WorkLife with Adam Grant
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("Also sprach Zarathustra," Richard Strauss) Nick Selby: If you want to change the world, you can do that. If you want to build the Iron Man suit, you can do that. We can do that!

Adam Grant: You know an inspiring commencement speech when you hear one. It's electrifying. You feel so pumped up that you're ready to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, climb El Capitan without any ropes or build that Iron Man suit. As a professor, I've heard quite a few graduation speeches. And I've noticed that speakers don't just show passion. They talk about it. A lot. Here's Steve Jobs from 2005, on the importance of having passion in your career.

Steve Jobs: And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

AG: And Jodie Foster in 2006.

Jodie Foster: And how lucky to find yourself with the option of filling your life with passions.

AG: John Legend in 2014.

John Legend: Pursue this life of love with passion.

AG: And Lin Manuel-Miranda in 2016, talking about what it's like to search for your career passion.

Lin Manuel-Miranda: The stories you are about to live are the ones you will be telling your children and grandchildren, and therapists. They are the temp gigs and internships before you find your passion.

AG: But when a graduation speaker says "follow your passion," I find myself wondering, is it actually good advice? And is everyone using the same speech writer? I can't answer that question. But I'm convinced that the answer to the first one is no. When it comes to your career, "follow your passion" can be a recipe for misery.

Barack Obama: I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy.

(Theme music)

AG: I'm Adam Grant, and this is WorkLife, my podcast with TED. I'm an organizational psychologist. I study how to make work not suck. In this show, I'm inviting myself inside the minds of some truly unusual people, because they've mastered something I wish everyone knew about work. Today: career callings, and why following your passion could be some of the worst advice you ever get.


Thanks to JPMorgan Chase for sponsoring this episode.


Alright, I understand why "follow your passion" is such popular career advice. Chances are you spend the majority of your waking hours at work. It would be a tragedy to devote so much time to something you hate. But the reality is that many people don't know what they love to do. And even if you do, most passions don't translate neatly into careers. When I got to college, my two strongest passions were diving and magic. Not clear that those jobs would pay the bills.


For many people around the world, passionate work is a luxury, while income is a necessity. And there's also the question of talent. Not everyone can be anything. Don't just take it from me. Take it from the great psychologist Chris Rock, in his hilarious Netflix special "Tamborine."

(Clip) Chris Rock: This lady comes up and goes, "I want you children to know you can be anything you want to be!" Like, lady, why are you lying to these children?


Maybe four of them could be anything they want to be.


But the other 2,000 better learn how to weld.


Tell the kids the truth. You could be anything you're good at,


as long as they're hiring.


AG: The thing about passions is that we often settle on them when we're young. The danger is getting locked in. Most of the time, our early passions are not the best guide to our later careers.

Maria Konnikova: There are so many things about the future and about yourself that you don't understand. You don't know what future you is going to be like.

AG: Maria Konnikova knows this well. The seeds for her career were planted pretty early, tracing back to when she was a toddler in Moscow.

MK: God, I hate saying it, but behind the Iron Curtain — this was before the Berlin Wall fell — and my parents were able to leave the Soviet Union because we were Jewish. So we did what a lot of people did, and applied for political asylum to the United States. And this was probably the only time in the history of the world where people would forge their passports, sometimes, to say that they were Jewish, because that was the only way you could leave Russia.

AG: They moved to Boston shortly before Maria turned five. She had a lot to learn and had to find a way to learn fast.

MK: I didn't speak English at all. Just zero. And I vividly remember asking, "How do I write my name? What do I say when I go to school?" I was really nervous because I knew I wouldn't be able to communicate.

AG: Since she couldn't communicate verbally, Maria started paying attention to other clues.

MK: I observed. I remember trying to follow the girls who looked nice and happy and popular. You know, even in kindergarten, you can tell who the popular kids are.

AG: It sounds like you were a detective as a kindergartener.

MK: I think I had to be. I think that's a very good way of putting it. I have thought in the past that my fascination with language and with words comes from that early age.

