"Follow your passion" is standard graduation-speaker advice. It's also bad advice, according to venture capitalist Ben Horowitz.
Speaking to Columbia University’s class of 2015 earlier this summer, the Andreessen Horowitz cofounder urged his audience to be skeptical of the conventional wisdom. "[T]he broad conclusion of the world is that if you do what you love, then you’ll be successful," he said in a speech that's now available online. "But it also might be the case that if you’re successful, you love what you do."
There are four big problems with using passions as a guide: (1) They're hard to prioritize, (2) they change, (3) a passion may reflect something you aren’t actually good at and (4) following your passion is kind of self-centered.
He also said that when you get down to it, the world is “not that bad,” though it still isn’t flat and could use some improvement.
If you aren’t interested in reading the whole speech, here are a few gems:
“Don’t listen to your friends. Think for yourself.Thinking for yourself sounds both simple and trivial, but in reality it’s extremely difficult and it’s profound and here is why. As human beings, we want to be liked. It’s anthropological. If people didn’t like you in caveman days, they would just eat you.”
“When you go through life, what you’ll find is what you take out of the world over time — be it money, cars, stuff, accolades — is much less important than what you’ve put into the world.”
“There are issues. There are issues with power and issues with water and issues with food and issues with equal rights. But if you contribute, if you put your contribution into the world, if you think for yourself, then I believe that you will be the greatest generation. Because when we look back 50 years from now, 100 years from now, 500 years from now, you will be the generation that unlocked human potential.”
Horowitz' investment portfolio at Andreessen Horowitz includes Airbnb, Lyft and Pinterest.