Mike Rowe's Tough-Love Message to Kids: 'Don't Follow Your Passion.'


A common piece of advice for young people and college graduates is “follow your passion.” It seems like a harmless saying, encouraging those about to embark on a career path to make it count.

Mike Rowe, conservative TV personality and former host of Discovery Channel’s always entertaining “Dirty Jobs” series disagrees.

In a video uploaded in 2016 to conservative YouTube channel PragerU, Rowe explained “the dirty truth” about this critically dangerous suggestion.

Rowe opens up almost immediately against following passions. He calls out a very basic flaw in the logic of the advice, saying “who tells a stranger to never give up on their dreams without even knowing what it is they’re dreaming?”

A cartoon graphic of two men appears on the screen, one telling a second man “never give up on your dreams.” The other man, apparently encouraged by this, begins unrealistically dreaming of flying through the sky in a superhero outfit.

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Rowe also gives a real-life example: The “American Idol” reality show.

Although thousands of people show up to audition, celebrity judges often rip their horrible singing. Only a few ever make it on stage. The amazing thing, according to Rowe, isn’t how horrible the potential contestants’ singing is but instead “their genuine shock at being rejected.”

A quick search of “American Idol” meltdowns on YouTube confirms this.

The utter shock at an honest evaluation of their skills has a basis in science, too.

The Dunning-Kruger effect, an actual documented psychological trait, may help explain this level of cognitive bias. The trait is most commonly known for explaining how those of low ability in a skill often think they have near-complete mastery of it.

The effect is more commonly known for “Mt. Stupid,” an in-joke revolving around a graph showing a steep increase in confidence compared to relatively low ability in a skill.

Rowe then brings up opportunity, and how it is sometimes at odds with passion.

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Throughout his life and career, Rowe has met his fair share of skilled tradesmen working blue-collar jobs. These people prosper and enjoy success because they “followed opportunity,” according to Rowe.

Do more people need to hear Rowe's realistic advice?

Meanwhile, millions of college graduates are competing with each other for limited jobs in a market saturated with people who followed their passions. Rowe said millions of American jobs go unfilled thanks to a skills gap in the United States labor market — skills that most college graduates simply don’t have.

“When people follow their passion,” Rowe tactfully explains, “they miss out on all kinds of opportunities they never knew existed.”

He then links this with his own life. His original childhood passion was to follow his grandfather, a man who had a seemingly easy mastery of construction. Rowe then detailed the moment his dreams all fell apart, and some helpful advice he got from his granddad.

After bringing home a poorly constructed sconce, Rowe was hit with a dose of wisdom. “Mike,” Rowe begins, quoting his grandfather, “you can still be a tradesman, but only if you get yourself another kind of toolbox.”

Fortunately for Rowe, and his millions of fans, he did switch out his toolbox. Although he may have made an adequate tradesman, Rowe took other opportunities. The Internet Movie Database lists 30 of Rowe’s acting credits, along with a few producer roles he’s taken.

Rowe leaves viewers with a final dirty truth: “Never follow your passion, but always bring it with you.”

This hits the nail on the head. So-called “dream jobs” may come and go, but genuine passion can brighten any workplace.

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Jared has written more than 200 articles and assigned hundreds more since he joined The Western Journal in February 2017. He was an infantryman in the Arkansas and Georgia National Guard and is a husband, dad and aspiring farmer.
Jared has written more than 200 articles and assigned hundreds more since he joined The Western Journal in February 2017. He is a husband, dad, and aspiring farmer. He was an infantryman in the Arkansas and Georgia National Guard. If he's not with his wife and son, then he's either shooting guns or working on his motorcycle.
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