AG: That fascination quickly turned into a vivid career aspiration.

MK: Apparently, I announced at dinner, when I was five or six years old, that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. So I knew very early on that that's what I wanted to do.


AG: But you don't know who future you is going to be. And as any writer knows, turning that passion into a career isn't always a straight path. After Maria finished college, she tried to figure out the next steps. She worked a number of jobs that had something to do with writing. Like copywriting.

MK: It had "writer" in the title.

AG: Bartending.

MK: I did get a lot of good stories, but I would sleep through the day rather than writing.

AG: A newsletter for men.

MK: Yeah, I did not want to be writing about the hottest new bar for guys to bring their bros. It took me many, many years before I started being able to make my living as a writer.

AG: What was the emotional roller-coaster of that journey like?

MK: In the moment, it was miserable. I definitely remember just having these moments of complete desperation where I thought, "I can't go back to this job." I felt like I was wasting time, like I was wasting my life.

AG: I'm all for working in a career that's a perfect fit for your passion. But hunting for that perfect fit can be a real source of agony. There's evidence that searching for a calling leaves college students feeling indecisive, uncomfortable and confused. You might be one of the fortunate few to quickly find a career outlet for your passion. Everyone else just flounders around feeling lost. Maria finally ended up working as a TV producer for two years. Although she was toying with the idea of becoming a journalist, she started opening her mind to other interests. And she kept coming back to psychology, which was her college major.

MK: I've always thought that psychology and writing just go hand in hand, that the best psychologists in the world are writers and vice versa.

AG: So she quit her job to pursue a PhD in psychology.

MK: I really wanted to learn more about how the mind works and how people think.

AG: When you set your sights on a passion, you sometimes get tunnel vision. You focus on that single direction, forgetting that you have multiple interests. Now, Maria wasn't blindly following her passion for writing. She was pursuing a different interest, which would give her a new skill set and some content expertise for her writing.

MK: Just following your passion, I think, is pretty bad advice. And if I was just following my passion, I never would have gone to grad school, because it would have just been, you know, "Let's just try this writing thing."

AG: In 2013, as she was finishing her doctorate, Maria published her first "New Yorker" article on psychology. Then she landed a role there as a contributing writer. Over the next few years, she kept expanding her peripheral vision. And in 2017, her career took a turn that she never would have anticipated. While researching a book on the psychology of chance, Maria stumbled onto the topic of poker. She decided to learn about the game as a metaphor for chance and control.

MK: I said, "I'm going to learn how to play poker."

AG: Going in, Maria knew basically nothing about poker.

MK: I thought it was just a game, and I couldn't really understand why anyone who was talented or smart would ever want to dedicate their life to it.

AG: Do you remember the first hand of poker you played?

MK: (Laughs) Yes, it was at a poker tournament. I really had no idea what I was doing. The first playable cards I had were king-jack offsuit. And I was so excited to see two face cards that I just butchered the hand completely.

AG: Maria made an investment in honing her skills. She started working with a coach, studying and playing poker up to 11 hours a day. She went out to Vegas where her coach lived, and began playing in regular tournaments.

MK: I remember before every single tournament, even tiny tournaments, I was so nervous, you know, my stomach was doing all sorts of strange things, and I was acting a little bit like a fish out of water, I was wriggling and gasping for breath.

AG: But then, something strange happened.

MK: You know, my hands stopped shaking whenever I would get a certain type of hand.


And I started being able to stack my chips properly.

AG: Maria was actually becoming really good. She started winning, and winning big. One day, she won a major international tournament, beating more than 200 pros and earning thousands of dollars.

(Clip) Congrats! (Applause)

Reporter: Did you start poker from scratch a year ago?

MK: I did, and I'm really excited, because I just won almost 85,000 dollars. I've been studying my ass off.

I still remember the moment that I won, that was just a completely surreal thing. And that was a year after I started playing seriously. Now it's become one of my main passions and it goes even beyond that. I'm one of poker's most passionate advocates, I think everyone should learn to play poker, I think kids should be learning how to play poker, because I think it can teach them so much about decision making, about themselves, about self-control.

