Orlando Shooting

Defending Due Process for Pre-Criminals, and Criticizing Mike Rowe's Anti-Passion Absolutism

Matt Welch talks Orlando and more on Red Eye


Late last night I appeared on the Fox News program Red Eye w/ Tom Shillue, talking mostly about the Orlando shooting and bad policy recommendations thereof, but also about Dirty Jobs impresario Mike Rowe's exhortation to not follow your passion, which I disagreed with. My fellow guests were former Reagan foreign policy hand K.T. McFarland, libertarian comedian Dave Smith, and Democratic political consultant Julie Roginsky. You can watch 98 percent of the broadcast below:

And for a fascinating Reason TV interview with Rowe, click here, or watch below:

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  1. Mike Rowe could read the phone book. I’d listen to that podcast.

    1. Did you know he actually has a podcast? It’s pretty solid.

      1. Does he read the phone book?

        1. No, he basically channels Paul Harvey.

          1. He has a Bumper Snickers segment?

  2. What if not following your passion is your passion, Matt? What then?

    1. Head assplosion!

  3. My passion is to do nothing but spend your money.

    1. Get out out of my bed.

  4. Oh, so Matt “doesn’t like” the NRA…

    The cocktail party invites must have been a’flowin’ after that statement.

    1. Had to; the, “oohs,” and, “ahhs,” that followed his noted and public sympathies for Bernard Sanders (you know, that guy who is a famous podiatrist. I think. Or was it a chiropractor? Dunno..) started drying up when Sanders retired from practice.

  5. “Follow your passion” is great for upper middle class hipsters who can always run home to mommy and daddy. For the rest of the world, it is “do what you have to to make a living”.

    1. So much that. Hey a college degree in X that won’t get you jack shit? Yeah but like all you care about is money, gosh! Now pay off my student loans

    2. I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

      John Adams

    3. “Get a job that pays the bills and follow your passion in your free time” is more practical advice. If you become passionate about your job once you’re there, even better.

      1. “Get a job that pays the bills and follow your passion in your free time”

        Unless your job takes up all of your “free time” because the shitty company you work for doesn’t bother to hire enough people to handle the workload and instead works its people into a stress induced early grave.

        If I’d known 20 years ago what I know now, I would have never gone into engineering. Don’t what I would have done instead, but I definitely wouldn’t have wasted my life in this God damned cubicle.

        1. Good thing you didn’t decide medicine was your calling. If I didn’t work with my wife (also a surgeon), I wouldn’t have as much face time with her as I do (and it’s entirely possible our daughters were conceived while at work…*wiggles eyebrows*)

  6. Rowe has a point, Matt. It’s all well and good to follow your passions while still young, naive, and full of optimism but here’s the thing; most people suck at what they’re passionate about.

    Take me for instance. My trade is personal training and group boxing classes. The reason I do this for a living is because I spent over a decade in the sport as a kid/young man. I was good at it. Not great; I was never going to be a World Champion or anything but I know the sport very, very well and have trained several eventual ametuer national champions. That being said, it’s not my passion.

    My passion is literature and I’ve always wanted to be an author. Now I could have dove head first into the craft and after many, many years of struggling in near poverty I may have lucked out and fooled some people into employing me but the chances were very slim. And let’s face it, anybody who’s read my posts knows damn well I lack the vocabulary, wit, and knowledge to write anything more poignant than a joke about a man from Nantucket.

    Once I faced the truth of the matter I choose to follow the craft I most excell in. Passion be damned.

    1. My trade is personal training and group boxing classes.

      Do women weaken legs?

      1. That’s a myth. Fornicate until your hearts content.

    2. Your ideas are interesting and I would like to subscribe to your well thought out and passionate newsletter.

      1. Tease. 😉

    3. At the risk of insulting someone who can more than likely hand me my ass, it sounds like you’re selling yourself short. Why can’t you teach. personally train and also write? The idea that we can only follow either passion or career is, IMHO incredibly defeatist.

      1. I know my intellectual limitations, Hype. I’m slightly above average in physical prowess and intelligence, nothing particularly special. If I had the right connections I suppose I could adequately write movie scripts for the SyFy channel but that’s about it.

        And I’m not a defeatist, just too lazy to spend what little spare time I have to do much more than make myself dumber by smoking weed and chasing skirt.

        1. I occasionally tally through the student doctor threads, and this one is actually rather amusing. Apropos here, as the OT is asking if he or she should be a podiatrist because of a shitty MCAT…

          A “practical” v. “passion” thread.

        2. smoking weed and chasing skirt

          Many a successful (or at least admired) writers spend a lot of time doing just that. See Bukowski, Thompson, Hemingway,etc.

