It’s often said to find happiness on the job, follow your passion. But the author of a new book says that’s bad advice.
In an interview on KIRO Radio’s John Curley Show, Cal Newport, author of “So Good Good They Can’t Ignore You,” argues research shows for many, true passion doesn’t exist in advance, and it’s the skills developed on the job that can often lead to true happiness.
“What I found in my research is that matching your job to a pre-existing interest is really not that important if your goal is to end up with a satisfying and engaging career,” Newport tells guest host David Boze.
“The research tells us people who are satisfied with their jobs are satisfied because of much more general traits such as they have autonomy. They have a sense of mastery. They’re good at what they do. They like the people they’re working with. They’re having an impact on the world. They’re respected,” Newport says.
Newport says research shows the first and often most important step is getting really good at rare and valuable skills.
“That mastery of valuable skills is the foundation on which you can build real passion for what you do,” he says.
Newport says that gives you two benefits.
“Research tells us it feels good to be good. A sense of mastery, a sense of competence and respect, these are very satisfying. And when you’re valuable you gain control of your career.”
Newport says that control creates more options that can lead to a deeper passion and enjoyment for your career.
He tells the story of a talented computer programmer who turned down a promotion and negotiated instead a working life that gave her way more flexibility and autonomy in her schedule.
“It’s common for people to get really good but to lose sight of what’s important to them and they can end up very talented, very successful, yet very miserable workaholics,” he says.
Newport says there are decades of research to back up his theories.
“So it really belies this idea that to be happy in your workplace you have to match your job to a specific thing that exists in advance. There’s just not research to support that we have passions that exist in advance or that matching our job to an interest is what makes people enjoy it.”