AG: Maria's experience highlights something about passion that most people get wrong. Passion is a consequence of effort, not just a cause. Take a recent study of entrepreneurs. When they weren't excited about their start-ups, but put time in anyway, they actually became more enthusiastic over the next week. Their passion grew as they made progress.

Angela Duckworth: "Follow your bliss." I think it's half right and half wrong.

AG: That's Angela Duckworth, a fellow psychologist at Penn. She's best known for her research that put the concept of grit on the map. Angela defines grit as passion and perseverance toward a long-term goal.

AD: It's one thing to have a work ethic, but to have all of that without the guiding passion is really awful.

AG: But she doesn't think "follow your passion" is good career advice.

AD: I like the passion part. There's no other way to describe the voluntary obsession, the full commitment that people have in their careers other than passion, loving what you do. But I don't love the "follow" part. It sounds like it's out there and you just have to discover it, and if you don't feel like you have passion for your work, you missed it somehow or you have to keep looking for it, as if it were a whole thing and not something that gradually develops over time and I think that's actually the better verb, that you should develop your passion, not follow it.

AG: Some of Angela's colleagues have recently gathered evidence for that. When people try to follow their passion, they were less likely to consider other areas of interest where passion could develop, and less likely to anticipate difficulties. And when they did run into obstacles, they were more likely to lose interest and give up.

AD: When young adults have the idea, the mind-set that passions are discovered whole, they're, like, in you, you just have to poke around for a while and get to it, they are much more likely, for example, to get easily discouraged when they try something like reading a difficult passage on a topic that was initially interesting. Very quickly, that interest falls off if you have that mind-set.

AG: So the problem is the advice to "follow your passion" reflects a fixed mind-set. It assumes your interests are stable. So if you don't immediately enjoy a field or a task, the writing is on the wall: this must not be your passion. But that's a mistake. You don't want to quit the moment you don't like a job, because passion can grow over time.

AD: For so many people, the first year on the job is not a great year. And it would be very easy to get discouraged and think, "Oh, I thought medicine was for me," or law or marketing or whatever, "but I guess not."

AG: So, Angela has a rule: you don't quit on a bad day.

AD: You should not quit things when you're in that acute period of pain and disappointment and self-doubt. I always recommend quitting things on good days. You know, if you come in and it's a nice Thursday morning and everything is going reasonably well, and you still want to quit, well, there is maybe something going on.

AG: So it's interesting that we use the term "passion" at work. It makes it sound romantic.

AD: I think the reason why the romantic metaphor makes sense is that it's like marriage. I think you have to date a lot — for most of us, we had to sample widely. That's generally what's found when you look at people who develop interests over their life. But yeah, I think there is eventually a commitment that is like a marriage and it's as satisfying as a marriage, and it grows like a marriage.

AG: Wait, do you think then you should date lots of jobs or careers before you pick one?

AD: I do, I do believe in dating different careers, but I do think that if you're 60 and you're still dating, you know, waiting to get married, then you do want to question whether whatever algorithm is in your head about whether the dating is leading to something or not, you might have miscalibrated.


AG: Career passion is rarely love at first sight. It's hard to enjoy something when you're not good at it. For Maria Konnikova, her passion for poker was the product of learning and eventually mastering a skill.

MK: I enjoyed it because I felt like I was improving at it. And I could see tangible signs of progress.

AG: So it sounds like, at least in the case of poker, you didn't follow your passion, you followed your curiosity?

MK: Absolutely, that's exactly right. You sometimes don't know what your passion is. I had no idea I'd be playing poker right now.

AG: Which means that when you're considering career paths, you shouldn't claim to your old ideas of what your passion is. Don't pursue the job that your past self thought would make you happiest. Follow your curiosity into the job where you think you'll learn the most. Or you can gain mastery over useful skills and build your passion over time.

