to the build-up of skills that allow for more interesting jobs, rather than something that people start with. Having higher quality skills that are in high demand means that you can "trade them in" for a job which is in high demand. To think that you can go in to a field and get an exciting job right away is rather naive, and the entry-level positions don't tend to be the sorts of things that inspire people.
This book was written by the author as he was contemplating where he would go with his career after finishing his PhD, as he confronted the fascinating question: what makes for a career that people love? Through a combination of personal stories and broader research, the author argues his perhaps unorthodox position to us in very convincing style.
Enjoy the episode.
With The Talent Code, we have another perspective on the development of expertise. Daniel Coyle looks at "talent hotbeds" in music, sport, and academics in order to piece together a theory of how people get good at things. In the process, he discovers different types of teachers, necessary for different stages in the process of achieving mastery.
In Genius Explained, we saw how people considered "geniuses" build up their skills over many years prior to their production of great works. Although this training usually happens in childhood and adolescence, we saw at least one case - that of George Stephenson - where the key knowledge and expertise were built up in early adulthood. This prompts me to cover a book about adult development to supplement our series on expertise.
Meg Jay writes not just about adolescents, but directly for them. She is a therapist specialising in the twenty-something years, and her experience in therapy combined with her knowledge of the background scientific literature contributes to the value of this book.
Her main thesis is that many people today appear to believe that the twenties should be a period of unrestrained fun and thrill-seeking, and that "grown-up" concerns such as building a career, finding a partner, choosing a place to live, or raising a family can be left to the thirties, since "everything happens later now". Her response to this is that the twenties are not a time that can be wasted, since they are of such great developmental importance. Various biological and particularly neurophysiological changes during the twenties make it a time of great learning and of building habits for a lifetime.
Her interviews and case studies with clients show that the twenties can be a rather harrowing time, with young people unsure of what they are supposed to be doing with their lives, and often not doing anything at all with them. Often paralysed by a combination of apparently limitless choice, endless time, and the day-to-day banality of doing anything in particular, many twenty-somethings end up doing the rough equivalent of nothing at all, unemployed or underemployed in an eternal "Starbucks phase".
This book should interest both those who are interested in psychology and adult development in general, and those who are in their twenties or know people who are and would like some practical advice from an expert.
Enjoy the episode.