What Mike Rowe Got Right (and Wrong) about Passion

A video has surfaced with Mike Rowe giving career advice. He’s dead on. And he’s way off the mark.

Mike Rowe Is Right
It seems like Prager University released a video on June 6th featuring Mike Rowe sharing with graduating students some of his words of wisdom.

In the video, Mike Rowe highlights some of the myths about passion. He talks about taking advantage of opportunities that arise which is something we all need to do. He also shows that passion alone can lead you down a road that ends in disappointment. He’s absolutely right.

We all have a lot of passion about various things. Just because I love playing the guitar, that does not mean I will be a rock star. If we blindly follow our passion, we can go down a sad and lonely road.

Of course, if we blindly follow any desire – love, sex, hunger – we can be going down a very bad path.

Mike Rowe Is Wrong
And that’s where I think Mike is way off base – because he seems to equate doing what we’re passionate about as being lazy, and he suggests that we pretty much ignore those burning desires in us.

I could not disagree more. In fact, there are a lot of highly successful people that would disagree too.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Richard Branson, multibillionaire and founder of the Virgin companies, said “Don’t waste your time doing things that don’t excite you. Find your passions and go out there and grab them with both hands.”

Passion Is Not Enough
In fact, in 2001, Jim Collins published the book Good to Great where he studied the difference between good companies and great companies, those that outperformed the market several times over for a sustained period. In the book he highlights the Hedgehog Concept:

Good companies make sure they focus on things that match three criteria: things the company is passionate about, things the company is skilled at, and things the company can make profitable. They definitely follow their passion, but they also pay attention to those other two things as well.

I think the problem with Rowe’s declaration about passion is it looks very flatly at just passion. He even gives an example of his own passion that fell flat. In his example it seems clear the reason his passion fell flat is because he was neither skilled at it, nor seemed to be able to make money at it. That’s where the real issue lies.

Passion Is Fuel
Ignoring your passion or thinking you can become passionate about anything is a great way to end up in a dead end job, hating every facet of what you do. Passion feeds the fire to do great things. You can make all the money in the world, but if you are bored to tears, you won’t have any desire to move forward. Passion is the fuel that moves us forward.

But it’s bigger than that. Great companies and successful people not only do a lot of great work and are passionate about it, they are looking to make a difference in the world.

In the book Drive, Dan Pink highlights three things that motivate us: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. This is autonomy to have a say in our destiny, mastery over challenges and obstacles, and purpose to improve the world as we see it. Richard Branson says “I’ve felt that the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make peoples’ lives better.”

Maybe It’s the Definitions
So maybe it’s in our definitions. To me, passion is that driving force that makes us want to improves the lives of others. It’s that desire to make a difference. It’s that fuel that moves us forward.

But it’s a special mixture that’s made just for us. Maybe Mike doesn’t mean the same thing when he says “passion” because he says not to follow your passion but take it with you no matter what your job. I can believe that a job as an accountant, a career I have zero passion about, will change the world, but if I hate every minute of it, it won’t matter. I won’t be able to “take my passion with me”.

That’s not to say that there is only one thing I might be passionate about or there are other things I won’t discover that I’m passionate about. What it does mean is that I must search, explore, and discover where I can make a difference. I need to see what really drives me. Then I need to see what I’m good at, and were I can make a profitable contribution. That is when I make a difference in the world.

So to everyone out there who heard Mike’s speech, I would say you really should follow your passion. When you want to change the world, you need that passion that burns deep inside you. Just make sure to keep your eyes open for other passions and find out where you really excel. As Jim Collins found out, that’s what will change a good job into a great career, one that you can put your heart and soul into. That’s what passion is all about.

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps. He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Put more WOW in your Life!

Sign up and enjoy more WOW from us.