MK: I think my best advice is to be open-minded, rather than narrowly focused and thinking, "This is the way my life has to go, this is what I have to do."

AG: Maria is still a psychology writer. She's currently taking a break from poker to write the book about chance that started her on this path in the first place. Developing her passion for the game of poker paid off. In more ways than one.

MK: I'm still doing something poker-related about an hour to two hours a day, just so that I stay fresh.

AG: Is it your main source of income now?

MK: As of now, my main source of income is poker, yes.

AG: In her first 14 months of playing, Maria won over 200,000 dollars.


If you foreclose on one passion too early, you can miss out on a lot. But you have to start somewhere. What are the best strategies for planning your career? More on that after the break.


OK, this is going to be a different kind of ad. I've played a personal role in selecting the sponsors for this podcast because they all have interesting cultures of their own. Today, we're going inside the workplace at JPMorgan Chase.



Malcolm Johnson has a big job. He's an executive director in JPMorgan Chase's Commercial Real Estate group. But his title isn't what he wants to be remembered for. Malcolm Johnson: I can guarantee that at no point during my eulogy will a deal ever be mentioned. But I'm certainly hopeful that someone whose life that I've touched will stand and say a few words, and I'm even prouder that some of those people will be mentees.


AG: In addition to his regular work, Malcolm plays a key leadership role in The Fellowship Initiative, a JPMorgan Chase program that helps young men of color thrive into college and beyond. Young men like Shemar Taylor, who was a high school freshman in the South Bronx, when his mom sat him down for a frank conversation.

Shemar Taylor: My mom said to me, "You need to go to college, but I have no way of paying for it. So you need to find a way to support yourself in getting through to college."

AG: That's where The Fellowship Initiative came in. Shemar found out about the program as a freshman in high school, when academics weren't exactly his number one priority.

ST: To be honest, I was more focused on girls and looking cool and cute. I was not really focused on my grades.

AG: No one in Shemar's family had been to college before. And he was the kind of student Malcolm was hoping to help.

MJ: We don't look for straight-A students, we don't look for top quartile performers on standardized tests. We look for families who are committed to academic success, and that can come in a form of B-minus, C-plus students.

AG: But The Fellowship Initiative is about the whole person. It's not just about getting your grades up. It focuses on career and skill development, too.

MJ: The number one factor in anyone's success, whether you're a young person of color, an associate at a big bank like JPMorgan, is whether or not you've got a senior sponsor who's vested in your success and can show you the ropes.

AG: Because there's a wealth of evidence that young people of color often lack access to mentorship.

MJ: Us stepping in and providing this level of access really levels the playing field.

AG: The Fellowship Initiative doesn't end when the students get into college, either. Shemar eventually landed at Bard, where the support from JPMorgan Chase continued. Research shows that first-generation college students tend to underperform academically. But it's possible to change that. In one experiment, first-generation college freshmen were randomly assigned to attend a workshop, where seniors with similar backgrounds talked about the unique challenges they had faced. Attending that workshop led the freshmen to get eight percent higher grades, which completely erased the achievement gap. Why? Hearing the seniors open up showed freshmen they weren't alone. And they didn't need to be embarrassed about going to office hours.

ST: With The Fellowship Initiative, if they found out we weren't doing well in a class, they would help us find a tutor. If we needed help finding internships or updating our résumé, they were also there to help with that. And so, it was help from all sides, this is the best way I could describe it, kind of like a big hug.


AG: And it's a hug that comes at a crucial moment. Only a quarter of first-generation college students graduate in four years. But Shemar was one of them. Tell me about graduation day.

ST: Oh, yes, the best day of my life. My mom was almost late, because she was crying so much. It was just a moment of all the hard work that I had put in, and she had put in to raising me, coming into fruition.

AG: Now Shemar works at JPMorgan Chase, and he's paying it forward as a mentor. Malcolm Johnson says those are the moments you live for as a mentor.

MJ: Now you've watched someone become a young man. And so it really does span, hopefully, a lifetime.


