Greatra Mayana

Career & Employment Opportunities

Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career

Translator: Thu-Huong Ha
Reviewer: Morton Bast I want to discuss with you this afternoon why you’re going to fail
to have a great career. (Laughter) I’m an economist. I do dismal. End of the day, it’s ready
for dismal remarks. I only want to talk to those of you
who want a great career. I know some of you have already decided
you want a good career. You’re going to fail, too. (Laughter) Because — goodness,
you’re all cheery about failing. (Laughter) Canadian group, undoubtedly. (Laughter) Those trying to have good careers
are going to fail, because, really, good jobs
are now disappearing. There are great jobs and great careers, and then there are the high-workload, high-stress, bloodsucking,
soul-destroying kinds of jobs, and practically nothing in-between. So people looking for good jobs
are going to fail. I want to talk about those
looking for great jobs, great careers, and why you’re going to fail. First reason is that no matter
how many times people tell you, “If you want a great career,
you have to pursue your passion, you have to pursue your dreams,
you have to pursue the greatest fascination in your life,” you hear it again and again,
and then you decide not to do it. It doesn’t matter
how many times you download Steven J.’s Stanford commencement address, you still look at it
and decide not to do it. I’m not quite sure
why you decide not to do it. You’re too lazy to do it. It’s too hard. You’re afraid if you look
for your passion and don’t find it, you’ll feel like you’re an idiot,
so then you make excuses about why you’re not going
to look for your passion. They are excuses, ladies and gentlemen. We’re going to go through
a whole long list — your creativity in thinking of excuses
not to do what you really need to do if you want to have a great career. So, for example,
one of your great excuses is: (Sigh) “Well, great careers are
really and truly, for most people, just a matter of luck. So I’m going to stand around,
I’m going to try to be lucky, and if I’m lucky,
I’ll have a great career. If not, I’ll have a good career.” But a good career is an impossibility,
so that’s not going to work. Then, your other excuse is, “Yes, there are special people
who pursue their passions, but they are geniuses. They are Steven J. I’m not a genius. When I was five, I thought I was a genius, but my professors have beaten that idea
out of my head long since.” (Laughter) “And now I know
I am completely competent.” Now, you see, if this was 1950, being completely competent — that would have given you a great career. But guess what? This is almost 2012,
and saying to the world, “I am totally, completely competent,” is damning yourself
with the faintest of praise. And then, of course, another excuse: “Well, I would do this,
I would do this, but, but — well, after all, I’m not weird. Everybody knows that people
who pursue their passions are somewhat obsessive. A little strange. Hmm? Hmm? Okay? You know, a fine line
between madness and genius. “I’m not weird. I’ve read
Steven J.’s biography. Oh my goodness —
I’m not that person. I am nice. I am normal. I’m a nice, normal person,
and nice, normal people — don’t have passion.” (Laughter) “Ah, but I still want a great career. I’m not prepared to pursue my passion, so I know what I’m going to do, because I have a solution. I have a strategy. It’s the one Mommy
and Daddy told me about. Mommy and Daddy told me
that if I worked hard, I’d have a good career. So, if you work hard
and have a good career, if you work really, really, really hard, you’ll have a great career. Doesn’t that, like,
mathematically make sense?” Hmm. Not. But you’ve managed
to talk yourself into that. You know what? Here’s a little secret: You want to work? You want to work
really, really, really hard? You know what? You’ll succeed. The world will give you the opportunity to work really, really,
really, really hard. But, are you so sure that that’s going to give you
a great career, when all the evidence is to the contrary? So let’s deal with those of you
who are trying to find your passion. You actually understand
that you really had better do it, never mind the excuses. You’re trying to find your passion — (Sigh) and you’re so happy. You found something you’re interested in. “I have an interest! I have an interest!” You tell me. You say, “I have an interest!”
I say, “That’s wonderful! And what are you trying to tell me?” “Well, I have an interest.” I say, “Do you have passion?” “I have an interest,” you say. “Your interest is compared to what?” “Well, I’m interested in this.” “And what about the rest
of humanity’s activities?” “I’m not interested in them.” “You’ve looked at them all, have you?” “No. Not exactly.” Passion is your greatest love. Passion is the thing that will help you create
the highest expression of your talent. Passion, interest —
it’s not the same thing. Are you really going to go
to your sweetie and say, “Marry me! You’re interesting.” (Laughter) Won’t happen. Won’t happen, and you will die alone. (Laughter) What you want, what you want, what you want, is passion. It is beyond interest. You need 20 interests,
and then one of them, one of them might grab you, one of them might engage you
more than anything else, and then you may have found
your greatest love, in comparison to all the other things
that interest you, and that’s what passion is. I have a friend, proposed to his sweetie. He was an economically rational person. He said to his sweetie, “Let us marry. Let us merge our interests.” (Laughter) Yes, he did. “I love you truly,” he said.
