Books, Writing, Literature

Do Not Follow Your Passion…

As for this moment, this period of time, I am a believer of Memetic Conspiracy, that secretly, some God of Words is playing with us with the form of power unique only to human: language.

Why memetic? Memetic is merely about the self-replicating units of culture. It has nothing to do with words or language, but language is part of culture, isn’t it? We define our culture partly though ideas conveyed in words, in things a mother tell to the child, and in the 2010s, when suddenly an idea creates an uproar.

When I Google search “follow your passion”, I expected something that says “Follow your Passion, how it works”. I think that’s how usually it is, until recently, the 1st page result gives me something like “Do Not Follow Your Passion” and “How Follow Your Passion is the Worst Career Advice Ever”. When things like that happens in Google search, the only reason for it is that those are the trending topics, and Google thinks that these topics are what I want.

Google is useful like that. It’s so smart and so dumb at the same time.

Suddenly, peoples aren’t telling peoples “go and follow your passion”. Suddenly, peoples are shouting “DO NOT follow your passion!”. Maybe they read the book Cal Newport wrote, but I will warrant most peoples don’t read. Even I, as an avid reader, picked a few sections of the book to read, while skimming through the rest. I didn’t want to read all, because there are other good stuffs waiting for me to read and self-help books are simply dangerous.

Dangerous and useful at the same time. Like Google Search, it is a double-edged sword. Anything is a double-edged sword.

Self-help books like that loves aphorisms. Google has a concise definition of the word. In my understanding, it is a less than ten words of gold that is supposed to be helpful and easy to remember it by. You may also see aphorisms as the ancestor of hashtags like #YOLO. The (sub)title of the book says “Why Skills Trump Passion”, which means nothing (to me at least), because it is just a question, and I think questions are much safer than answers. Another aphorism to note: “More important is, did you ask the right question?”

And then the insides of the book tells me what I suspected. The Rule #1 said there, “Don’t Follow Your Passion”.

It’s an advice as dangerous as “follow your passion”. And it’s really easy to remember that golden phrase. The author didn’t say that passion is not important, not really. He says passion is a side effect of mastery. He says in the economics point of view, you must have skills to give to the world for they to take you in. Be so good that they can’t ignore you. And he says it’s good to enjoy what you do. But will peoples remember all that? I don’t remember all that without referencing it while I typed. I read one rule and skipped the other four. My idea is that he could be biased against passion and the importance of it.

But the phrase. Don’t follow your passion. I won’t be surprised that 5 years later peoples will only remember the first rule “don’t follow your passion” and indistinctly some reference to Steve Jobs who told us to “follow your passion”. 10 years later, or maybe more, some other bugger will come up with “don’t follow your passion is not good enough. You must have the skills”, which is exactly what Cal Newport said because they forgot the original book. Right now I am curious as where the “Follow Your Passion” golden phrase comes from, because Google was biased at its search results. That “Follow Your Passion” thing is as old as the Roaring Twenties.

What I want to say is these aphorisms eventually degrades the meaning of the original idea. Not just from books. Movies. Comics. Stuffs. Even memes get degraded, and eventually if an X-files meme says something untrue, I wouldn’t know because I didn’t watch X-files. I wasn’t born in the right era, unless I went to watch the series now.

Yes, I’m critiquing the book very harshly. I want to be harsh at books like these, no matter if they are of any help, good or bad; no matter if I was the one who seek the help and savour the guidance. Because it’s those kind of books that give us these aphorisms like “follow your passion” and “you only live once”. It blinds our logic, our capability to think for ourselves, as we blindly accept and follow their golden phrases. Even if we did not, and even if I strive not to, we eventually will, because that’s how human brain works. It removes everything that you don’t like to hear, until all you have is “don’t follow your passion” and one find morning…

You realises you have no idea what the rest of the book talked about.

That’s how memetic gets its power.

Do Not Follow Your Passion.

Follow your Passion.

You only live once. #YOLO

You only die once. #YODIE

Do you really believe what you remember?

Do you really remember what you were seeing?

Do you really see what is really there?


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