AG: JPMorgan Chase is looking for people from all backgrounds and academic majors to help create the next wave of products and solutions. If you're passionate, curious and ready to make an impact, explore career opportunities at



In the fall of 2017, a junior in my class at Wharton stopped by office hours for career advice. When I asked her what avenue she was considering, she pulled out a piece of paper. It looked like a world map, if the different continents were connected in a flow chart. It was her 20-year career plan. I knew what I had to do. I invited a speaker to class, who convinced her to throw away that career plan.

Tim Urban: I'm a writer, a blogger, which is an awful word, but I write the blog "Wait But Why."

AG: Tim Urban has over half a million subscribers. He told my students he was in the middle of writing a post about how to pick a career, which grew out of his reflections on his own winding career path.

(Clip) TU: I came out of college and I was like, "I'm going to write movie scores in LA." And my grandmother vomited.


She was like, "You'll get your law degree, and then you do your stupid movie scores!"

AG: When Tim finished the post on careers, I shared it in my monthly newsletter, "Granted." It was the most popular link of the entire year, by a long shot. The post captured why career choice is so hard. With the help of some entertaining stick-figure drawings, Tim created a framework that explains why our elders often encourage us to make career plans that aren't right for us.

TU: Timothy, when are you going to apply to law school?

AG: As wise as older generations can be, Tim realized that their career plans for us are not always on target.

TU: So we're wired to really listen to elders, and to listen to conventional wisdom, because conventional wisdom used to be wise. If you were told not to eat a certain mushroom, don't eat the mushroom! Someone learned that the hard way. Now, today, the world's changing so fast that people become wise for a world that's no longer there.

AG: In a stable world, it made sense to figure out your career goal and then map the steps to achieve it. That's what my students often try to do. Experts call it the plan-and-implement strategy.

TU: When my dad was a kid, you know, you pick a career and you go into, basically, a 40-year tunnel and you come out for retirement.

AG: But today, careers are rarely that linear.

TU: You're not picking a tunnel anymore. Careers are really fluid and the world's changing quickly.

AG: So instead of plan-and-implement, we might be better off with a different approach. It's called test-and-learn. Think of yourself a little like a scientist, running experiments on your career. You have a hypothesis that a job might be a good learning opportunity, and you're going to try it out to find out if you're right or wrong. One recent study looked at people who had career catapults that launched them onto the fast track to become CEOs or top executives in major companies. They didn't plan those moves in advance. They just kept their eyes open for interesting challenges. For some, it was taking a step sideways or even backward to build something from scratch. For others, it was inheriting a big mess and proving they could clean it up. For many, it was taking a big leap outside their comfort zones.


TU: It doesn't have to be perfect. A lot of times, you get surprised by something you learn when you're there and it leads to something you never expected.

AG: Once you develop a passion, you still need to be careful about expecting your career to fulfill it. Career expectations start forming when we're kids. Adults are always asking us, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" From an early age, Emma Lock knew her answer.

Emma Lock: You ask most kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and they say, a pilot or a princess. I wanted to be a flamingo.


AG: We sent a producer to meet Emma in her natural habitat — the zoo.

EL: It is a cold day for the zoo.

Producer: What do you like most about coming to the zoo?

EL: I like seeing people's reaction to the animals. Really just seeing people and their delight.

P: Tell me where we are, what we're looking at.

EL: We're looking at the sea lion exhibit right now.

(Laughs) He's blowing bubbles at me!

AG: If you walk around with her, you can hear how delighted she is to teach you about the animals there.

EL: Something that a lot of people don't realize with goats is they are fantastic climbers ... Naturally, they are called Madagascan hissing cockroaches ... In the wild, many sloths will turn green ... When we start to look away, he will vocalize — there we go! Perfect, right on cue! And it's a gorgeous millipede.

AG: Emma's career passion started taking shape early. Her first job with animals was when she was 10. She volunteered in a pet shop in exchange for supplies for her own animals. She had a lot of responsibility there.

