When considering a career pivot, mentors and advisors often include an admonition to follow your passion as a key piece of advice. After all, following one’s passion means that you will stick with it. You won’t easily be swayed from working on something you’re passionate about, so you’ll see it through, even when there are big challenges. To do otherwise would seem to be unorthodox career advice.
Besides, numerous surveys of, and interviews with, successful business leaders and entrepreneurs report the importance of following one’s passion.
But there are two serious statistical concepts at play that place such advice on shaky ground.
The first is that correlation does not equal causation. To the contrary, it’s quite possible that success fosters passion. It’s perfectly logical to become passionate about a career that has brought fame and fortune.
The second is survivorship bias. Yes, a high percentage of successful persons declare that passion was responsible for their success. But for every successful business owner, there are often many unsuccessful business owners.
About 60% of new restaurants fail within 3 years. Most of the founders were probably passionate about starting a restaurant. But if they were all passionate when they started (including the failures), then the correlation with success is zero at best.
Yet we never hear from the unsuccessful business founders or career seekers. Who would interview someone about being a failure?
So, the presence of passion itself probably does not correlate with success, just as the TV show American Idol has demonstrated that passion for singing does not correlate with the ability to sing well.
I was awakened at 2:30 AM by the ringing of my home telephone not two feet away. It was startling and disorienting. My “land-line” never rang at night. And my wife and I rarely answer it because only telemarketers call us on that phone.
But my wife answered. She determined that the caller wanted to speak to me. After clearing my head for a few seconds and focusing on what the caller was trying to tell me, I finally heard:
“This is Maya. I am calling to tell you that my father, Kan, died earlier this week.”
In addition to blogging on a regular basis, I am a practicing family physician. I work in an urgent care clinic as medical director and clinician. As I arrived early for my shift this morning, I thought, “you know, there are many advantages to being early.”
My commute is rather long (over an hour each way). On 2 or 3 occasions I have been severely delayed due to major accidents on the tollways that I take to work (Quel embouteillage!*). So I make it a point to leave extra time for my commute.
When I walked into my dark, quiet clinic today, I was struck by the benefits of arriving early. Today, I had some left over paperwork from home that I needed to do, and a blog post to publish! I also wanted to clear my desk and respond to some email messages. I was able to do most of that before the first employee arrived a little before 8:00 AM.
There are a lot of personal attributes that physician leaders need to foster in themselves and encourage in others:
But there is one that I think is often neglected: Vitality
Vitality is defined as “the power to endure or survive; mental or physical vigor; energy.” But vitality is not as easily maintained as some other leadership attributes.