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Follow Your Passion. . And Other Useless Advice

July 20, 2016

Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.

– Tony Hsieh, CEO,

Tony Hsieh is worth $840,000,000. If you follow his advice, you can end up just like him, right? 

Let’s look at this a second.  The tech world is full of visionaries, people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Marc Zuckerberg, Elon Musk. Men (why is it mostly men?) anyway, men who chased the vision and the money followed. Obviously, it’s a proven model that following your dreams leads to fame and fortune. 

I love basketball. I have a group of guys I play ball with on Tuesday and Friday mornings. We enjoy the chance to run up and down the court for an hour and a half. We generally play three games to 21 each morning. Between games we talk about family, vacations, kids getting married, kids going on Missions (it’s mostly an LDS group.) We also groan and complain about getting old. We have a fair number of guys who bring their sons to play. At 51, I’m not even the oldest. There’s a guy who is 62. Clearly in the next 11 years I’m going to get a lot better if he’s an example of how the over-60 crowd plays.

Also, players come and go as people’s scheduled permit. We had a guy a few months ago how was slightly better than the rest of us. 

Harvey, did you play college?

Yeah, and then I went and played in Europe for a couple of years. 

Now in his later 30’s he still showed flashes of a player good enough to get paid. However, he wasn’t THAT much better than the rest of us. It wasn’t like we were completely outclassed. And that’s my point. We all had passion for the game. He was a better athlete. He was able to get paid for a couple of years to play a game. And good for him. But, had you taken one of the rest of us at 18, when young men are going to college, and told us to follow our basketball passion, what would the results have been? 

There are a limited number of professional positions. If the rest of us had decided to “follow our passion” and expect the money to follow, we would have wasted a good portion of our youth and been that much further behind when it came time to “get a real job.” 

Sorry, none of us are good enough to play professionally. None of you are good enough to play professional basketball, no matter what your passion says. And that’s not a reason to be depressed. It should be a reason to be happy. You can spend a lot of years chasing what you think should be your passion. 

I love watching minor league baseball. But, as I go to a Single A game, (that’s three steps below the Major Leagues), I can’t help wondering about those men playing a kid’s game. My town has a team called the Orem Owls. They are even a step below Single A, they are Pioneer League. They are affiliated with the Angels organization. In the history of the Owls, there has been exactly one player who went on to play at the major league level. These men are not going to play in Yankee stadium, or Camden Yards, or Safeco Field. These men define the idea of “playing for the love of the game.” And, if that’s their passion, then, that’s great. But, if their passion is to play at the highest level, they should stop following their passion. They are going to be disappointed.

For every Bill Gates, there are a hundred guys, a thousand, who were equally passionate, but not as lucky. Marc Zuckerberg got the idea for Facebook from a couple of guys who had a very similar idea. They were passionate. They are probably investment bankers or something at this point. 

No, Mr Hsieh, we should not ignore the money to follow the vision. Because, the fact is that we are not going to make 3/4 of a billion dollars, just by keeping our eye on the vision. We are going to be Program Managers, and kindergarten teachers, and police officers, and any number of “normal ” jobs. And some of us will have jobs we love and some of us will have bosses that make us crazy, and if we do it right, we’ll end up with families and kids that love us, and the chance to go to Yellowstone National Park every few years, and we will live and die without having to worry about unfulfilled dreams. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

One Comment
  1. Tsenolo permalink

    Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs Fame has a similar saying “Follow the opportunity, take your passion with you”.

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