#61 Why you won't pursue your passion with Larry Smith

What do these statements all have in common?

  • “Well great careers are really and truly for most people a matter of luck.”

  • “People who pursue their passions are geniuses.”

  • “I would do this but I’m not weird.”

  • “Nice, normal people don’t have passion”

They’re all real (and absurd) excuses people give for not doing what they need to do to have a great career. These excuses were exposed by self-confessed career obsessed, Larry Smith - a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada in his serious(ly) funny 2011 TEDx talk in 2011. And it seems he hit the mark - his talk has reached a whopping 5.5 million views to date!

As a powerful storyteller and a well-known advocate for youth-leadership, Larry dedicated his life to teaching because as a student he always thought: “I could do it better”. A large part of his time is also spent coaching his students to find careers that they will truly love by helping them avoid a lifetime devoted to an ‘interest’ rather than a passion.

But make no mistakes, Larry doesn’t say it will be easy - having worked with 10% of the Waterloo alumni (with his students heading to Facebook, Google and Microsoft) and over 500 startup founders, he knows a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to having a great career.

He still teaches to this day (because it is his passion) and has just released a new book: “No Fears, No Excuses: What you need to do to have a great career” (Random House Penguin) which is available across all reputable bookstores and online.



  • How an economics professor developed a passion for career guidance

  • How you can identify your passion

  • An economist’s thoughts on a citizen’s wage

  • The difference between a passion and an interest

  • Why all our jobs won’t all be replaced by robots

  • Why people do bad things (according to Adam Smith…)

  • How to design a TED talk that goes viral!

  • The two things you need to launch a successful business

  • How to be true to yourself




On (finding your) passion:

“The ones who get it right have a passion and a plan.” [24:18]

“If you’re passionately interested in something you would do it whether you were paid or not...This is something I probably couldn’t stop myself from doing if I tried.” [24:58]

“Your behaviour will dictate that you have your passion. You can’t stop thinking about it, you can’t stop yourself from doing. You would do it even if you weren’t paid.” [26:02]

“Anybody who does not look for his passion means that over his life he will not maximise his talent.” [30:00]

“Imagine what the world would be like if everyone was operating at their potential... We wouldn’t live in paradise but we’d live in a much, much better world than the one we live in now.” [30:31]

“What’s going to separate you from the machinery? A degree of excellence that only someone passionate about their work could do.” [34:59]


On what it takes to start a business:

“You can’t just be passionate about being your own boss. You can’t just be passionate about wanting your own boss. You need to be passionate about the thing you want to create. You need a double barrelled set of passions.” [47:25]

“If you’re going to create a great business you have to have an innovation. You’re not going to create a great business by just doing something someone else is doing and scraping some idea off the web.” [51:01]


On being unconventional:

“It means being innovative, creative and not following the herd.” [54:07]

“There is an old Chinese proverb: The nail that stands out gets hammered down. For my vision… be unconventional or you’ll not realise your talent.” [50:15]

“Once you taste that emotion of encountering the extraordinary, you’ll never go back to plain vanilla life again. You’ll be ruined” [57:03]


On achieving your potential

“Unless you’re doing the best possible thing, you’re actually making an irrational decision... I started noticing how much of the world, including the students themselves were being satisfied with the least they could have rather than the most they could have. That’s a loss to them and a loss to society.” [20:30]

“Your past experiences help you find who you are tomorrow... Your past does not define you. You mine it for all the lessons the past has and make a new step.” [57:34]

“Have fun, push your talent as hard as you can and be helpful to other people.” 1:00:51

“Try to be useful. I think that’s not a bad rule for life.” [59:24]


Larry Smith: No Fears, No Excuses. What You Need To Do To Have A Great Career

TEDx Talkhttps://www.ted.com/talks/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_have_a_great_career



I really hope you enjoyed Larry’s straight talking, “do this stuff or you’re toast” attitude! Tell me: Are you pursuing your passion or your interests? How do you think you can you maximise your potential?