5 popular pieces of career and life advice that are actually terrible

And what you should do instead

Lade Tawak
5 min readFeb 17, 2021

Growing up and navigating my way through life, I have come across a ton of motivational quotes and career advice that are annoying and I never want to hear again because I am sick and tired. I think the line has to be drawn between what is considered motivational for your particular context in life and what has no purpose to you at all.

1. “Follow your passion and your job will never feel like your job.”

First of all, a job will always feel like a job because it’s a job. It’s also fine, not to love your job. Just don’t hate it. Love your friends, love food, love people, love reading books, but you don’t have to love your job.

What you should strive for is being good at what you do, and putting in all your effort to do your job well. Also, your passion is limited to “things that you know exist or are even possible” which is very small, in the grand scheme of the whole world.

I once listened to an episode of Work-Life with Adam Grant where they talked about passion and following your passion. He interviewed someone who loved animals and was so passionate she decided she was going to work in a zoo. Guess how that turned out for her? She hated it and it was horrible. She did a couple of things after that and ended up being a professional poker player. Now, when she was growing up, she wasn’t passionate about being a professional poker player, but she’s doing it and she’s doing a great job of it and she’s enjoying it and this kind of ties into not tying an identity to your job.

This also spills into that thing where everybody is trying to monetize every hobby that they have. You’re allowed to enjoy things! If you like baking, you don’t have to suddenly start selling cakes and start a baking business. If you like writing, you don’t have to write for money. You can do things just for the reason that you enjoy doing them.

2. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”

Smartest on what metric? What is being used to define the smartest person in the room? Academics? Business?

Additionally, if you’re not the smartest person in the room, that means, everybody is paying attention to the “smartest person in the room” and they are all taking from that person. Why do you not ever want to be in a position where you are the one giving to other people? The one who teaches and encourages others.

To be the smartest in the room or not should always be dependent on the purpose of you being in that room at that time.

Final thought: how do you even know you are the smartest person in the room?

Who told you that you are the smartest person in the room?

3. “If you had the choice between 10 minutes with Jay Z (or Bill Gates etc) versus $10k, pick JayZ (or Bill Gates etc)”

This one, I have to laugh at because what?! First of all, (again, this is one of those things that require context) you have to think about what is beneficial to you.

Say you have a business idea, and you think Jay Z is the best person to fund or partner with you. In whatever fancy universe you live in where you can get 10 minutes with Jay Z in an elevator or whatever, the most you can do is literally an elevator pitch. But what’s the guarantee that those 10 minutes will yield anything valuable? On the other hand, what can you do with actual $10,000. Real cash.

Except it’s somebody that you are 96% sure is going to take a chance in whatever business idea that you have, your best bet is to take the money. (Almost) always take the money. Money can translate into actual relevant things for your direct life or your business or idea. Because do you know how many people are attempting to pitch Jay Z/Bill Gates/whoever? What makes your proposal the ONE?

If you feel like you have the best pitch ever and you want to risk it all, good luck, but it is really up to you.

4. “Working for other people will kill your dreams” or “you can’t make money working for other people”

I asked people on Instagram to give me advice that they want to stop hearing and everybody responded with something along the lines of working for other people is killing your dreams and that you should start a business.

One: everybody cannot build a business. If everybody builds a business, who is going to work? Think about it.

Two: it is a lie that you cannot make money from working for other people. A lot of the wealthiest people in the world work for other people. The CEO of Google is not the founder of Google and I can promise you that the CEO of Google is very okay financially. If that’s too far fetched, people that are working at oil companies, developers, and designers are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars working for other people. So, you don’t have to start a business to become wealthy, have value, or be happy. Again, 50% of businesses fail, so the odds that you are going to become super wealthy from starting a business is very low. If you want to do it, go ahead but don’t do it because you think working for other people is not valuable.

Another perspective: what if my dream is to work for other people? How about that? My dream is to be paid by other people to help them achieve their dreams?

People also say things like “$1 made from doing your own business is better than $10,000 from working for somebody else”. This is all I have to say in response:

Because you absolutely cannot be serious

5. Imitate the daily routines of CEOs: CEOs read 500 books a day and you should too.

This one is not so much advice, it’s more of things that can be found in some annoying articles I’ve read.

Things like CEOs wake up at 4 am every day and listen to a hundred podcasts and read seventy books.

Question: Were they doing this when they just founded the company or after they had reached some level of success and they had time because they had hired lots of other people to do a lot of the work for them?

When you are just starting to organize things together, where do you want to find the time to listen to a hundred podcasts and read a hundred books?

It’s important to filter what is relevant and important to you. Don’t just follow something that somebody else has done the same way because it worked for them. You don’t know why it worked and how it happened. Take what is useful and valuable and leave the rest. Learn to stop comparing yourself to other people — well, you can compare yourself to other people for motivation but don’t let it pressure you into doing things that don’t make any sense to you, or for your particular context in life.



Lade Tawak

Always learning. Sometimes designing and doing research. Sometimes writing and coaching. Always loved by Christ.