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Jun 6, 2016
Presented by
Mike Rowe

Should you follow your passion, wherever it may take you? Should you do only what you love...or learn to love what you do? How can you identify which path to take? How about which paths to avoid? TV personality Mike Rowe, star of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It," shares the dirty truth in PragerU's 2016 commencement address.

Check out Mike Rowe's latest projects! www.mikerowe.com

Do NOT “follow your passion.” Passion is way too fickle to follow around. Instead, bring your passion with you in whatever you do.

  • Mike Rowe on NOT following your passion: “Right now, millions of people with degrees and diplomas are out there competing for a relatively narrow set of opportunities that polite society calls ‘good careers.’ Meanwhile, employers are struggling to fill nearly 5.8 million jobs that nobody’s trained to do. This is the skills gap, it’s real, and its cause is actually very simple: when people follow their passion, they miss out on all kinds of opportunities they didn’t even know existed.”View Source
  • Studies show that the key to job satisfaction is engaging, meaningful work, not necessarily finding your “dream job” or “pursuing your passion.”View Source
  • WATCH: Daniel Kahneman on what makes people happy.View Source
  • Related reading: Happiness Is a Serious Problem – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Doing Good Better – William MacAskillView Source

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it. Figure out what you’re good at first, then pursue that.

  • Mike Rowe on letting your passion lead you: “If we’re talking about your hobby, by all means let your passion lead you. But when it comes to making a living, it’s easy to forget the dirty truth: just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’ve earned a degree in your chosen field, doesn’t mean you’re gonna find your ‘dream job.’… Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”View Source
  • Studies show that the key to job satisfaction is engaging, meaningful work, not necessarily finding your “dream job” or “pursuing your passion.”View Source
  • WATCH: Daniel Kahneman on what makes people happy.View Source
  • Related reading: Happiness Is a Serious Problem – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel GilbertView Source

Dirty little secret: Your happiness on the job has very little to do with the work itself. It has far more to do with your attitude. 

  • Mike Rowe on the secret to satisfying work: “While passion is way too important to be without, it is way too fickle to follow around… Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”View Source
  • Studies show that the key to job satisfaction is engaging, meaningful work, not necessarily finding your “dream job” or “pursuing your passion.”View Source
  • WATCH: Daniel Kahneman on what makes people happy.View Source
  • Related reading: Happiness Is a Serious Problem – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel GilbertView Source
  • Related reading: Doing Good Better – William MacAskillView Source

Don’t try to find your “dream job.” Dream jobs are often just that, dreams. Instead, find a solid job and develop a passion for it. 

  • Mike Rowe on the importance of not letting your “dream job” prevent you from happiness: “Dream Jobs are usually just that—dreams. But their imaginary existence just might keep you from exploring careers that offer a legitimate chance to perform meaningful work and develop a genuine passion for the job you already have.”View Source
  • Studies show that the key to job satisfaction is engaging, meaningful work, not necessarily finding your “dream job” or “pursuing your passion.”View Source
  • WATCH: Daniel Kahneman on what makes people happy.View Source
  • Related reading: Happiness Is a Serious Problem – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel GilbertView Source
  • Related reading: Doing Good Better – William MacAskillView Source

Does more money make you happier? Research shows money makes surprisingly little difference on people’s sense of life satisfaction. 

  • Humans quickly adapt to new situations, leaving them feeling just like they did before significant increases in wealth. Research shows that, on a scale of 1-10, increasing a person’s income from $40,000 to $80,000 only increases life satisfaction from approximately 6.5 to 7. Research shows that income ceases influencing people’s day-to-day happiness at around $50,000.View Source
  • Mike Rowe on the secret to satisfying work: “While passion is way too important to be without, it is way too fickle to follow around… Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”View Source
  • WATCH: Daniel Kahneman on what makes people happy.View Source
  • Related reading: Happiness Is a Serious Problem – Dennis PragerView Source
  • Related reading: Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel GilbertView Source

There are only two things I can tell you today that come with absolutely no agenda. The first is “Congratulations.” The second is “Good luck.” Everything else is what I like to call, “The Dirty Truth,” which is just another way of saying, “It’s my opinion.”

And in my opinion, you have all been given some terrible advice, and that advice, is this:

Follow your passion.

Every time I watch the Oscars, I cringe when some famous movie star—trophy in hand—starts to deconstruct the secret of their success. It’s always the same thing: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have what it takes, kid!”; and the ever popular, “Never give up on your dreams!”

Look, I understand the importance of persistence, and the value of encouragement, but who tells a stranger to never give up on their dreams, without even knowing what it is they’re dreaming? How can Lady Gaga possibly know where your passion will lead you?

Have these people never seen American Idol?

Year after year, thousands of aspiring American Idols show up with great expectations, only to learn that they don’t possess the skills they thought they did.

What’s really amazing though, is not their lack of talent—the world is full of people who can’t sing. It’s their genuine shock at being rejected—the incredible realization that their passion and their ability had nothing to do with each other.

Look, if we’re talking about your hobby, by all means let your passion lead you.

But when it comes to making a living, it’s easy to forget the dirty truth: just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.

And just because you’ve earned a degree in your chosen field, doesn't mean you’re gonna find your “dream job.”

Dream Jobs are usually just that—dreams.

But their imaginary existence just might keep you from exploring careers that offer a legitimate chance to perform meaningful work and develop a genuine passion for the job you already have. Because here’s another Dirty Truth: your happiness on the job has very little to do with the work itself.

On Dirty Jobs, I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner, a multi-millionaire, who told me the secret to his success:

“I looked around to see where everyone else was headed,” he said, “And then I went the opposite way. Then I got good at my work. Then I began to prosper. And then one day, I realized I was passionate about other people’s crap.”

I’ve heard that same basic story from welders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, HVAC professionals, hundreds of other skilled tradesmen who followed opportunity—not passion—and prospered as a result.

Consider the reality of the current job market.

Right now, millions of people with degrees and diplomas are out there competing for a relatively narrow set of opportunities that polite society calls “good careers.” Meanwhile, employers are struggling to fill nearly 5.8 million jobs that nobody’s trained to do. This is the skills gap, it’s real, and its cause is actually very simple: when people follow their passion, they miss out on all kinds of opportunities they didn’t even know existed.

When I was 16, I wanted to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. He was a skilled tradesman who could build a house without a blueprint. That was my passion, and I followed it for years. I took all the shop classes at school, I did all I could to absorb the knowledge and skill that came so easily to my granddad.

Unfortunately, the handy gene is recessive. It skipped right over me, and I struggled mightily to overcome my deficiencies. But I couldn’t. I was one of those contestants on American Idol, who believed his passion was enough to ensure his success.

One day, I brought home a sconce I had made in wood-shop that looked like a paramecium. After a heavy sigh, my granddad gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. He told me, "Mike, you can still be a tradesman, but only if you get yourself a different kind of toolbox."

At the time, this felt contrary to everything I believed about the importance of "passion" and persistence and "staying the course." But of course, he was right. Because “staying the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction.

And while passion is way too important to be without, it is way too fickle to follow around.

Which brings us to the final Dirty Truth. “Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

Congratulations, again - and good luck.

I’m Mike Rowe from mikeroweWORKS, for Prager University.

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