EL: The person who actually I worked for, they had a bit of a gambling problem and they left me at the age of 10 to run the whole store for them, so I was basically being a pet shop manager.

AG: Shortly after that, she volunteered with a veterinarian, but quickly realized that wasn't the right career for her.

EL: I don't want to deal with tendons and putting thermometers in animal's rectums, that's just not really my thing.

AG: Since she especially loved exotic animals, relatives and career counselors encouraged her to be a zookeeper.

EL: Every time I would be in a room with adults, it's always, "Oh, you'd absolutely make a wonderful zookeeper." So I suppose from very young, I was kind of set up with this expectation that that was my calling.

AG: So when she was a teenager, Emma started implementing that plan. She applied to a job at a zoo in London, with some romantic ideas of what it would be like.

EL: As a child, when you think of the word "zookeeper," you imagine someone with a wonderful set of keys on their belt, feeding the lions and you know, playing with the elephants.

AG: Two long years later, she got the call. They wanted her to start as a temporary zookeeper, on a track to becoming permanent.

EL: So naturally, I jumped at it.

AG: The pay was low, but she was excited to work with the 50 or so animals there. Finally, she had a job where she could be around animals all day. And she loved interacting with them.

EL: Hands down, my favorites were the donkeys. And one of the donkeys that I worked with would love to steal my keys whenever I was picking her hooves and run off with my keys.

AG: But jobs are collections of different tasks, and Emma discovered that her passions didn't extend to many of the tasks.

EL: The reality was, for me, that England is notoriously bleak, and when you have to work outdoors in all weather, sometimes it's just not the most fun job, especially when you're covered in, say, donkey manure, and it's raining. It can really smell.

AG: There were other challenges. Some people would take unwanted pets to the zoo and just leave them there.

EL: I've lost count of how many times I found dogs at the zoo. Someone had also dumped Guinea pigs as well, and rabbits.

AG: Plus, the constant hassles of dealing with the public.

EL: There's always going to be someone who finds a way to stick their keys into the lemur enclosure.

AG: And Emma was unprepared for another disappointment: the job can be incredibly lonely. There were only two zookeepers. Emma and her manager, who wasn't exactly a people person.

EL: Sadly, this other person was the kind of animal person who is only an animal person. They did not want to socialize with people at all. This person would often just hide away in one of the aviaries for most of the day. So most of the time, I would end up singing to myself or the animals, and finding a lot of comfort in them. But really, it could be very lonely at times.

AG: A pair of my colleagues actually did a big study of zookeepers. The more passionate zookeepers were, the more willing they were to make sacrifices in their jobs. Like putting up with poor working conditions and being underpaid with few benefits. Zookeepers who saw their work as their calling were more inclined to give up their free time, unpaid, to care for a sick animal. In other words, they were more vulnerable to being exploited by management. This was true for Emma, who even suffered a physical ailment from the job.

EL: I actually developed a very severe hay allergy. And every single day was a real struggle to just breathe at work, literally, breathe, but because I loved the animals so much, I stayed.


AG: Expecting to love your work is a really high bar. Take a study of college seniors. The ones who were looking for the ideal job felt more negative emotions throughout the job search and ended up less happy with the job they ultimately got. The higher your expectations, the more disappointed you are by everything you don't enjoy about a job. When you're aiming for nirvana, there's a bigger gap between what you want and what you get. You're always evaluating, never experiencing. You're left wondering whether there's something better, so you end up comparing the job you have to what might have been, which leaves you with regret. Chasing happiness can chase it away. Because of her high hopes, Emma was hit especially hard by the parts of the job she didn't like, which were quite a few.

EL: I suppose the amount of time that I spent on the jobs I actually really liked — it would be less than 10 percent.

AG: Besides, most entry-level jobs aren't designed to be fun. So recruiters often try to paint a rosy picture of the job to entice you. Extensive research shows it works. But then it leaves you less productive and more likely to quit. You want to go in with a realistic job preview: an honest portrait of the work, warts and all. Yeah, you might be a little less excited to start. But the data show you're more likely to perform well and stick around. Emma didn't get that realistic preview. And finally, she'd had enough. The weather, grunt work and isolation got to her. She decided to leave.

