The power of mindset was popularized by psychology professor Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and others including the bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. The fixed mindset believes that success is based on innate abilities like talent and intelligence. The growth mindset believes that success is based on effort, good teaching, and persistence. Importantly, a person with a growth mindset believes that they have more control over their own fate.

In an article in The Atlantic, Olga Khazan explores why “find your passion” is bad advice for similar reasons. O’Keefe, Dweck and Walton have a new paper in the journal Psychological Science about the ““fixed theory of interests” versus the “growth theory of interests”.

Are passions really “found”, as if they are a hidden gem in a pile of rocks? The fixed theory assumes that passions are pre-formed. The growth theory suggest that you must gradually develop a small interest into a burning passion through time and effort. This path won’t always come quickly or easily. I liked this quote:

“If passions are things found fully formed, and your job is to look around the world for your passion—it’s a crazy thought,” Walton told me. “It doesn’t reflect the way I or my students experience school, where you go to a class and have a lecture or a conversation, and you think, That’s interesting. It’s through a process of investment and development that you develop an abiding passion in a field.”

One danger of the fixed theory is that you’ll pick something up and if it doesn’t “click” right away, you’ll just give up on it and move on to the next thing. You might miss out on a lot of potential passions because you didn’t dig deeper. Alternatively, once a person with a fixed mindset believes that they have discovered their “true passion”, they are likely to stop developing your other interests.

How do you know when to give up and when to keep trying? This is always the difficult part with no simple answer. I still prefer this simple diagram as a general guidance mechanism:


  • It’s easier to fail and still try again if you are really interested in something.
  • It’s easier (or faster) to get better at something if you are naturally talented at it.
  • You are more motivated to fail and still try again if you get paid a lot of money to do it.

I often feel like people believe that passions aren’t allowed to also pay well. In fact, financial rewards should be another incentive to help you develop an interest into a passion. You’re trying to find something that you don’t mind working at day after day.

My experience. I also took a roundabout path to my eventual passion. If you asked me as a teenager, I would have told you that I wanted to be a professor or a scientist in a lab coat. I had little interest in money, and I had a mental image of becoming the stereotypical “absent-minded” professor. After academia didn’t work out, I turned to a more traditional engineering career path. Personal finance started out only as a small side interest, but eventually it developed into a passion where now reading investing books is my idea of a nice afternoon.

Today, I no longer work in the engineering field and you could say that the majority of our income comes from managing investments. Any future applications of my formal engineering education will limited to setting up a off-grid ADU in my backyard or a mechanized chicken tractor. However, I was careful to never quit one thing until the other was profitable.

Bottom line. Finding your passion is rarely something that just “clicks”. It takes time and effort to develop an interest into a passion, and the fact that it is practical should be seen as a positive, not a negative. Sometimes your side interest can turn into a successful career/business, and sometimes it ends up better left as a side interest. Keep developing your interests, but watch your downside risk.

Why ‘Find Your Passion’ Can Be Bad Advice from My Money Blog.

©, 2018.