The Worst Career Advice. Ever.

What is the worst career advice I could ever give a student? What words could poison a career?

In preparing this article, I read a lot of good and bad career advice, but just one tip appeared in both columns, good and bad:

“Follow your passion”

This is important career advice. Everyone knows it. It is in so many books.

It must be correct? Well, read the words of Mark Cuban, an American billionaire businessman and investor:

Don’t follow your passion, follow your effort.

Don’t wait to find your passion, get good at something. Your passion will follow.

I hear it all the time from people. "I'm passionate about it."

What a lot of BS.

"Follow your passion" is the worst advice you could ever give or get.

Why? Because everyone is passionate about something. More than one thing. There are always going to be things we love to do. That we dream about doing. That we really really want to do with our lives.

Those passions aren’t worth a cent.

Let me make this as clear as possible.

1.  When you work hard at something, you become good at it.
2.  When you become good at something, you will enjoy it more.
3.  When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good possibility you will
     become passionate or more passionate about it.
4.  When you are good at something, passionate and work hard to
     improve, good things will follow.

Don’t follow your passion, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success.

"But what about Steve Jobs?" you say.

In his famous 2005 Stanford University talk, he said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."

Surely, that was good advice...

What Steve Jobs Did, Not What He Said

Steve Jobs was a Liberal Arts student with long hair who liked to walk barefoot (no shoes). He didn’t finish university, he was interested in Western history, in dance, in Zen. He lived in a hippy community and practiced Buddhism.

Until he finally got tired of having no money.

He decided to work part-time at night in a local computer company to earn a few dollars.

Until he got bored and went on a trip to India.

He didn’t love technology or electronics, but to pay for his other passions he started a small electronics business with a friend to sell computer components.

This was the plan: make $25 computer kits, sell for $50, sell 100, make $1250 each.

What happened? A local computer store asked them to assemble the computers first and sell for $500, and that was the start of Apple.

Steve Jobs was just a hippie kid who wanted to make some easy cash and follow his passions of Zen Buddhism and hippy life.

But if Steve Jobs had followed his passions, he would probably have become a teacher in a local Zen centre, somewhere in California.

And Apple, the most valuable company in the world, would not exist.

So, maybe the best career advice is:

"Don’t do what you love, love what you do,
 good things will follow..."

But what do you think?

In the Battle of the Billionaires, who is right, Mark Cuban (love what you do) or Steve Jobs (do what you love)?


Have you seen Steve Jobs' famous 2005 speech at Stanford University? It really is inspiring. There are three versions on our website, in English, English with English subtitles, and English with Portuguese subtitles.