Radical Candor Podcast

Podcast Season 3, Episode 9: The Problem With Passion

On this episode of the Radical Candor podcast, Amy and Jason discuss what Kim refers to in Radical Candor as “the problem with passion.” You’ve likely heard some form of the phrase, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But, should your job and your passion be the same thing? What’s more, is it a manager’s responsibility to ensure each person who reports to them is passionate about their position? Listen to find out!

Listen to the episode:

Episode at a Glance

In Radical Candor, Kim writes: “It’s a basic axiom that people do better work when they find that work meaningful. I don’t disagree with this basic premise. However, bosses who take this to mean that it is their job to provide purpose tend to overstep. Insisting that people have passion for their job can place unnecessary pressure on both boss and employee. I struggled with this at Google, where we were hiring people right out of college to do dull customer-support work.”

“I tried convincing them that we were ‘funding creativity a nickel at a time.’ One young woman who’d studied philosophy in college called BS immediately. ‘Look, the job is a little boring,’ she said. ‘Let’s just admit that. It’s OK. Plutarch laid bricks. Spinoza ground lenses. Tedium is part of life.’ I loved her approach to finding meaning, but it was unique to her. A slogan like ‘Spinoza ground lenses’ would not have been inspiring for the broader team.”

Radical Candor Podcast

Radical Candor Podcast Highlights

Everyone from Stanford Scientists to Oprah agree that your job is not always going to, nor should it always, fulfill you, and it’s unrealistic for companies and managers to demand passion for a position as a job requirement.

 In a recent piece in Harvard Business Review from Professors Howe, Jachimowicz, and Menges, they note that while passion is is an important factor to consider when choosing a job, but it’s not the only factor. Instead of asking “How can I find a job that I’m passionate about?” try asking “How can my career be a conduit to passion?” Reframing the question this way frees you up to honestly weigh the pros and cons of pursuing your passion through work.

Consider the Japanese concept of IKIGAI a state of wellbeing that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys that also bring a sense of fulfillment. 

  • At the intersection of what you love and what you are good at is your passion.
  • At the intersection of what you love and what the world needs is your mission.
  • At the intersection of what the world needs and what you can get paid for is your vocation.
  • At the intersection of what you are good at and what you can get paid for is your profession.

In an interview for TIME, Sarah Jaffee, a labor journalist and author of the book ­­Work Won’t Love You Back, talks about jobs from the early 20th century before passion got all tied up with work. She says, “In those jobs, you didn’t have to pretend to like it. If you’re smiling while mining coal, I want to know what drugs you’re on because that stuff is not fun. That expectation was just not there.”

The bottom line? Your job is not to provide purpose but instead to get to know each of your direct reports well enough to understand how each one derives meaning from their work. Read the blog post >>

Radical Candor Podcast Checklist

  1. If you’re a manager, your job is to get to know each of your direct reports well enough to understand how each one derives meaning from their work. Ask them, what are you most excited about for this project or the work we’re doing, what’s the thing you’re most passionate about? Use the Career Conversations model to get started.
  2.  Understand that the world may not pay you for the things that you’re great at and that you love to do. There’s nothing wrong with working hard to earn a paycheck, that supports the life you want to lead. If you decide not to pursue your passion at work, what should you look for in a job? We suggest asking: “Will this job give me the resources — meaning time, money, and energy — to pursue my passions?
  3. You might be getting a lot of messages saying that you need to be passionate about your workDon’t let other people tell you what you should and shouldn’t be passionate about. Ultimately it’s up to you to define what matters most. And to give yourself permission to ask, “How can my career be a conduit to passion?” Reframing the question this way frees you up to honestly weigh the pros and cons of pursuing your passion through work.”

Just Work is Available Everywhere Books are Sold!

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Radical Candor Podcast Listeners Get 10% Off The Feedback Loop


Improvising Radical Candor, a partnership between Radical Candor and Second City Works, introduces The Feedback Loop (think Groundhog Day meets The Office), a 5-episode workplace comedy series starring David Alan Grier that brings to life Radical Candor’s simple framework for navigating candid conversations.

You’ll get an hour of hilarious content about a team whose feedback fails are costing them business; improv-inspired exercises to teach everyone the skills they need to work better together, and after-episode action plans you can put into practice immediately.

We’re offering Radical Candor podcast listeners 10% off the self-paced e-course. Follow this link and enter the promo code FEEDBACK at checkout.

The Radical Candor Podcast theme music was composed by Cliff Goldmacher. Order his book: The Reason For The Rhymes: Mastering the Seven Essential Skills of Innovation by Learning to Write Songs.


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