Why one of Silicon Valley's top investors says 'don't follow your passion'

Ben Horowitz is the cofounder of Andreessen-Horowitz, one of the most successful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

This week, he gave a commencement speech at his alma mater, Columbia University.

The subject of his speech?

“Don’t follow your passion, and the world is not going to hell in a handbasket and the class of 2015 is not required to save it.”

His first point was particularly interesting because it conflicts directly with so much well-meaning advice that recent graduates receive. But he gave four reasons why recent college grads shouldn’t follow their passions:

  • Passions are hard to prioritise. Are you more passionate about maths, or engineering? History, or literature? “On the other hand, what are you good at? That’s a much easier thing to figure out,” he said.
  • Passions change. “What you’re passionate about at 21 is not necessarily what you’re going to be passionate about at 40.”
  • You may not be good at it. “Has anybody ever watched American Idol?” he asked. “Just because you love singing doesn’t mean you should be a professional singer.”
  • It’s self-centered. He explained that over time, people learn that what they take out of the world is much less important than what they leave behind.

His advice? “Find that thing you’re great at. Put that into the world. Contribute to others. Help the world be better.”

You can watch the whole speech here:


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