Tim Minchin isn’t shy about kicking off a quarter-life crisis for college graduates out there. He delivers one of my favourite speeches is to the University of Western Australia centering largely on the rampant destruction of young dreams…

  • You don’t have to have a dream.  Americans on talent shows always talk about their dreams.  Fine, if you have something that you’ve always wanted to do, dreamed of, like in your heart – go for it.  After all, it’s something to do with your time.  Chasing a dream.  And if it’s a big enough one, it will take you most of your life to achieve  so that by the time you get to it and you are staring into the abyss of the meaninglessness of your achievement, you will be almost dead so it won’t matter.  I never really had one of these dreams so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals.  Be micro-ambitious.  Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you.  You never know where you might end up.  Just remember that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery.  Which is why you should be careful of longterm dreams.  If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye.”
  • Don’t Seek Happiness. We didn’t evolve to be constantly content.
  • Remember, It’s All Luck – You are lucky to be here. You were incalculably lucky to be born, and incredibly lucky to be brought up by a nice family that helped you get educated and encouraged you to go to Uni. Or if you were born into a horrible family, that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy… but you were still lucky: lucky that you happened to be made of the sort of DNA that made the sort of brain which – when placed in a horrible childhood environment – would make decisions that meant you ended up, eventually, graduating Uni. Well done you, for dragging yourself up by the shoelaces, but you were lucky. You didn’t create the bit of you that dragged you up. They’re not even your shoelaces…Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.:
  • Be Hard On Your Opinions – We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege. Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts…Science is not a body of knowledge nor a system of belief; it is just a term which describes humankind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation. Science is awesome.”

These sentiments were echoes by a series of tweets by Marc Andreessen this past week which counselled…

  1. Thesis: “Do what you love” / “Follow your passion” is dangerous and destructive career advice.
  2. We tend to hear is from (a) Highly successful people who (b) Have become successful doing what they love.
  3. The problem is that we do NOT hear from people who have failed to become successful by doing what they love.
  4. Particularly pernicious problem in tournament-style fields with a few big winners & lots of losers: media, athletics, start-ups.
  5. Better career advice may be ”Do what contributes” – focus on the beneficial value created for other people vs. just one’s own ego.
  6. People who contribute the most are often the most satisfied with what they do – and in field with high remuneration, make the most $.
  7. Perhaps difficult advice since requires focus on others vs oneself – perhaps bad fit with endemic narcissism in modern culture?
  8. Requires delayed gratification – may toil for many years to get the payoff of contributing value to the world vs. short-term happiness.
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