Scott Adams & Warren Buffett Disagree on Passion

Cartoon character Dilbert does not agree with the advice from Warren Buffett that you must get a job that matches your passion.

Warren Buffett likes Dilbert, but he doesn’t care for the creator’s ideas about the topic of passion.

Warren Buffett’s endorsed workplace passion was the creator of the Dilbert comics target last week in the strip. The receptionist, Carol, made some remarks to Dilbert including:

“Warren Buffett says my career will be better if I show passion for my job. I’ll have to fake the passion because everything I do in this job is mindless and boring.”

She then fakes it… “Woo-hoo! I forwarded an email!”

This particular comic strip is not an offhand joke made by Adams.

He said to The World-Herald that Buffett making recommendations for passion as a motivator for career is complete bunk, and it’s a formula that will mislead people toward certain failure. Adams has written about this topic online and he also wrote a book titled “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.”

“It turns out that there’s no correlation between passion and success,” said Adams, while adding that he pursued many ideas in business without having any passion for them. “I found that my passion followed success. If I did something that was going to make me rich, I got really excited about it. In my case, I look for the things that would make a success.”

Quite often Buffett will repeat his advice about being pro-passion, and tells the world that he loves his work as the CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

“In my case, the passion was ignited when I was about 7 or 8,” said Buffett to The World-Herald. “I would go down to my dad’s office in the Omaha National Bank building on Saturdays and he would take me to lunch. But I would get there early and read the books on investing that he had in the office.

“When I finished all of these, I started reading the books on investing that they had at the Omaha Public Library. Well before we moved to Washington when I was 12, I’d read every book on the subject that they had at the library, some of them more than once. So I think it’s fair to say that the passion developed well before any success.”

Adams says that passion develops from a section of the brain that people really cannot control, and if you plan to take a new job or start a business, “the last thing you want to do is become passionate. It’s almost the opposite of what you want to do.”

He says that years ago, he learned from a banker that you should never loan money to an individual that is passionate about starting a business.

“You’re in business for the wrong reasons, and if things start turning unhappy, you’re going to bail or start making irrational decisions,” said Adams.

“The reason that you hear passion is so important is because when you interview important people, they don’t have anything politically appropriate to say except that,” said Adams. It’s not right to brag about the great things that you’ve done or your political opinions and you cannot say that you got lucky and grew up with a lot of money.

“So passion is the only thing that you say. It sounds democratic, like something everybody could do,” Adams said.

People obviously argue with him and say that TV shows like “American Idol” show us that passion is an advantage because the winners always perform passionately.

Adams believes that this actually proves the opposite: thousands of people quite passionate about music try out for the show, but only a very miniscule percentage makes the first cut. For these people, “passion is the worst idea in the world,” said Adams.

He is also in disagreement with the argument of Warren Buffett that says that having passion for a job will provide an advantage because you work harder than those who are not passionate. “I would say that passion is the best indicator of failure.”

Buffett says something else entirely.

“Having passion for something is far from an automatic guarantee of success, but I think it helps,” said Buffett. “It’s hard to imagine very many athletes succeeding without a passion for their sport, although obviously many who are equally passionate fall on their face.

“I tell the college students who visit Omaha to try to find the job that they’d take if they didn’t need a job (this is easier said than done). They may not enjoy wild success but they will certainly enjoy life more than if they go to a job they find uninteresting. And, on balance, I believe they will enjoy more success.”

Adams and Buffett say that they are big fans of each other.

Adams says: “What he has is an incredibly, perfectly wired brain for the type of work he does,” and notes that Buffett has said “he is lucky based on the sense that he was born into the time and place he was and he chose to do something that he liked to do and it worked out.”

Buffett says: “I’m a huge fan of Dilbert and love the business lessons that he imparts. I hope some of our managers incorporate these as well. Bureaucracy is like cancer.

“Despite what Mr. Adams says, I retain a slight suspicion that he has a passion for delivering important messages in a highly entertaining manner. And I’d be surprised if this passion didn’t predate his success.”

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