It’s easier to be conformist and wrong than contrarian and right. Most conformist though is optimistic, so you will sound like a good happy person by conforming. As a contrarian on optimistic conformist thought you sound like a crazy pessimistic asshole. Even if you’re contrarian and right there’s often more to be lost than gained by expressing your opinions. This pressure to conform along with survivorship biases and idealistic thinking has resulted in widespread acceptance of a few pieces of career advice that may actually do more harm than good.
Below are three pieces of career advice that I think you should ignore (or at least consciously re-consider), along with my advice, which might crush your hopes and dreams. Sorry about the latter part.
I’m talking about these myths not to make you depressed, or to stop you from trying to accomplish your goals, but to add a bit of rational thinking to a world of mass idealism and entitlement. While my advice may crush your hopes and dreams in the short term, it may help you tremendously in the long term. Note: I’m obviously not an expert, this just my opinion and what’s worked for me.
1. “Do What You’re Passionate About”
It sounds so bright and optimistic! Getting rich doing what you love. The truth is, it’s overly idealistic to think that if you just do what you’re passionate about you’ll be successful.
You’re probably passionate about something like travel, philosophy, sports, writing, entrepreneurship, art, hanging out with friends, or only working four hours per week. It’s very difficult to make a living doing these things.
There is some truth to the advice. Being passionate can give you an advantage. But you need to find balance. Find the right balance between what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at, and what has market value.
Very few people are passionate about something that they can be really great at and can make them significant money. The rest of us will have to do a lot of shit work! The world only needs so many food critics. Money is of course not the only metric of success. But not making money comes with some sacrifices that you need to be ok with.
My advice: Do what you hate. If you hate it, there are probably other people that hate it and don’t want to do it, so you can create value by doing it. (I’m exaggerating…)
You get ahead by doing stuff others aren’t willing to do. That means working on the weekends when your friends are partying. Sacrificing months of spending and “healthy living” in order to get a business off the ground. Tolerating the risk and uncertainty of entrepreneurship. Or tolerating having your schedule and work dictated to you by an employer.
Find something you can tolerate more than others. Find balance between your ability, your passion, and what has market value. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
2. “You Can Do Whatever You Put Your Mind To”
This myth is especially hard to disagree with because it sounds like you’re telling people they’re inferior on insufficient. But the truth is, biology, science, and math are real things. Life is not fair. Sorry.
Only so many people are capable of becoming professional athletes, comedians, artists, musicians, models, investment bankers, venture capitalists, and billionaire entrepreneurs.
Some people simply don’t have the biology to be professional athletes. Their bodies can’t sustain the stress and their injuries prevent them from succeeding. Not everyone has the network to be able to raise a venture fund, or even work at one.
It takes money to make money. Education is expensive. Starting companies or making investments may result in losing your savings. Some people have kids they need to feed. The list goes on.
The belief that you can do whatever you put your mind to leads to a sense of entitlement. The belief that college is a right rather than a privilege. And irrational risk taking that can cause more harm than good. Due to survivorship bias, you don’t hear from the people who “gave it their all,” failed, and set themselves back significantly in the process.
My advice: Don’t quit, just be realistic. Be realistic about what you can and can not do, your risk tolerance, and your ability to tolerate failure. If you don’t have enough money to go to college, don’t go to college. If you don’t have enough money to start a company, don’t start a company. If you can’t afford to lose money, don’t risk it. If you’re not an exceptional athlete, don’t try to be an athlete. Find balance between what you want to do and what you can actually do.
3. “Going to College is The Best Way to Accomplish Your Goals”
The truth is actually the opposite. The rapidly rising price of higher education is exacerbating inequality more than enabling opportunities for people.
A degree from many schools acts more as a dunce cap, placing a specific value on your intelligence and capability. The massive amount of debt acts more like a ball and chain, preventing you from spending or taking risk than it does an opportunity creator.
It’s never been cheaper or easier to learn and there are better or more cost effective ways to get every value proposition that college offers.
With a quarter of a million dollars you could live comfortably in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the word, without any earnings for years. The four years spent in college could be spent making money, learning something that will help you make money or be happy, or having even more fun than you did in college.
It baffles me how many people don’t like their job, think they aren’t making enough money, or simply don’t really know what they want to do so they go to grad school. That’s like solving a problem with more of the cause of the problem.
My advice: Don’t go to college unless you can get into an Ivy League School. Otherwise, there a million ways to obtain all of the value that college offers in a better, cheaper, or faster way. You can do a lot with an extra four years and $200,000!
Some of the most widely touted career advice is irrational and idealistic. People conform to it because it makes them inspired and its easier then forming unique beliefs, facing reality, or finding the truth. The first two myths have come about as a result of survivorship bias. You only hear from the Jim Careys. Not that millions that tried and failed. You only hear from the successful entrepreneurs. The truth about career advice is that you’re going to have to do stuff that’s hard to get ahead. You have to make sacrifices. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.