What can we learn about passion from Steve Jobs?
Last week Steve Jobs would have turned 60-years old, and those of use who appreciated the career of Mr. Jobs were reminded that part of what made Mr. Jobs great was his passion. Tim Cook tweeted a nice tribute, and it got me to thinking that digging into this quote would be a nice piece for our Foundations Initiative, what is more of a foundation that the good work we do?
Remembering Steve, who would have turned 60 today. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) February 24, 2015
The quote Tim Cook tweeted is a only part of the full quote from Job’s famous Stanford address to the graduating class of 2005:
You’ve got to find what you love …. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.
It’s fairly common to receive advice just like this from friends, family and even experts, Each of us has been told to “follow your passion” or “you should work on what your passionate about.”
However, if you peel back this particular onion, you discover that research has shown that this form of advise is not actually “good.” In fact, those who take the “follow your passion” advice are more likely to be anxious about their job, float between positions, and are more likely to underachieve. It’s like you’re satisfaction and success flounder as you wait for the mythical “passion” to manifest.
In my particular case, I had no clue what I wanted to do for a living. In college I was a Political Science major because I was pretty sure law school was in the cards. A choice I arrived at after I saw a second rate move in the early 1990’s called True Colors, with John Cusack and James Spader.
However, directly after I graduated, and just like everyone else, I needed money. So I took a job with a small regional insurance company working in product management and I quickly discovered that I had a real instinct for design & development of auto insurance products, managing profit & loss, and marketing. Who knew?
When I was in college, a job in marketing or business administration was the furthest thing from my mind, so I was surprised when I began to consider dropping my plans for law school to start working on a career in insurance product management. Ikes!
It was the right call, I was good at P&L management, and I was promoted quickly, took new opportunities with bigger companies like GEICO and Farmers Insurance, and even worked for Esurance during the early years post start-up.
What I discovered along the way was that P&L and Product Management, at least during the 1990’s, was very entrepreneurial. That’s what I liked about the job. I liked making the decisions for how we invest our capital to revise, improve, or update our products, I loved watching the revenues come in and measuring the success. I was effectively running my own business … sans the risk, 🙂 and I loved it and wanted more.
I discovered my passion, it was running my own business, so I started my own! I discovered my passion. Had I followed my passion I would have gone to law school, where I may have been happy. But I love my life now, and I got there by finding my passion, not by listing to advise that told me to “follow my passion.”
So, what really is the key to finding work that you love?
In his book so Good They Can’t Ignore you: Why Skills Trump Passions in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport challenges the believe that you can “follow your passion” to career success. Newport actually takes issue with Steve Jobs for perpetuating the “passion hypothesis.” In reality, and it is pretty well documented, Jobs wasn’t a techie, he was more of a hippy or beatnik. If anything, Steve Wozniak was the one who was passionate for computers.
Jobs and Was teamed up to make money off the emerging computer market and enthusiast culture. It was this partnership that did lead to the founding of Apple Computers, and ultimately to some of the most brilliant work ever seen to date.
Newport believe that we should “do” what Jobs did, not what he “said,” and I completely agree, we should all attempt to continually seek our our passions. Where I disagree with Newport, and others who attribute this quote to mean simply “follow you passion,” is that Jobs is actually saying to seek out your passion. If you look at the longer quote, you’ll see that Steve says “you’ve got to find what you love.” He encourages us to “keep looking, and don’t settle.”
Steve Jobs kept driving himself to find what he was passionate about, It’s in fact what I did and continue to do today, and it is what countless others do until they find that one thing that they can call their own.
What distinguishes us is how we seek out our passion, what formulates that search, and what it means when you find it.
As Jobs’ health was failing, he clarified his position to his biographer Walter Isaacson:
It’s not all about you and your damn passion. You need to get out there and make a dent in the universe.
In the end it’s in the process of doing great work that reveals your passion. It’s in your process of doing great work that your next steps will be revealed. I recall a high school teacher once telling me that happiness is in feeling as if you have achieved your potential, if you always put forth you best, you’ll eventually find it.
At IronPoint Insurance Services we view insurance, like your personal savings, as the foundation for a good financial plan. As a matter of fact, it’s part of the foundation for a healthy and prosperous life. With our Foundations Initiative, we extend this concept of foundations to include our health and wellness, call it our Benjamin Franklin philosophy. We’re doing our part, small as it may be, to help our community be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” So, along with all our business, home or auto insurance content, you’ll find more in-depth conversions that build on the foundation of a happy family, workplace, and community life.