Remember Max, who wrote into MR asking for career advice? Max’s situation now has been turned into an NPR Planet Money segment, link here. There is audio at that link (very cleverly done) but here is part of their text:
The fact that Max and other young college graduates can even entertain this question — “What is my passion?” — is a new conundrum, and still a luxury not everybody enjoys. Yet, Tyler recently told me, it is “a central question of our time.”
So what’s the best, most rational answer for Max? It seems like economics could help; after all, it’s about costs and benefits and modeling complicated decisions.
But, Tyler says, “it was a truly difficult, tough question to make any progress on.”
Months passed. Tyler felt guilty. So he invited Max to lunch, and brought along two other economists — Bryan Caplan and Garett Jones — for backup. The economists posed questions to help Max frame the issue:
- How much are you willing to suffer in the short run to get a better future?
- Have you ever considered working in Asia?
- How important will it be to spend X number of hours with your kids? And what is that X?
- How well do you understand your own defects?
- What does 50-year-old Max want?
- Can your community be a cyber community, or do you need to have a face-to-face community?
In the end, the three economists did not advise Max to pursue some particular career path. They didn’t even give very specific advice. But they did all agree that Max’s lack of a passion could work to his advantage. Pursuing a passion — especially if it’s a popular passion — often doesn’t pay very well.