To find work you love, don’t follow your passion | Benjamin Todd | TEDxYouth@Tallinn

Transcriber: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Ivana Korom When I graduated from university, I didn't know what career
I wanted to choose. I had a lot of interests, but which interest should I pursue
and try and turn into a job? So, back then, I was really
interested in martial arts. Here's me. But I didn't want
to turn that into a career. Here's my face. (Laughter) I was really interested in,
and I was studying philosophy, but one of the philosophers
I most enjoyed reading – late at night, in my dorm room – recently said, "Philosophy is a bunch of empty ideas," and there's no job in philosophy, anyway. So that was out. Being a slightly weird kid, I was really interested
in investing and finance, and I had even taken
a portion of the small savings I had, and invested them into gold
when I was a teenager. I knew that following the finance root
would be a really well-paid career, but I was wondering, like, maybe I wouldn't make
as much difference as I could in that, it wouldn't help society, so in the end, it wouldn't
really be that fulfilling.

I was left with the question, "How could I choose a fulfilling career?" And, maybe many of you
have asked yourself the same question. I thought about this question, I realized I didn't even know
how to go about choosing a career, and I, you know, read books,
I went to careers advisors, I just couldn't really find
the information I really needed: what would I be good at in the end? What skills should I learn now? Which areas is there a great social need
where I can make a difference? These unanswered questions led me to, kind of, delay the decision
by a few years.

Instead of actually settling on a career, I founded an organization
dedicated to researching the question of which career to choose. And this organization
is called "80000hours," that's the number of hours you have
in your working life, that's a long time, so, it's worth really
doing some serious research, and try to work out how best to use them. We help you do some of this research, and we publish all of our findings; it's part of a free online careers guide:
80000hours.org. Here's some of the team today, surrounded by laptops
and whiteboards, as normal.

So, you might at this point
be thinking to yourself, "Well, you hardly look like
you're above the legal age to drink, what could you tell me
about choosing a career?" Well, it's true that one
of the main things we discovered is that we have a lot to learn. Choosing a career is a complex problem
and not enough serious research has been done into how best to do it.

But we have spent the last three years doing research with academics
of University of Oxford, and most importantly, we've coached hundreds of people
on how to make real career decisions. All this research and thinking
has led us to the conclusion that careers advice today
focuses on the wrong thing. Throughout most of history people basically did
what their parents did. Some people in the 1980s thought, "The greed is good," and they focused on making money. But our generation grew up
with some different careers advice, and that's that you should
follow your passion. You can see that use of this phrase increased dramatically
from the mid-nineties. But today I think need to move
beyond "Follow your passion," as the career advice to focus on, and instead of asking
what our own interests and passions are, we should be focusing much more on what we can do for other people,
and to make the world a better place.

Ok, so let's go back to my decision, how would "follow your passion"
apply to me? I think what "Follow your passion"
tells you to do is three things: the first is to identify
your greatest interests; second, find careers
that match those interests; thirdly, pursue those careers,
no matter what. Finding a fulfilling career is just a matter of having the courage
to pursue your passion. In my case, I was interested in martial arts
and philosophy, remember? So, which career should I pick? Any ideas? I should obviously become a Shaolin monk – Buddhism and martial arts, together. What's the theory behind this advice? You get passion match, then you really enjoy your work,
you're really motivated, so you're more likely to be successful, and if you are successful
doing something you're passionate about, then you have a fulfilling career. And, spelled out like that, this really does sound
like pretty reasonable advice, right? I can maybe get behind that. But let's just think about it
in a bit more depth. Turns out if you follow your passion,
you're probably going to fail.

Why do I say that? Let's look at the data. A survey of 500 Canadian students
found that their greatest passions were ice-hockey and dance. Ninety percent of them were passionate about sports, arts,
music, something like that. But if we look at census data we can see that only three percent of jobs
are in art, sport, and music. So it just has to be the case that even if only one in ten people
followed their passion, still, the majority would
fail to be successful.

So this first step just doesn't work. I think the second step
is also not reliable. In that, even if you match
your passion with your work, and you're successful, you can stlll quite easily fail
to have a fulfilling career, that's because you might not
find the work meaningful. This was a bit like me
deciding not to go into finance, I thought, well, I was interested in it, maybe I could be successful
but I wouldn't make a difference, maybe it would still end up
not being fulfilling, so I think the second step
doesn't work either. Now, at this point you might be thinking, "Sure, passion
isn't the only thing that matters, if I follow my passion,
it doesn't guarantee that I'll succeed, but maybe at least makes me
more likely to succeed, and to have a fulfilling career." As a career advice,
this is the best we can do.

But I think that is wrong as well. Picture to yourself now,
the most assertive person you know, who' s really passionate
about selling and persuading, and they're really extroverted. Surely someone like that should go and become an advertising
accounts manager, like in Mad Men, or they should become a car salesman,
or something like that, something which involves selling,
being extroverted, and talking to people. Well, it turns out that would
be a really bad decision: analysis of a determined study showed that really passionate sales people
really persuasive, assertive types who went into those kinds of sales jobs actually ended up more likely
to burn out and in fact died younger than normal people who take those jobs. Following their passion
actually made them more likely to die. (Laughter) And more generally, researchers have tried
to show for decades that there's a strong relationship
between interest match and how successful and happy
people end up in their work, but so far, they failed to show
a strong connection between the two.

