NPR Story: “What If I Don’t Have A Passion?”

This is a story that was featured on Nation Public Radio entitled: “I Know I’m Supposed To Follow My Passion. But What If I Don’t Have A Passion?” I found this very interesting especially after reading Socrates’ stance on the different roles that he feels people should fill in society. In this story, Max Kornblith is questioning what to do with his life. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from a prestigious Ivy League institution, he found everyone around him being driven by his or her “passion”. In fact, it seems to Max Kornblith that the main argument that everybody is making for having a successful and meaningful life is to follow that passion that every person has. However, Mr. Kornblith has not found this driving force in his life, and does not know whether he has a passion or not.


Socrates believed that every person has a place in society, and that every person should be content with that position. He said that if every person dedicated their energy towards the position that they fill in society that the city could function to its full potential. This is a very different philosophy than the one that is most present in our society today. In today’s world, people, like Max Kornblith, are encouraged to “follow their hearts”, “follow their passion”, and “follow their dreams”. It takes about five minutes of watching American Idol to truly understand that a person who is passionate about something shouldn’t necessarily be doing that thing at all. The most successful people today, in my mind, seem to be the people who have both the passion, and the natural ability that Socrates looked for in a person when deciding which profession they were best suited for.

Max Kornblith is somewhat the opposite of the prototype of the conventional successful person. He is a very smart person, having graduated from a prestigious Ivy League institution, with many skills. However, he does not have the “passion” which would motivate him to strive for greatness in career. He explains that he became frustrated when all of his peers had their “one thing” that they found brought meaning to their life. Still it seems to me that Max is looking for depth and meaning in his career that will satisfy the overall goals that he has for his life.

Socrates would not have a problem with Max Kornblith being unable to find his passion. In his mind, Socrates believes that the passion a person has for certain things is irrelevant to the success of their career. This is because Socrates would not have had people in a certain line of work based on their passion and interests, but what their natural skills (determined at a very early age) were.


5 Responses to NPR Story: “What If I Don’t Have A Passion?”

  1. kailadelany says:

    It’s very interesting to think about what society would be like if there was more of a focus on aptitude for a particular line of work versus a desire to accomplish that work. If it were every citizen’s goal to fully accomplish the work that is meant for them based on their abilities, then the idea of “following your dreams” would be inexistent. It could cause the major changes in areas such as public entertainment, the cost of college, art, and the view of what is thought of as low-level jobs. There would also be a single idea of what is the ideal way to do a job without variation on how the job’s done and the resulting product of the job’s work. Without emphasis on a person’s desires and dreams, people would be in the proper places for their abilities and society would function more smoothly.

  2. jgraef2 says:

    Hi Matt, I saw the name of this article and it immediately drew my attention and I wanted to find out more. The NPR story that you are talking about sounds very interesting and I will be looking into it further to find out what was discussed. I find this topic so interesting because, for much of my life, and still every now and then, I’ve felt similar to the way Max Kornblith does about not having a passion. I do think that music is my passion but sometimes I question if I’m supposed to be feeling more intensely about my passion or if I’m just doing what I have and aptitude for. I find Socrates’ thoughts on everyone sticking with what their good interesting because I wonder if I am just sticking to what I know or if I’m truly following my passion. while I agree with Socrates that if everyone just did what they have and aptitude for that society would run at its top potential but I would never want to live in that society as I think it would be a very unhappy one and I think that most of the art that we have today would not exist if people never experimented or ventured into something they didn’t know. I would very much rather have imperfection and dysfunction in my society than monotony, which is what I think Socrates’ ideals would bring.

  3. sarahbrgr says:

    This post brought forward some ideas I had never stopped to think about, namely that if we all dedicated our full energy to our chosen career, the world would be more functional. I find this to be completely true, but unfortunately, it’s not a likely situation. Perhaps in Ancient Greece, everyone could strive to make their work their passion, but in modern society, there are so many small (but important) jobs where it seems nearly impossible to fuel them with passion. In reference to this, you said that this philosophy was dated, which I agree with. There is so much emphasis on having a passion nowadays. 9th graders are expected to know what they want to pursue post-education, which I think is ridiculous. I feel so lucky to have known my passion for such a long time; however, I don’t think society should look down on those who haven’t discovered theirs yet.

  4. Emma Kato says:

    This article reminded me of the time when I had to think about what college I wanted to go to during the beginning of Junior year of High school. This was super stressful for me because while most of my friends were certain of where they wanted to go/what they wanted to do. I was the opposite of Max Kornblith. I was awful at academics, and didnt have many skills but i did have passion. I was certain that I had passion for music that I was sure of. But the word “college” made me think that once I went to a conservatory, music was all I was going to do which kind of haunted me because I didnt grow up in that kind of environment where everything surrounded around music. I ends up only applying to conservatories not knowing exactly what i wanted to do after college but let my passion drive me through. Today, I’m so glad I didnt go to a regular college because I knew how unhappy i would’ve been, but i also know that i STILL don’t know what I’m going to do with my passion.
    It’s interesting to me how there’s a wide division between passion and career. Some people are lucky enough to do both but some have to make their way through or some don’t even have the time and have to do work AND their passion separately. Something that I have definitely learned in the past (which is hard to do) is to stop comparing myself to other people. Obviously it’s easier to say than do. But to just be your own person and to do what you want and what you love is just as good as trying to have a body like Justin Bieber or to be as smart as Stephen Hawking. I learned that if i constantly compared myself to other people it created uniqueness’ that were other peoples and not my own. I agree on some parts of Socrates ideas that peoples passions are irrelevant to career works, but in a perfect world if someone could do both at the same time that would be the ultimate goal but in reality its divided to either lead your life with passion or natural skill for a career.

  5. hofeing says:

    This is a inspiring and interesting post. I believe the distinction between the citizen in Socrates’ republic and how one’s passion needs to be found is a interesting aspect to investigate. Although it might seem that if a person is doing his job well then he is the perfect candidate for the system. However, in my perspective, he might not be the perfect candidate for the Kallipolis. If someone lacks passion that might hint that he is an unjust person. There is a lack of possibly reason in the soul. It might possibly hint that him doing his job perfectly is a condition that will not last a long time or sustained. I believe in the Kallipolis, one should do the work he is the best at and I would relate that something that one is good at would be something that he or she is passionate about. Since passion drives one eager for knowledge and improve themselves. In my view, Socrates might have a problem with Max not finding his passion.

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