    4. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, at all. My objection is to his absolutism — the DON’T follow your passion. Well, it works for some people, so that’s *not* good advice for them. The point, as ever, is that there’s no One True Way.

      And it’s always bugged me on a basic level when super-successful people tell younguns “You can’t be super-successful at what I do.” It’s been a staple of every journalism-school graduation for decades now, and it’s B.S.

      1. Sorry Matt, his, “…absolutism..,” is demonstrably correct: Do what will put food on the table. Full. Stop. End of Story.

        Very few J-grads are Woodward-Bernstein levels of fame and notoriety, even you. *ducks*

        Quite frankly, if I had followed my passions, I would have applied myself to visual arts (painting, drawing, etc.) than medical school. Being a doctor is good work (despite ending up in a war zone not too long ago), but my current passion, besides my wife and children, is 3D modelling (incredibly expensive Autodesk products for game design and eventual 3D printing). Which I guaran-damn-tee you would *NOT* put food on the table.

        1. Thing is ‘putting food on the table’ is incredibly easy, Cliche Bandit has it right below, most people’s ‘Passion’ is little more than ‘I like this’. ‘Passion’ for visual arts would have left you working part time at the Mini-Mart, living in a one room efficiency, selling blood for brushes and paint. You had a ‘like’ for visual arts and a ‘Passion’ for nice things and a lifestyle that required ‘real work’.

      2. And it’s always bugged me on a basic level when super-successful people tell younguns “You can’t be super-successful at what I do.”

        This is *especially* true for actors, actresses, singers, and others who struck it rich in the entertainment field. Ditto professional sports and even modelling/beauty queens, like that Joanne Nosuchinsky (good UKR name, by the by). This holds water for people who have very niche professions, like professional mechanics who specialise in engines/vehicles that *very* few people have expertise in (antiques, rare cars, two-cycle engines) or have a high barrier to entry (race car driver).

        The odds are on their side for dispensation of such advice, since so, so few reach the top echelons.

  7. I finally got to the segment on Mike Rowe. I can see both sides. telling people to “not follow their passion” seems like curmudgeon-ey advice that if taken to extremes would lead to some pretty dull outcomes for humanity.

    But at the same time I can kind of hear what he’s saying– there might be some middle road– which might just be “Know the limitations of your passion” or perhaps even “know when to quit”.

    I think Rowe is having his own little personal backlash against a generation of snowflakes, 100% of which have been told they “can do anything they want!”, then we tie college funding and education costs to that– which get translated into “spend anything you want and go into debt as much as you want… following your passion”.

    The result has been a sobering number of kids between the ages of 18 and 34 living at home wracked with tens of thousands– sometimes 100s of thousands– in college loan debt with shifty degrees with earnings potential untethered to their cost… but by golly, Trevor, Skylar and Megan were sure passionate about when they were 17.

    1. That’s overall true, Paul. What was your backup plan though, should your current endeavour FAILed?

      My backup was auto mechanic (and still a quite competent gearhead – Sod damn I hate Euro-European cars though. Parts are *SO* damn expensive).

  8. The guy on the right (don’t know his name) says Mike Rowe’s advice totally contradicts the advice he got in a fortune cookie.

    I got a fortune cookie the other day that actually told me to tone down my expectations in life. For real.

    1. You can still become a cowboy, Paul, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

      1. Ass-less chaps aren’t what they used to be.

      2. But can Paul be a Cowboy Poet and perform at Harry Reid’s festival?

  9. I’ve never seen ‘Red Eye’ before, but this was actually quite entertaining.

  10. wasn’t rowe’s point more that, if everyone followed their passion, there’d be no ditch diggers, etc.? i took it as less as being a buzzkill than being practical.

  11. IMO you should follow your passion, but always keeping an eye towards doing channeling that passion towards something that will result in marketable skills.

    The reason for following one’s passion is that one will be naturally inclined to study the subject and improve and grow in it without being forced to do so by external circumstances. So you will tend to excel in that subject over time.

    1. Well, that came out a big garbled.

      What I meant to say is, if you follow your passion, you will naturally want to grow and improve in that field of study without anyone or anything having to force you to do so. Over time that can lead to personal success.

      1. In our company, we had one of those high paid consultant companies come through with the Strength Finders program. You take a test with a bunch of questions, and at the end it spits out a bunch of “Strengths”.

        Strengths are not necessarily things you are good at, but rather things that you like doing AND are good at. There are things that people are not good at and that people are good at, but don’t like. The whole purpose of the SF system is to encourage leaders to build a team of mixed strengths, so that you have coverage across all the needs. Additionally, and relevant to chemjeff’s post, they argue that having a person shore up areas where they are weak is actually a waste of resources. If they are not passionate in, say, communication it is better to focus them on something like strategy where they are passionate and get someone else to focus on communication.

