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A woman painting and Scott Galloway.

“Follow your passion” is a cliche you will hear in almost every graduation commencement speech. But we all accept it as a golden rule for life because we hear it so often and it feels right.

We tell ourselves that if we are passionate about something, we will be good at it and it will sustain us throughout our lives. However, Scott Galloway, a self-made millionaire and marketing professor at New York University Stern School of Business, thinks that telling people to follow their passions is bad advice.

In 2005, Galloway founded the digital intelligence firm L2 Inc., a venture that would go on to be acquired by Gartner for a staggering $155 million in March 2017.


″[Return on investment] and sex appeal are inversely correlated. What do we mean about that? Simply put: Don’t follow your passion,” Galloway told CNBC Make It. Instead, Galloway proposes a more practical approach. “Find out what you’re good at and then invest 10,000 hours in it — and become great at it,” Galloway says.

The 10,000-hour theory Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book “Outliers,” states that to become exceptionally good at something, you need about 10,000 hours of practice. In his book, he emphasizes that it's not just talent that matters; putting in the time and effort is key to mastering any skill or profession.

In “Outliers,” Gladwell notes that highly successful people, including Bill Gates, The Beatles, and Robert Oppenheimer, all put 10,000 hours into their particular skill sets before reaching incredible heights of success.

“People often come to NYU and say, ‘Follow your passion’ — which is total bulls***, especially because the individual telling you to follow your passion usually became magnificently wealthy selling software as a service for the scheduling of health care maintenance workers. And I refuse to believe that that was his or her passion,” Calloway continues.

Calloway adds that one of the benefits of focusing on our natural gifts is that it will eventually inspire passion. “What they were passionate about was being great at something, and then the accouterments of being great at something — the recognition from colleagues, the money, the status will make you passionate about whatever it is,” Galloway said.

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A 2018 report by Stanford researchers came to a similar conclusion. The researchers believe that following one’s passions isn’t a clear road to success for numerous reasons. The maxim assumes that we have only one passion in life and that it will not change over time. It also gives the impression that when we follow our passions, we’ll always magically fall into our dream jobs and become successful.

Finally, just because one is passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at it.

While some may think Calloway’s advice is cynical and heartless, there's something extraordinary about nurturing our natural gifts and using them to achieve success in life. In a world where our talents and passions may not always align, embracing what makes you unique and sharing it with the world in your own special way is a beautiful gift that you can offer.