“I love you deeply. I love you more than any other woman
I’ve ever encountered. I love you more than Mary,
Jane, Susie, Penelope, Ingrid, Gertrude, Gretel — I was on a German exchange program then. I love you more than –” All right. She left the room halfway through his enumeration
of his love for her. After he got over his surprise
at being, you know, turned down, he concluded he’d had a narrow escape from marrying an irrational person. Although, he did make a note to himself
that the next time he proposed, it was perhaps not necessary to enumerate all of the women
he had auditioned for the part. (Laughter) But the point stands. You must look for alternatives
so that you find your destiny, or are you afraid of the word “destiny”? Does the word “destiny” scare you? That’s what we’re talking about. And if you don’t find
the highest expression of your talent, if you settle for “interesting,”
what the hell ever that means, do you know what will happen
at the end of your long life? Your friends and family will be
gathered in the cemetery, and there beside your gravesite
will be a tombstone, and inscribed on that tombstone it will say, “Here lies
a distinguished engineer, who invented Velcro.” But what that tombstone should have said, in an alternative lifetime, what it should have said if it was
your highest expression of talent, was, “Here lies the last
Nobel Laureate in Physics, who formulated
the Grand Unified Field Theory and demonstrated
the practicality of warp drive.” (Laughter) Velcro, indeed! (Laughter) One was a great career. One was a missed opportunity. But then, there are some of you who, in spite of all these
excuses, you will find, you will find your passion. And you’ll still fail. You’re going to fail, because — because you’re not going to do it, because you will have
invented a new excuse, any excuse to fail to take action, and this excuse, I’ve heard so many times: “Yes, I would pursue a great career, but, I value human relationships — (Laughter) more than accomplishment. I want to be a great friend. I want to be a great spouse. I want to be a great parent, and I will not sacrifice them on the altar of great accomplishment.” (Laughter) What do you want me to say? Now, do you really want
me to say now, tell you, “Really, I swear I don’t kick children.” (Laughter) Look at the worldview
you’ve given yourself. You’re a hero no matter what. And I, by suggesting ever so delicately that you might want a great career,
must hate children. I don’t hate children. I don’t kick them. Yes, there was a little kid
wandering through this building when I came here, and no,
I didn’t kick him. (Laughter) Course, I had to tell him
the building was for adults only, and to get out. He mumbled something about his mother, and I told him she’d probably
find him outside anyway. Last time I saw him,
he was on the stairs crying. (Laughter) What a wimp. (Laughter) But what do you mean?
That’s what you expect me to say. Do you really think it’s appropriate that you should actually take
children and use them as a shield? You know what will happen someday, you ideal parent, you? The kid will come to you someday and say, “I know what I want to be. I know what I’m going to do with my life.” You are so happy. It’s the conversation
a parent wants to hear, because your kid’s good in math, and you know you’re going to like
what comes next. Says your kid, “I have decided I want to be a magician. I want to perform
magic tricks on the stage.” (Laughter) And what do you say? You say, you say, “That’s risky, kid. Might fail, kid. Don’t make
a lot of money at that, kid. I don’t know, kid, you should
think about that again, kid. You’re so good at math, why don’t you –” The kid interrupts you and says, “But it is my dream.
It is my dream to do this.” And what are you going to say? You know what you’re going to say? “Look kid. I had a dream once, too, but — But –” So how are you going to finish
the sentence with your “but”? “But. I had a dream too, once,
kid, but I was afraid to pursue it.” Or are you going to tell him this: “I had a dream once, kid. But then, you were born.” (Laughter) (Applause) Do you really want to use your family, do you really ever want to look
at your spouse and your kid, and see your jailers? There was something
you could have said to your kid, when he or she said, “I have a dream.” You could have said — looked the kid in the face and said, “Go for it, kid! Just like I did.” But you won’t be able to say that, because you didn’t. So you can’t. (Laughter) And so the sins of the parents are visited on the poor children. Why will you seek refuge
in human relationships as your excuse not to find
and pursue your passion? You know why. In your heart of hearts, you know why, and I’m being deadly serious. You know why you would get
all warm and fuzzy and wrap yourself
up in human relationships. It is because you are — you know what you are. You’re afraid to pursue your passion. You’re afraid to look ridiculous. You’re afraid to try. You’re afraid you may fail. Great friend, great spouse,
great parent, great career. Is that not a package?
Is that not who you are? How can you be one without the other? But you’re afraid. And that’s why you’re not
going to have a great career. Unless — “unless,” that most evocative
of all English words — “unless.” But the “unless” word is also attached to that other, most terrifying phrase, “If only I had …” “If only I had …” If you ever have that thought
ricocheting in your brain, it will hurt a lot. So, those are the many reasons why you are going to fail to have a great career. Unless — Unless. Thank you. (Applause)