        I think a lot of people would do well to think about their “Passions” not as a particular job but as a set of these strengths. Do you like acting? Well, being an actor is not easy, but I have seen a lot of people channel many of those same experiences into other careers- PR, Social Media, Sales, etc. I do not think it is a good idea for people to focus on a career as they often have requirements that their strengths do not fit- for example many would be authors just do not like or have the discipline to be sitting at a computer for 4 hour chunks.

  12. I would like to think that most people A. Don’t understand what the damn word means in the first place; B. They truly lack the drive to pursue their “passion”; and C. Their passion is of little to no value to society.

    A. Passion: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. (the salient def.)
    So, this isn’t some “Hey, I like beer. I AM A PASSIONATE BREWER!” The word stems from suffering. Truly passionate people obsess, focus, purse to exhaustion, their desire because that is who they are. Not because it is something the think they like for 20 min. on a Tuesday.

    B. See A. Eddison famously tried 1000 materials for the light bulb…scientifically. Writing down each failures observations. Over and Over. It would be maddening to the average person.

    C. Grievance Studies combined with finger painting is not a passion…it isn’t even really art. It just sucks. And no one cares. Building rockets…that was a worthwhile (and dangerous) passion. Carving David demonstrated the pinnacle of sculpture. Making the perfect cabinet, writing an engaging story, inventing a home computer.

    It reminds me of an article i read recently titled “So you want to be a theoretical physicist” He started off saying “Ok, good, now read this list for a baseline of knowledge and then we can begin learning how.” The list had over 100 books, papers, writings on it. All of which were of the level of Diff E and non-euclidean geometry. Quite humbling.

  13. Self-sufficiency comes first, following your passion second.

    If you can do both, great. If you can’t and decide to follow your passion anyway, don’t come crying to me for a handout or whine about how hard your life is.

    Unfortunately, for too many people, they skip over the self-sufficiency bit, go straight to following their passion, and wind up crying for handouts or whining about how hard their life is. Fuck that.

    1. Don’t forget the proclamation that CAPITALISM DOESN’T WORK FOR ME!

  14. My passion is to have many kids with different women, get on permanent disability, wake up at noon, play xbox the entire afternoon every afternoon, brag about curbing people though I never actually won a fight, drink twistead tea and smoke pot during the evening, shit my pants, never work, and have other people work so the Democrats can take money out of their checks to pay for all my expenses. Fuck you Mike Rowe. Overlea High grad.

    1. I grew up knowing people who accurately represent exactly what you describe. Your passion is perfect for life in Denmark, at least until they run out of other people’s money.

  15. The world would be nothing but astronauts and rock stars if everyone could follow their passion. Rowe is just giving sober advice. It’s not the advice you give to a six year old, but he’s not talking to them.

    1. If they are graduating from a public school using Common Core he basically is speaking to six year olds.

  16. I read a book a few years ago “So Good they can’t Ignore you” about the follow your passion myth. The author takes the argument a step further than most and makes a case for the idea that passion actually follows skill. Basically, don’t follow your passion because you won’t find it until you find what you can be good at.

  17. The fix for college is to eliminate all the BS and only have degrees that have value in the workplace. Medical, architecture, engineering…. if you want to take Artistic Interpretations of Bowel Movements 101 then pay for it at a private school with your own money no federal loans or grants.

  18. The things Mike Rowe is saying are probably the most important things being said by anyone in America today. I have employed over 1,300 people. I’m rich by any reasonable measure. I was named small business person of the year for Los Angeles county (an area of over 11 million people and thousands of businesses). Many of the people who have worked for me now own their own businesses. I’m also a college drop out from the rust belt with no talent or or special genius who started out homeless in L.A.. I have succeeded through exactly what he is talking about, and so have all those people who have worked with me over the years. You don’t know us, or see us on MTV, or hear about us anywhere, but we live well, work hard, and do right by our neighbors, our families, our colleagues, and our bankers. We pay our bills and more than our share of the country’s. We didn’t follow our bliss as we saw it when we were kids. We found what we were good at, and worked it. Following your bliss is fine if you trust an unemployed person living off their parents to decide that for you. We were all there once, but time and experience builds perspective. Following your bliss is like starting a crossword puzzle and insisting on finishing it, even if the hottest chick in town walks by and gives you the look. Be open to opportunity, especially if it’s not what everyone else is doing. Do what works – not what what you are told does.

  19. “…but also about Dirty Jobs impresario Mike Rowe’s exhortation to not follow your passion, which I disagreed with.”

    Of course Welch did.

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