[Video] Why you will fail to have a great career.

A professor I had at the University of Waterloo, Larry Smith, gave an amazing TED talk earlier this year on the topic of finding your passion and how it relates to the success of your career. I recommend that every young person on this forum watches this video and pays careful attention to the message.

I’ve touched on some of these topics in my conference presentation at the Championship and they’ve been very well received. I figured some of you would like to see the inspiration behind those messages. This talk was also picked up by CNN, who allowed Professor Smith to write a guest editorial.

Wow - that was hugely powerful. Thank’s for sharing that. What I love perhaps most about the rhetoric of the presentation was the fact that the “most invocative word,” “unless” was left to be filled by the listener. By leaving us with a half-finished sentence, Smith really inspired his audience to delve into possibilities for an conclusion and in doing so, enable a great career.
I’m really glad I saw that.

Karthik - I need to modify your post a bit…

I think this is a very powerful video, and while I think its a perfect message for high school and college students to hear NOW, I think it also delivers the message that its not necessarily too late for the rest of us non-young people! Just because your first, second, or even third job wasn’t where you found your passion, doesn’t mean there is a reason to give up and go for stability. And don’t forget, passion doesnt have to mean your are insanely wealthy or win a Nobel prize from it. In fact, the guy who invented velcro actually had a passion for hunting

So it can be the baker that opens a corner store and gets up every day loving her job, it can be the rescue dog trainer, the social worker, the policeman. We all dream of being the next inventor, the next Dean, the next Larry Page, but truth is passion can come in many many different forms, and the happiest and most successful people are not always the richest. If you can find and follow your passion, a great career can come in many forms. But I 100% agree with what he is saying, DONT be afraid to follow your passion.

Now… how to find and focus passions… that can be an even harder question…

Is “passion” a learnable behaviour? I first saw this video a couple of months ago and it really struck a cord with me then. It still strikes a cord with me for many reasons, but a conversation at lunch today got me wondering if “passion” is a learnable trait. Or is passion what occurs at the intersection of skill and interest? Or is passion a personality trait that some are born with and some are not? Or (most likely) is it a mixture of the above factors?

P.S. The lunch comment was about a person so passionate about things that they could get a crowd excited about collecting pennies.

This would seem that passion can be spread and thus is acquireable and not just a born characteristic, but is is just infectious to those that are susceptible?

I had to rename my download. I came to me as

TEDxUW - Larry Smith - Why you will fail to have a great car.mp4

Perhaps we can bamboozle “young” people into watching with that title? :smiley:

I don’t know if passion is the right word for what you are describing. Passionate people are able to motivate people and get them excited about new things but rarely are they able to actually transfer that passion for the long term. Are the people that are newly excited about collecting pennies going to drive 10+ hours strait to get to the 17th annual pennyathon, 3 years after they meet the passionate person? Their books of pennies will be moved to a shelf, and then to a box in the attic never to be seen again until a garage sale. It’s the perseverance that allows people to be happy for many years after they discover a passion and start living it everyday.

This blog post does a good job describing the difference

Why don’t we have motivational speakers like this speak at our events? Don’t get me wrong, Dean and Woodie have created an incredible vision, and Bill does a fantastic job implementing it. But I feel like they have yet to find that solid spark, that motivating factor on the team of the big three. I remember watching Dave’s “Tooth” speech, and the impact it had on every one in the first community, but what if we heard those tales of inspiration every year?

If I was only half listening to that presentation, I would have heard that being an engineer is a waste compared to being a physicist. Interesting that the speaker chose to imply that engineering is, as it is stereotypically depicted, a second rate pursuit.

A few weeks ago, Larry Smith gave another talk at the university on following your passion. This was a response to the feedback that he got from that TED video. The video can be found below (two parts):


In this video, he expands on how to find your passion and what to do with it in his usual captivating and provoking way. If you liked that TED video, I’d recommend watching this one as well. It’s certainly helped provoke some more thoughts about my career path.

The latest videos posted above do a great job differentiating between what I was confusing as “passion” and what the speaker considers passion. Those are some very powerful messages.

I think passion is a character trait and not tied to specific fields. Last week I was taking a friend on a tour of the Museum of Flight, and in case my stream of WAI’s with airplanes has not tipped anyone off, I am a huge plane dork. I know more about airplanes prior to 1920 than is probably healthy. After spending the better part of 2 hours in the parts of the Museum that house the old stuff, he mentioned that we’d have to do this again and he could bring some more of his friends. I asked why, because I’d already talked his ear off and most of his friends are theatre enthusiasts, not engineers. He said, “Oh no, they’d love it. I’m not friends with people that aren’t curious.”

And that got me thinking – I’m really into old airplanes but I’ve been really into a wide variety of things in the past 21 years. When I was little I got really into kayaks, we got some kayaks. When I got a little older I got into sailing, and we got a sailboat. I worked at an antique car auction and got really into cars (still saving up for a Model A). I was really into commercial space for a while and knew basically everything about the small space start-ups and I was reading the SpaceX blog in 2006 (/space hipster?). When I got hired by Boeing I got really into the history of commercial jets and the business dynamics of the duopoly that comes with selling wide bodied airplanes. There is an awesome (http://www.cwb.org/) in Seattle that I got introduced to and it looks like that might be the next obsession.

(My favorite book is Endurance by Alfred Lansing, and since reading it I have always wanted the James Caird.)

Adam Savage’s TED talk about the Maltese Falcon really resonates with me. Some people just have this drive to do great things, and it really doesn’t matter what. Adam’s propreplicas are clearly driven by this great internal spark, Warren Buffett’s fortune was driven another tireless internal engine, and I have another friend who has been working tirelessly for the past 8 years to build what will be the world’s only flying Klemm motorglider. (First airplane flown solo “around the world”). But Adam is into just about anything cool, Warren is aggressively into philanthropy and bridge, and my Klemm building friend friend has a couple of another interesting projects in the works too (like running a Model A on french fry oil).

So in my mind, that question is still unanswered. Can you teach passion? Sure a really passionate person is capable about making someone else care about something for half an hour. But if you’re in college and have never had something pique your interest – can it be piqued?

Just saw this: You can tell Cookie Monster’s passion.