39 Replies to “Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career”

  • This brings up a serious problem with our society. We raise children to believe they should never pursue their dreams, they should give up emotional gain for financial gain, we should fear failure, we teach them to make excuses out of fear of how others will react to your constant failures and reattempts to succeed.
    What we should be saying is "If this is your passion, I support you all the way, but do not expect to succeed immediately. You will fail many times and have to try and try again, but if this is your true passion in life, you will always have the motivation to try again until the day you find success.

    Ever since I was a child, I was told "Art is an unrealistic career. Drawing is a hobby, you won't make any money off of it, there are many better than you and you will not be hired." Yet, at the age of 17, I already have my name preparing to be printed on the cover of a published book very soon. I am told by being a novelist, I am setting up my future for failure, yet despite the very few stories I have written online, I already have a handful fans from less than 10,000 collective words written begging for me to find the time to write more. I have a passion for helping others and when that comes out of me for people to see, they say "Wow, you care a lot about this, I love to see someone like that."

    But, despite all this, my parents drag me into an old factory at 7am, plop me down in front of a computer filled with boring paperwork and say "This is what the real world looks like. This is what you will be doing for the rest of your life and we want to prepare you for it. You will fail at your dreams, accept a boring life."
    This is a society that needs to be fixed. One where we can look success and happiness in the eye and say "that is unrealistic, give up"

  • Excellent talk on why you'll fail. I watched it a couple of years ago and now wish I could share with some people who are very dear to me. Glad it resurfaced.

  • I might need one of him cupboard-sized to keep with my miniature Jon Ronson. But if my tiny Larry gets too mean–maybe he is vicious and kills my precious Jon Ronson or more likely, he deeply upsets frail Jon–I will have to put him up for adoption, or possibly euthanize the poor thing. I'll be sad about it, sure, but Jon Ronson doesn't deserve that kind of abuse. And I had Jon Ronson in the cupboard first.

  • Now i just feel like we have to choose earlier and earlier our future orientation. Maybe too early. In high school they ask you to choose what you're going to study even though you don't know anything about most of the jobs out there. How can a 17-year-old teenager choose between marketing ingeniering or whatever?? We don't have the tools to find our passion! So I'm asking you this, you the one who's reading this — assuming there's someone– HOW CAN WE FIND OUR FUCKING PASSION? Cause I'm clueless about mine and even thouhg ppl say it's in your DNA, my blood isnt gonna tell me.

  • Define "career". If you change the word money for career it makes more sense. He did say he was an economist right from the start. If you qualify 'failure' nobody can 'win' because nobody can ever have(make) enough money. This guys passions is probable pubic tv , rush limbag and the stock market. Makes me want dose a water supply.

  • I have always wanted to be a full time artist, but because since I doubted my own capabilities I made excuses to not pursue it. I am now focusing on something I am merely interested in, but not my passion. In the end, it caught me up in a dead end of ideas on what I should become, on what career I should have. This talk really got into me and I think most of us too.

  • Ha this is very true, to a degree. All the high school dropouts and those who totally bypassed university are doing better than anyone. Why? They know how to fail forward. A lot of people with "masters" are graduating and going on to work at pet shops and the pancake parlour. Pathetic!!

  • I love how this guy thinks. He shows that we are our own demise when it comes to career options. Why? Because our hope is is muffled by our fear, anger, embarrassment, doubt, and our pride's fear of failing.

  • Great career? How do you define a great career? You define it exactly and totally different than I define it. A "great career" is 1 million percent perception in your own mind and no one else's. How dare I say that you did or did not have a great career unless I ask you " Hey, you, did you have a great career?" and you answer me, yes, or no, or sort of, or whatever you answer.

    I don't care if YOU think I had a great career – you don't get to decide if I had a great career – I DO.

    Society heaps so many ideals onto us and all of them are about being great, being successful, etc.

    Just be YOU, YOU decide if you had a great career – I will never ever be able to say you did or did not have a great career.

    Passion? Do you HAVE TO HAVE passion to have a great career? No, you don't – it's great if you do, it surely will help you, but is it absolutely necessary? No.

    I get his point, but he left out everything I have said – he left out that no one but YOU can judge your career as GREAT, or good, or crappy, or mediocre, or whatever.

    So, UNLESS you feel that you had a great career, it doesn't mean crap what others think.

    BE YOU, don't be what you think the world thinks you should be. I know janitors and toll booth collectors who say they had a great career. I know multimillionaires who said they had a horrible career. I have no idea until I ask them.

    BE YOU. Have a great career, but because YOU think it was a great career.

  • Artist = Architect , Designer
    Music – Repair, teacher, eventually performer, producer
    Those are a couple things you can make careers out of.

  • I love this video, but I am ever so deeply bothered by how much the "W" in the background doesn't line up with the rest of the sign…

  • "I had a dream to once, kid… but then you were born" – why you don't want to use family as an excuse to not pursue your passion.

    I have to quote this here since this is the main take-away for me.

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