Sipping on a bold blend of my favorite Starbucks coffee, I noticed on my cup words by Oprah Winfrey which read, “Pursue your passion, find your purpose.” Pursuing our passion seems to be the work mantra of our time, but is it one we are wise to embrace? Should we pursue doing what we love? Or would it be wiser to pursue loving what we do?
In a recent Fast Company article, entitled, The Secrets To Career Contentment: Don’t Follow Your Passion, Sebastian Klein takes aim at the popular notion that following our passion is the most important ingredient in job satisfaction and success. Sebastian Klein puts it this way, “Follow your passion, might be the most common career advice, but it is actually bad advice…in a culture that tells people to transform their passions into lucrative careers via will-driven alchemy, it’s no wonder so much of today’s workforce suffers from endless job swapping and professional discontentment.”
Sebastian Klein points to Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Newport offers several tips to avoid the work passion trap. First, don’t do what you love. Learn to love what you do. Second, adopt a craftsman’s mindset. Third, practice hard and get out of your comfort zone. Fourth, acquire rare and valuable skills. What insightful and practical advice for faithful vocational stewardship!
In the midst of so much cultural confusion regarding work, Klein and Newport’s advice is a welcome breath of fresh air. The prescription they offer for workers of all ages, backgrounds and educational levels is to adopt a craftsman’s mindset. A craftsman’s mindset focuses not on the innate desirability of one’s work, but on the quality of one’s work. A craftsman’s mindset embraces a disciplined work style that continually hones one’s skills and increasingly does a better and better job with greater efficiency and creativity. Instead of focusing on passion, the craftsman’s mindset focuses on practice. The most helpful career advice you may ever possibly receive is that the better your skills, the better your work and the better job opportunities that come your way.
I have a hunch that Jesus the carpenter would strongly affirm the wisdom of Klein and Newport. Rather than pursuing what he loved to do, I believe Jesus learned to love what he did. Each day in the Nazareth carpentry shop with holy sweat on his brow and sawdust on his hands, Jesus became a more and more skilled craftsman. No wonder the Gospel writer Luke described a youthful Jesus growing in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men. Few things give us greater favor with others than the excellence of our work. The loving hands that would one day be nailed to a Roman Cross were the strong hands of a highly skilled craftsman who did his work well. Jesus did not fall for the work passion trap. Let’s follow his wise example.
The Apostle Paul encourages us not to do what we love, but to do our work well. Writing to the church at Colossae, Paul pens these words: “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Perhaps it’s time we expend more energy learning to love what we do rather than pursuing what we love. Let’s also keep in mind the One we are ultimately doing our work for each and every day.