The curious growing disdain for passion

Here we are again on the subject of passion in your workplace and life, which I wrote about last here when we discussed whether one of the reasons so many people are broke is because they made the mistake of following their passion.

Passion, it would seem, is so yesterday and the latest to say so is Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe, who delivered his “commencement speech” to Prager University, which isn’t really a university at all; it’s a website run by Dennis Prager, a conservative who stresses “America and her unique Judeo-Christian traditions.”

The growing chorus against passion increasingly seems like the logical follow-up to the campaign against education in the form of anti-intellectualism and “elitism.”

In the video this week, Rowe joins the odd collection of people who talk a good game when it comes to American “values.” He discourages big dreams and urges us to think small. That , apparently, is the new American way. And it’ll fill the jobs that businesses haven’t been able to fill.

It’s a new spin on an old bromide: Just be happy you have a job, especially if you’re not happy with your job.

Rowe says people should follow opportunity, not passion.

“When people follow their passion,” he says, “they miss out on opportunities they didn’t even know existed.”

Let’s step back.

Remember this speech from the 2012 commencement at Wellesley High School in which David McCullough Jr., told the kids that they’re not special?

But recall the point of McCullough’s speech.

“As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.”

Let me reintroduce you to the Wright Brothers, their story wonderfully told by McCullough Jr.’s father in his best-selling book.

They made a decent living making and selling bikes. But a bicycle shop wasn’t their passion. Flying was their passion, which is odd because nobody knew how to do it and almost nobody saw the value of trying. But they tried anyway, and failed, and tried some more. That was their dream. And one day they flew a plane for a few yards.

Caution. David McCullough uses the “P Word” while calling it — you’ll want to sit down for this, Prager disciples — “a profoundly American story.” Is that American story still possible in America?

Because they followed their passion, Mike Rowe now has a way to quickly get to the next paying gig to lecture glibly that you shouldn’t follow yours.