Recent graduates across the country have received an earful of accolades and encouragement to follow their passions from the likes of Matt Damon and even Barack and Michelle Obama. But blue-collar champion and Dirty Jobs star Mike Rowe has an altogether different message in an online commencement speech of his own: "Don't follow your passion."
This rarely heard, yet much needed, advice comes by way of Prager University. Instead of bloviating for 30 minutes like most other agenda-laden speakers do, Rowe says all that needs to be said in a five minute video. Millennials, take heed; you need to hear this.
"There are only two things I can tell you today that come with absolutely no agenda," Rowe begins. "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," he continues, "you have all been given some terrible advice, and that advice is this: follow your passion."
Rowe then takes down Hollywood stars and/or presidents who believe telling people to "follow their dreams" is prudent. Like contestants on American Idol who really believe they have what it takes to be the next great singer only to be confronted with the truth that they're terrible, Rowe reminds that passion doesn't necessarily equal ability.
"Just because you're passionate about something doesn't mean you won't suck at it," Rowe states.
Similarly, having a degree in one's passionate field of study doesn't mean a "dream job" awaits. Rowe lays out the hard truth that an employee might have to develop a passion for their current job or bring passion with them and find a way to view the work as meaningful.
He recounts a story from his television series of a septic tank business owner who worked his way to becoming a multi-millionaire doing a job no one else wanted to do. The sewage cleaner told him:
"I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way. Then I got good at my work. Then I began to prosper. Then one day, I realized I was passionate about other people's crap."
True, skilled laborers will follow opportunity, Rowe says, not passion and they will prosper because of it. While too many are focused on passion, opportunities are passing them by.
It's not enough to "stay the course" like so many graduates are told, especially if they aren't "headed in a sensible direction."
"While passion is way too important to be without," Rowe concludes, "it is way too fickle to follow around. Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you."