Don’t follow your passion

By Marc Andreessen:

  • Thesis: “Do what you love” / “Follow your passion” is dangerous and destructive career advice.
  • We tend to hear it from (a) Highly successful people who (b) Have become successful doing what they love.
  • The problem is that we do NOT hear from people who have failed to become successful by doing what they love.
  • Particularly pernicious problem in tournament-style fields with a few big winners & lots of losers: media, athletics, startups.
  • Better career advice may be “Do what contributes” — focus on the beneficial value created for other people vs just one’s own ego.
  • People who contribute the most are often the most satisfied with what they do — and in fields with high renumeration, make the most $.
  • Perhaps difficult advice since requires focus on others vs oneself — perhaps bad fit with endemic narcissism in modern culture?
  • Requires delayed gratification — may toil for many years to get the payoff of contributing value to the world, vs short-term happiness.

(1) Doesn’t “Do what contributes most” often overlap with “Do what you’re best at”, which often overlaps with “Do what you most enjoy”? In other words, isn’t the way to contribute the most often by doing what you’re best at and most passionate about?
(2) Many people make the mistake of defining what they most enjoy in terms of the topics they love (such as “I love politics”), rather than the types of task they love doing (such as “I love writing” or “I love problem solving” or “I love working with people”). See The best career advice you can give in two minutes.
(3) Even if “Do what contributes most” often overlaps with “Do what you’re best at and most enjoy”, there’s a crucial difference. “Do what contributes most” is about the difference you make to other people, whereas”Do what you’re best at and most enjoy” is self-centered.
(4) In his remarkable biography of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Joseph Telushkin describes how numerous people’s lives were transformed by the Rebbe. The Rebbe saw his role as helping people to fulfill their unique potential to make the world a better place. People who met with the Rebbe were struck by his utter selflessness, total focus on them, and deep understanding of their unique capabilities. But the meetings were often disconcerting. He would challenge each person to assess whether they could contribute more. This is entirely consistent with Marc Andreesen’s point.

Better than a resume

From Ryan Hoover:

Blogging is the new resume. Blogging is an effective way to illustrate expertise, personality, and most importantly, thought process. The way product managers, UX designers, and other “non-technical” roles think, communicates their ability and culture fit. Resumes lack this entirely…

When startups ask about my background and expertise, I respond with a brief bio and link them a few select articles I’ve written, relevant to their situation. If you read my writing, you will know how I think. If you agree with my analysis and recommendations, you will trust my product decisions. If you disagree, then we shouldn’t work together anyway. Resumes fail to communicate any of this.

I hope to never touch my resume again.

(1) Note the similarity to Alan Rusbridge’s advice to wannabe journalists.
(2) We’ve found that money managers use Seeking Alpha as a way to find analysts to hire — because reading an article about a stock often tells you more about the author’s capabilities than reading their resume. And investors use Seeking Alpha to find money managers, for exactly the same reason.

The best career advice you can give in two minutes

What’s the best career advice you could give in two minutes?

Based on observing those who are most successful in Seeking Alpha, this is what I’d answer:

  1. People are most successful at what they most enjoy.
  2. “What you most enjoy” is determined by types of activities, not domain subject matter.
  3. The types of activities you enjoy are deeply related to your personality type.
  4. So find what you love doing (by thinking about which types of activities best fit your personality type), and go work for a fast-growing company doing those activities.
More on these:

This advice on how to get a job tells managers exactly what to look for when hiring

From a Q&A with Guardian Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridge:

What advice would you have for a journalism student attempting to get into the industry at the moment?

Main thing is to publish. Blog, tweet, write, photograph, tweet, video, code, play around with data – or a combination of all of the above. a) it will keep your journalistic ‘muscle’ in practice. b) if you’re any good, you’ll get noticed. And bear in mind you can do these things at other places than conventional news organisations. Many businesses, NGOs, arts organisations, public bodies, universities, etc are now publishers of extremely high quality stuff. Good places to practice your craft before moving on…

Alan’s advice to individuals, “just do it”, is essentially the same as 37 Signals’ advice to managers about what they should be looking for when they hire, but from the other side of the table:

When you’re hiring, seek out people who are managers of one. What’s that mean? A manager of one is someone who comes up with their own goals and executes them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do — set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. — but they do it by themselves and for themselves.

The two factors which determine how successful and happy you will be at work

There are two factors that overwhelmingly determine how much you will enjoy work and successful you’ll be. The first factor, mentioned in an interview with Sheryl Sandberg, is: Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? The second factor is articulated by LinkedIn CEO Spencer Rascoff in this article:

I spend most of my time at Zillow recruiting and retaining great people… What do I tell them to try to convince them to join Zillow? Growth is fun. When you’re growing, people are optimistic, and there is ample opportunity for career growth. Great people achieve great things and have extraordinary careers when they join companies in hyper-growth mode. It’s much harder to carve out an interesting and successful career – regardless of your personal attributes – if your company is in slow-growth mode or worse still, if it is shrinking.

That’s it. Only two things matter for individuals: (1) Do you get to do what you are best at / love doing every day? (2) Are you in a company where growth and success will spawn opportunities for you?

Two implications for companies flow from this: (1) Make sure your people are doing what they love; (2) Put your best people in the areas of highest potential growth.