We (and a lot of other people) talk a lot about following your passion when it comes to your career. But what if your passion doesn’t run deep? Last week, NPR spoke to economist Tyler Cowen, who was approached recently by a 22-year-old college graduate named Max, who struggled with how to determine his career path when he admittedly didn’t have a passion for anything in particular.
The fact that Max and other young college graduates can even entertain this question — “What is my passion?” — is a new conundrum, and still a luxury not everybody enjoys. Yet, Tyler recently told me, it is “a central question of our time.”
So he invited Max to lunch, and brought along two other economists — Bryan Caplan and Garett Jones — for backup. The economists posed questions to help Max frame the issue:
How much are you willing to suffer in the short run to get a better future?
Have you ever considered working in Asia?
How important will it be to spend X number of hours with your kids? And what is that X?
How well do you understand your own defects?
What does 50-year-old Max want?
Can your community be a cyber community, or do you need to have a face-to-face community?
Thinking about these questions could help Max decide what to do in the long run. Other people have suggestions for how to determine your passion, including making a career out of the things you prefer to do in your free time. But in the end, Cowen and the other economists told Max that a lack of passion could be a good thing. For starters, the “popular passions” mean those careers can be more competitive, and some passions don’t pay well.
What would you advise Max? How did you discover your passion or, if you don’t feel you have one, how did you decide what to do as a career?