Stay calm. You don’t have to have a passion. Much less chase her. You can be a calm person with vulgar hobbies and still be very good at what you do. Even the best.
This is not an argument against passion, but let’s stop fooling ourselves: the world is inhabited by people without overwhelming passions, the majority do not die of love for their work, nor do they vibrate with enthusiasm every day of their life with their hobbies.
Passion became a staple over the last decade. Research from the Harvard Business School examined 200,000 job advertisements in the United States and revealed that in 2007 the word passion was explicitly mentioned in less than 2% of job offers. In 2019 that figure almost reached 20%. Websites specialized in preparing job interviews train their candidates to successfully answer questions about the subject. A vehement and lengthy response is expected. For example, if you are a good pastry chef you should say something like: “I am interested in the process of searching and experimenting with new recipes. For three years I have recorded in writing the effect on the textures of desserts of baking at different temperatures. I cultivate the details and the science behind baking.”
“I like to make cakes in my free time” would not win over a Human Resources director in 2023.
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Through mysterious and intertwined semantic paths, the fact of devoting oneself vehemently to a hobby is associated with work commitment. “The mention of a passion on the resume makes one think of dedicated people, willing to work hard if they like something. Employers love to hear it because they can exploit the fact that someone is following their passion to get more hours of work for the job.” same salary, and that is not a good trend,” says Cal Newport, writer and professor at Georgetown University.
Newport, in his book Do it so well that they can’t ignore you (Asertos, 2017), warns that ‘pursue your passion’ is “a terrible professional recommendation.” “It is assumed that everyone has one and the majority have none, even those who can identify their passion will soon realize that making it coincide with their work will not make them as happy as they think,” the writer reflects by email. .
Being perceived as a 100% dedicated employee has its advantages. Research from Columbia University Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School, led by Jon Jachimowicz and Ke Wang, shows that these people are promoted ahead of others, and rewarded with training and positive evaluations. Another study, cited by The Economist, ensures that people who cry at work increase their chances of recognition, as long as this emotional display is attributed to great concern for the project.
But according to observers of the phenomenon, being the intense one in the place also causes problems and calls into question professional competence. Newport points out that matching your job with something you enjoy is “a poor indicator” that you will be happy while earning a living. “The sources of job satisfaction are much more complex, involving variables that are difficult to control such as autonomy, recognition and connection with other people,” she says.
Researchers from Harvard and Columbia point out in their articles that companies often make the mistake of rewarding commitment instead of ability because they are “blinded” by exaggerated displays of enthusiasm. In their work, they discovered that, even when the performance of “passionate” employees was in free fall, their chances of recognition increased compared to their more discreet or taciturn, but perhaps more efficient, colleagues.
Showing excesses of passion also has a price. In these studies, those who were always available ran the risk of ending up doing tasks completely unrelated to their work, including bringing coffee or running various errands, or of keeping ungodly schedules, for example, answering a call at four in the morning to serve a client from Asia. A survey conducted by academics at Duke University, the University of Oregon, and Oklahoma State University found that managers felt more comfortable asking “committed” employees to work overtime without pay. It was easier to ask those who said they loved their job to do cleaning work in the office, because—managers argued—they would enjoy it more.
It is not necessary to give everything at work either. The mantra “Maximum effort, maximum results” is beginning to be changed by a realistic and moderate Optimal effort, better results. Giving 101% has become outdated, now the magic figure for productivity is 85% of the effort. That is, give a lot, but not everything. According to these new studies, to be the best you don’t have to put yourself under too much pressure. It is counterproductive and exhausting. Meeting 8 out of 10 goals can be considered a victory.
Greg McKeown, author of the 2021 book Effortless: Make it Easier to do What Matters Most, is one of the proponents of the 85% rule. In his opinion, pursuing 100% is the cause of the burnout epidemic that contaminates work life: “It’s frustrating: we will abort the mission at the first sign that we won’t reach our maximum,” he says by email. In his book he assures that there will not be big differences if we make a decision with only 85% of the information, or if we give a talk with 85% of the slides available.
The success of effortless that McKeown proposes does not mean lazing around, but rather practicing the art of giving a little less, of knowing how to stop when we have reached 85% of our capacity, a figure from which errors multiply, probably due to fatigue, since our ability to concentrate plummets.
The 85% rule was tested in experiments by Robert C. Wilson’s team in 2019 at the University of Arizona published in Nature. The researchers measured the error rate in learning new tasks and set the moment of greatest clarity and ability to learn at 85% of the effort. Wilson called it a “sweet spot,” a “sweet” range where things are no longer easy, but not too difficult either. In the study, a neural network learned from a human brain; When the tasks exceeded 85% difficulty, the artificial intelligence imitated the brain: it became demotivated and threw in the towel.
“Relaxed confidence and some tolerance for ambiguity are the qualities that must be cultivated to be able to stop at 85% of the effort,” McKeown says in his book, which has been a New York Times bestseller.
To establish a culture of reaching the optimum, but not the maximum, experts recommend that managers moderate some practices. McKeown calls for monitoring what he called “high-pressure language.” That is, dose the “for yesterday”, the “urgent” and the “ASAP” (acronym for as soon as possible, as soon as possible), which are abused in work emails). He advises being honest about deadlines and ending meetings 10 minutes early. Lastly, he suggests that managers also lower their intensity and passion to 85%. “Sending an email on a Sunday will never be a message of moderation. The world will not end by waiting for Monday at 10:00.
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