Don’t Follow Your Passion – Do This Instead

On the last episode of the podcast, Mark Schaefer and I were talking about his new book KNOWN: T
he Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age. Mark unpacked the four things he found well known experts have in common.



Every person, in every field in every region of the world did the same four things.
  1. Figured out what they wanted to be known for
  2. Found an uncontested space
  3. Figured out the right kind of content for their message
  4. Found an actionable audience

On today’s podcast, I continue my conversation with Mark as we cover the differences between passion and sustained interest, Why everyone Won’t be known, How your culture may be working against you in your efforts to be known and the future of employment.


Why Following Your Passion is Bad Advice

Mark states there’s a lot of fluff out there on the topic of “Following Your Dreams”. Much of the advice he encountered seemed inconsistent with his research and experience. According to Mark, a big reason people fail to achieve their dreams is they set out on the journey toward success without a plan or to see if there’s a market for their passion.

He’s so passionate about helping people get this right, he even created a companion workbook to go along with KNOWN to help people. 


Success Resides at the Intersection of Passion, Skill and Market 

I asked Mark how “passion, skill and market” is different from “place and space”. Mark said they’re pretty much the same thing

You need to make sure you are pursuing a sustainable interest. It has to be something you will continue to investigate and explore for a long time. It has to align with your goals.

In the book, Mark mentions Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Cal asserts that passion flows out of our sustained interest in a topic, Mark reasserts that point in KNOWN.

Mark tells the story of Roger Dooley who became known for the idea of Neuromarketing.  Roger was a web SEO guy. His daughter was taking a class in neuroscience. He became fascinated by the topic and started wondering if it could be applied to business.

He started to look for blogs  that combined the two topics and couldn’t find anyone who was talking about it. It wasn’t his passion, but he was interested in it. He bought a few domain names, started blogging about it. Today he is known for his expertise in this topic. He is driven and passionate about it.



Why Everyone Will NOT be KNOWN

Mark says in the book everyone has the opportunity to be KNOWN but not everyone will be. He told me that’s because people give up too soon.  He interviewed over one hundred people for the book and it took them, on average, two and half years to gain traction.

Almost all of them mentioned consistency, resilience and tenacity  as important factors in getting there. Some said resilience was more important than passion or having a big idea. The biggest problem people have is they give up too soon, even when they start to see signs that it’s beginning to work.

This is not a rah-rah, you can do it book. Mark makes it plain if something is going to be hard, he tells you it’s going to be hard. He didn’t want to create a false sense of hope in this book, but he believes  if you are willing to work at it and stay the course it is very possible for you to be known for what you do.

We live in an unprecedented time where everything has changed and yet the rules are still the same. What it takes to succeed is largely the same as it’s always been. The difference now, is we have more leverage to become successful.

How Culture Impacts Your Effort to Be Known

Mark gave a talk in the Netherlands where he gave an inspiring call to action. He wanted the audience to leverage the power of the internet to make a difference. After the talk he discovered the audience felt they had to be audacious to stand out; it was not something they could ever do. When he inquired why, he found out.

Their culture punished those who tried to stand out. They had a saying,

“If you try to stand out, we will bop you on the nose”

They had cultural mores that told them to fit in, but at the same time, they wondered why they had no Dutch speakers at their conference.

“If your culture is keeping you from being known and establishing some measure of influence, you’re not going to be invited to be the speaker. You’re not going to have the best selling book…You’re not going to win”


One of Mark’s favorite quotes from the book is from Sally Hogshead.

“You don’t have to change. You just have to be more of you at your best” ~Sally Hogshead   

We are living at a time where you can’t wait to be picked. You have to choose yourself. In order to do that you have to know what you have to offer.

The Future of Employment and Being KNOWN

The Role of AI and Why Being KNOWN is more important than ever

I asked Mark for his opinion on the role AI will play in the job market and how that will impact the work force. Mark made following points.

  1. He believes projections  indicate there will be massive layoffs due to algorithms, robotics and artificial intelligence
  2. He says it will hit knowledge workers particularly hard.
  3. He doesn’t see it impacting the upper echelon of workers or  blue collar workers as much, but for many who work in in the realm of ideas, things will get more competitive.
  4. Mark thinks it’s a smart idea to prepare. One of the best ways to make sure you get the business or get the job is to be known.


Over the last two podcasts, Mark Schaefer has been telling you about the rules of being KNOWN. You heard him say things are going to get more competitive for knowledge workers. You also heard him say those who are known will be the ones who get the work. What are you doing to ensure you are a known entity when the market tightens?

What do you want to be known for?  Have you found it yet? Do you know where to look?  Don’t start with your passions, there may not be a market for what you love.  Instead look to your sustained interests. Where does your passion, your skill and the market overlap?

Maybe that’s not your problem. Maybe you’re fighting against your culture or your own doubts. Will you stay with it? There’s a Chinese proverb that states the best time to plan a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.  Even if you haven’t started down the path of becoming known, it’s ok.  The best time to start would have been in the past, but the good news is the second best time is now.  Don’t wait to become known.