I think this isn't because your interests
just don't matter, but it's just that when it comes
to real career decisions, your interests are just not
a decisive factor, other things matter much more, like what your skills are,
and what your mindset is. Indeed, we think our interests matter
a lot more than they do, because we really underestimate
how much they change: just think about your own interests
five or ten years ago, and how different they are from today. I mean, back then,
you're probably this tall, and you're probably interested
in completely different things. Five or ten years time, you will be interested
in totally different things again. All this means that your present interests are just not a solid basis
on which to chose a career. So, if we're not going to focus
on interests, what should we focus on? If you're not just going
to follow your passion, what should you do instead? If I had to sum up careers advice
as a single slogan, here's what I would choose:
"Do what's valuable." By this I mean focus on getting good at something
that genuinely helps others, and makes the world a better place.

That's the secret to a fulfilling career. Now, obviously doing what's valuable
is going to be better for the world, you're going to do more good like that, but people have also thought for millennia that helping others is the secret
to be personally fulfilled and happy. I've just got a representative
couple of quotes here just read out the first one: "A man true wealth
is the good he does in this world." Today we actually
have hard data to back this up. Professor of Psychology Martin Seligman
in his 2011 book: Flourish, aimed to sum up the last couple of decades
of empirical research into what really causes people
to be satisfied and happy in their lives. And two of the key ingredients
he identifies just are doing what's valuable. The first of these is achievement,
or sometimes called mastery, and this means getting really
good at something, working hard and getting good
at something. The second is meaning,
also called purpose, and this means striving to do something
greater than just make yourself happy, so it means making
the world a better place.

Put the two together, get good at something
it makes the world a better place, do what's valuable. I think, doing what's valuable has
lots of other personal benefits as well. For instance, even if you work in a charity,
the people who have the greatest impact, do the most valuable things, find it easier to raise fundings,
and therefore pay their bills, and that's important, too. I have at least found
in my own experience, if you focus on helping others,
then lots of people want you to succeed, so it's actually easier
to be successful as an altruist compared to just being in it for yourself.

So, it now turns out that actually
the advice "Follow your passion," just gets things backwards. Rather than start from what we happen
to be passionate about now and then hope that success
and a fulfilling career will follow, instead, it's much more true to say that we should focus
on doing what's valuable, and then that will lead to passion
and a fulfilling career. I've definitely found this
in my own experience. If when I was 16,
you had given me this careers test: "Would you like to give
career guidance to people?" I'd have clicked the "Hate it" button.

I was pretty shy and into science, and the idea of giving careers advice
to people was not appealing at all. But now I spend all of my time
thinking about careers advice, and am absolutely obsessed
and fascinated by it. Focusing on doing what's valuable has given me clear, concrete,
meaningful goals, and that's made my life a lot better. There's no more endless reflection on which of my interests
represents my true calling, which doesn't exist anyway.

So, how can you actually do
what's valuable in your careers, what practical steps should you follow? This is what we spend most of our time trying to work out at 80000Hours, I'm just going to give you
a super-quick summary of three things we'd say that you can do. The first of these is to explore, learn what you can about the world, and test yourself out in different things. If you want to do what's valuable, you have to discover that
out there in the world, you can't figure it out just by thinking
about your own interests. Secondly, go after some skills,
and try and get good at them, these are skills
that are really in demand, and can be used in many different areas.

I might pick computer programming
as an example for the next decade. This bit is where your passions
do come in, thinking about your passions does come in. Because what you're passionate about now can give you clues about what you can get
really good at in the future, so that's worth thinking about, but they're not
the only thing that matters. And then when you get those skills, go and find the biggest,
most pressing social problems you can, and apply your skills to solving them. Don't just pick a problem
that is important, try and find one that's been unfairly
neglected by other people, because that's where you'll have
the greatest impact. And finally, don't think
that in order to do what's valuable, you have to become a doctor,
and personally go to Africa, and help people with your own two hands. Big social problems can be, and often are solved by research,
by developing new technology, by spreading big ideas in the arts. The key is to work out where your skills can fit in
to have the greatest impact. I think the idea that we should
focus on doing what's valuable is actually really intuitive one.

I want you now to imagine
that you are on your deathbed, and you are looking back
at your 80,000 hours career, rather than just about to start it, and picture to yourselves two ways,
you could have gone. In the first you say to yourself, "I was good at what I did,
I enjoyed what I did, I made lot of money,
now I have two houses, and a yacht, but what was it all for? " In the second you say to yourself, "I absolutely worked my arse off
at a charity, and it often wasn't easy, but through my efforts I was able to prevent the deaths
of 100 children due to malaria, but what was it all for?" The first scenario happens all the time, but the second scenario
is almost unimaginable, of course, that was a worthwhile career. Altruism is one thing you'll never regret, if we really want to be fulfilled
in our own careers, we have to stop focusing so much
on our own interests, and instead, ask what we can do
for other people.

Imagine a world in which
that was the thought on everyone's minds. So, to find a work you love,
don't just follow your passion, rather do what's valuable. Explore, build skills,
solve big pressing problems. And from that, fulfillment and a passionate
career will emerge. You've got 80,000 hours in your career, don't waste them, do what's valuable. (Applause).

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