You Will Fail to Have a Great Career

Larry Smith makes a comedic stab at the excuses that we have in today’s world for not pursing our passions, and therefore failing to have a great career.

I was with him for most of it except for the one towards the end. It’s not fair to say that having a family, raising a family, can’t be a dream and passion in itself. I think it’s perfectly fine to say to your child, “Go ahead, and pursue your passion. Just like I did, raising you to be the person that you are today.”

Of course one can purse a passion and be a great parent. But it’s not fair to assume that one who says they would rather focus on their family than their career to be called afraid of pursing their passion.

What do you think?

[Via TED]


13 Responses to You Will Fail to Have a Great Career

  1. Same here, I think he is unfair in assuming that raising kids can't be a dream or passion… however he seems to think career, passion and dream are synonyms… they are not. And raising a family isn't a career, but it can be a dream or a passion. There are other dreams than "having a great career" in life, he talks like it's the only possible dream, but then again that's what his speech is about, so I'm guessing if your dream is not to have a great career, you won't have a great career :P (and he probably assumed you wouldn't be watching this video anyways)

    • Hey Naomi. First of all, I would like to thank you for this good comment.. My homework is to analyze this video and explain to everyone in front of the class.. I had listened twice and didn't understand what he was saying. And then I just read your comment which perfectly explained to me what was happening in the video. Now I am going to paraphrase your comment and I totally agree with you. Raising a family is a dream or a passion.. Thank you very much

  2. Osho claims the very same. A very successful person (talking about a profession) will fail as a human being. I completely disagree with that statement. A very successful professional can also be a great parent, and a great human being. Theese situations are not opposite. You just have to have a clear vision to where you want to head to.

  3. I think his talk was just that.
    A indictment of the belief that having passion is being passionate. Just as going in a direction is not the same as having direction.
    His talk spoke to me mainly on the level of "What am I passionate about?". Supporting and protecting my family and friends is what this is all about to me, that as a defined goal, and success is measurable.
    I have a Job. I am a great dad, and that job was open to me from the moment my son was born. The pay is net loss but the benefit package cant be beat (even with a nerf sword or a light saber, we tried).

  4. I'd like to quote Richard Hamming* on the topic of doing "good work" vs doing "great work": and those that "do" and those that "might have done"
    "Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this. "

    "You can lead a nice life; you can be a nice guy or you can be a great scientist. But nice guys end last, is what Leo Durocher said. If you want to lead a nice happy life with a lot of recreation and everything else, you'll lead a nice life."

    I like your point about family. Another TED video talking about happiness showed the "happiness graph" throughout people's life and compared the lives of those with and without children.
    Indeed those without children had a higher "mean happiness" throughout their adult life. But when you disregard the mean and look at it in terms of "spikes", the data mining showed that people with children had MUCH HIGHER happiness spikes but also went a lot lower. In the end they experience more extremes throughout their lives.

    I think it'll be difficult to have a very fufilled personnal life AND profesionnal life, you gotta choose and make sacrifices. I'm pursuing an MBA degree and I began recently to reflect on how much time I would invest in my career versus personal interest (travels a few months a year, love life, etc) =P

    *It's taken from the very interresting talk "You and your research" available @

    • So what you're saying is that a sizable amount of people view parenting as a passion, but then you immediately dismiss what that as a lie or excuse. Why do you think 99% of them are lying? Because you can't possibly imagine they are telling the truth? Your personal experience tells you otherwise? That's not a very solid reason to dismiss so many.

      I don't have kids. I don't love children. But most of my friends do have children, and it's unfair to dismiss their passion for raising their children as a lie. In fact, I'm a bit worried about them because they ARE so passionate about their children. What on earth are they gonna do when the kids grow up? I imagine the "empty nest" syndrome will be particularly rough for them.

      • I have to agree, I have a relative who recently said to me "you can't tell kids now a days No, its not like it was when we were kids" and this person is raising their child as if it was their best friend. This person has also said to us "I don't know what I am going to when *child* goes away to school." It is truly sad to think this person has done nothing for themselves and done it all for that child. Mind you there is a second, younger child involved but we never hear that one talked about like the first one. At least I look at my close friends and watch them raising their young kids in a good healthy manner and and I think "at least you are all balanced."

  5. An open, humorous and excellent talk, which does an excellent job at giving food for thought as opposed to preaching a specific moral. A lot of what he is saying here is open to interpretation and you can perceive it one way or the other. This polarising effect is purely because it brings its audience into discussion, and so is difficult to analyse objectively.

    In my opinion, even though he seemingly compartmentalises a "great career" and the responsibilities of human relationships, let us not forget that his subject matter is "excuses". The subtext of his cynicism is playing on the widespread idea that human relationships are likely to become part of the self-fulfilling prophecy that is failing to find a great career. He then further depicts this leading to the eventual sabotage of the children – effectively becoming "vessels" for the parent's regretful burdens.

    In my opinion, it is completely possible to have a great career and great relationships. It is equally possible for great friends & family to be one's dream. The dichotomy therefore, is:

    Do we keep friends and foster a family in order to use them as shielded vessels from our regrets? (Siphoning)
    Or do we live consciously and find fulfilment so that we may give back to our friends and family for years to come? (Nurturing)

    Do we take or do we give?

  6. He might be right about what he is saying about the incompatibility of a "great career" and being a decent parent. But his straw man child who talks about a passion is completely off. If you are passionately pursuing your great career, and choose to have kids, the kids are not going to talk about their own passion. They will ask you (on the rare occasions they actually SEE you) why you don't spend more time with them, or if you love them. And rather than your children being the prison against your greatness, your greatness is a prison that bars your children from having a parent who is engaged and loving.

    In addition, his comment early on about one's gravestone is also a poor piece of work. Sure, developing warp drive is more exciting than inventing velcro. But honestly, which one exists NOW? And even if we HAD warp drive, which one, on a daily basis, would be making your life easier?

  7. A lovely little debate you have here, however some of you seem to have missed the ballpark altogether. Hence I would like to intrude to re-quote the speaker:

    13:35 "Great friend. Great spouse. Great parent. Great career. This art not a package? Is that not who you are? How can you be one without the other?
    But you are afraid. And that is why you are not going to have a great career."

    Larry Smith's speech is about the common burdens to career and life success that stem from our persistent desire to make excuses. He is not saying that family and career success are incompatible, Instead he is saying that we may often use family (or choices made in favour of family) as an excuse, much in the same way as all other things he mentioned.

    I have a feeling that others here may be sore that the one socially redeemable excuse that protects them has been viewed for what is, and may still be nothing more than an excuse. Great family does not excuse a bob standard career. Much in the same way that a Great Career does not excuse a broken family. And trust me, there is large negotiable golden mean. It is just that a lot of people fall either side of it- and make an excuse.

  8. It doesn't matter that your passion is raising your kids right if everyone in the family is doing without because you've never met your potential with that awesome job you've never had. I think we all understand that he is equating passion with profession and to suggest otherwise is to not get it. But I also think it goes without saying that he undervalues humanism.

  9. i thought his speech was great! it is basically saying dont let your kids or parents be an excuse to not follow your passion. one can be passionate about a child and still pursue a great career if one puts in the work

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