EL: Although zookeeping at the time, I felt that it was my dream job, it wasn't the job that was best suited to me, given my personality and my talents.

AG: Often, we're so enamored with the ideal of a job that we don't pay enough attention to what it involves day-to-day. Once Emma took the time to understand the realities of each role, she realized there was one aspect of zookeeping that she could turn into a job she would enjoy.

EL: I loved being able to interact with the children, interact with the adults, and teach them something new and exciting and unexpected about the animals. That was a wonderful part of the job. That was fantastic, I loved that.

AG: Today, Emma gives public talks online.

EL: I'm better known as Emzotic and I am an online animal educator.

AG: On YouTube, she posts educational videos with pythons, lizards, chinchillas, hawks and more.

(Clip) EL: Hey, guys, it's Em. Today, I'm going to be sharing with you my snails and the story behind one snail in particular, called Shrek.

AG: Her channel has more than 30 million views. She found a job that involved animals — her passion — but where the day-to-day work on a computer is about as far as you can get from having to keep visitors out of the lemur cage.

EL: I really feel like I've arrived at my own personal paradise job.

AG: Not everyone is going to find a personal paradise at work. Some colleagues and I have found that many people have unanswered callings: passions they never got to pursue in their careers. Sometimes, they're perfectly content to do them as hobbies on the side. In other cases, they find small ways to incorporate those passions into their jobs. Like a flight attendant who turns boring announcements into a comedy routine. A priest or rabbi who brings the guitar to a sermon. The professor who uses magic tricks to get a point across in the classroom. So, when you're thinking about your career, the best place to start is not to follow your passion. As it's so often the case, a better place to start is to follow some advice from Oprah.

(Clip) Oprah Winfrey: Your job is not always going to fulfill you. And the number one lesson I could offer you, where your work is concerned, is this: become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do, that your talent cannot be dismissed.


(Theme music)

AG: WorkLife is hosted by me, Adam Grant. The show is produced by TED with Transmitter Media. Our team includes Colin Helms, Gretta Cohn, Dan O'Donnell, Grace Rubenstein, Michelle Quint, Angela Cheng and Janet Lee. This episode was produced by Jessica Glazer. We had production help from Scott Gurian. Our show is mixed by Rick Kwan. Original music by Hahnsdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown. Ad stories produced by Pineapple Street Media. Special thanks to our sponsors: JPMorgan Chase, Accenture, Bonobos and Hilton.

For their research, appreciation to Amy Wrzesniewski and colleagues on the joy of having a calling, Ryan Duffy and colleagues on the confusion of searching for a calling, Michael Gielnik and colleagues on how effort leads to passion, Paul O'Keefe, Carol Dweck and Greg Walton on how passions are developed rather than discovered, Herminia Ibarra on plan-and-implement versus test-and-learn, Elena Botelho and colleagues on career catapults, Stuart Bunderson and Jeff Thompson on the double-edged sword of having a calling for zookeeping, Berry Schwartz, Sheena Iyengar and colleagues on how looking for the best can make us unhappy, Iris Mauss and colleagues on how chasing happiness can chase it away, Jean Phillips on realistic job previews, Justin Berg and Victoria Johnson on unanswered callings, and Nicole Stephens and colleagues on closing the achievement gap for first-generation college students. Thanks to PokerStars for the audio of Maria Konnikova's winning poker game. And gratitude to Roadtrip Nation for their input and Nick Selby for the Georgia Tech convocation speech about the Iron Man suit.


Next time on WorkLife: building a workplace without any jerks and dealing with the ones who sneak in.

Sheila: Am I an asshole by training? Yes, yes I am.

(Theme music)

(Clip) EL: Now we've got a beautiful rooster in front of us over here. What's your name?

(Rooster sounds)

Oh, I must have insulted him in rooster.