Okay, I confess: I’m a huge fan of Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider. I don’t normally fork out cash to go for concerts because I think they’re lame, but I paid $60 bucks for Cat B tickets to watch Sam and Kurt when they performed in Singapore this week. I know, I’m actually secretly a 13-year old girl with pigtails.
In case you don’t know Sam and Kurt, they’re two of the biggest YouTube celebrities in the world. Their cover of Nelly’s “Just A Dream” with fellow YouTube star Christina Grimmie has over 69 million views. Their balland cover of Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” was featured on the official Britney Spears website. They’ve appeared on the Ellen show, and their videos have been described by Time as a combination of Glee and Attack of the Clones.
Did I just Wikipedia all of that? Yes. Am I sorry for gushing like the hordes of pre-pubescent girls at their concert this week? Nope.
The concert rocked. But not like in the traditional sense: There were no backup dancers, emcees, props, or opening acts. There was no fancy lighting. Their backdrop looked like it came from a pirated karaoke machine.
There were just four guys on stage – Sam on vocals, Kurt on keyboard, a drummer, and a guitarist. But they sang amazing covers and originals, threw a hell of a performance, and looked like they were having the time of their lives. The Singaporean audience – which has a notorious reputation of being super unenthusiastic at performances – was cheering, waving, singing, and jumping on their feet. It was awesome.
The Passion Myth
This post isn’t about me gushing over a bunch of pop stars. I’m writing about Sam and Kurt because they’re perfect examples of the new way to do what you love and blow the world away.
How do you go from being a virtual nobody to touring the world, doing what you love and earning lots of money without having your lives dictated by some evil record label?
It’s not what you might think.
Most people assume that singers are driven by passion. They point out that celebrities like Justin Timberlake (best VMA performance ever) and Miley Cyrus (worst VMA performance ever) launched their careers as kids performing at the Mickey Mouse Club. They assume that Baby Justin popped out of his mothers’ womb, decided that his “passion” was singing, and went on to become an international sensation.
That’s why most people make the mistake of sitting in their rooms, trying to discover what their “passion” is. They believe that once they know what they really, truly, want, they’ll be able to do what they love and everything will fall into place. So let’s get a couple of sheets of paper and brainstorm till we find our passion!!!
It doesn’t work that way.
The Real Way of Discovering Your “Passion”
In the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport argues that “follow your passion” is actually bad advice. It implies that if we’re not careful, we might miss our true calling. Whenever our work becomes hard, we’re pushed toward an existential crisis asking ourselves, “Is this what I want? What I really, really, want?” Except without the Spice Girls music.
To research his book, Cal traveled around the world interviewing organic farmers, venture capitalists, screenwriters, computer programmers, and others who derived great satisfaction from their work.
He discovered that it wasn’t “passion” that drives success. In fact, it was completely the opposite. The people who love what they do start by developing rare and valuable skills. This is hard at first, but they stick to it. Then they exchange these skills to obtain more control over their working lives and finally find a motivating mission for their career.
You don’t get good at your career because you’re passionate about it, you become passionate about your career after you become good at it.
In other words, skills are the key. That’s why I write about personal capital so much, because that’s essentially the best investment you can ever make.
I literally want to kill myself whenever I hear about people going for job interviews and proclaiming that they really want this job because they’re “passionate” about it. Give me a break. Nobody cares about how passionate you are, what they DO care about is what skills you have that will help the organization you’re applying to.
Making It Up
During the concert, Sam Tsui mentioned that they just started collaborating and putting their videos on YouTube. They had absolutely no idea what they were doing. They certainly didn’t have a grandiose plan for becoming YouTube celebrities.
They weren’t child prodigies and didn’t go to a fancy music college. Sam majored in classical Greek at Yale, and is proficient in C++. Kurt graduated magna cum laude with a major in mathematics. Yale, mathematics and C++. Those aren’t the kinds of things that are normally associated with people who planned to become pop stars from the age of 4.
They were simply making it up – honing their singing, composing and producing skills by repeatedly displaying their videos for the world to critique. They stuck to it and became amazingly good in the process. And that’s how they got to where they are today.
What Skills Do You Have?
Now it’s your turn. Think about what skills you can master so you can do what you love and have an awesome career ahead. If you want the world to adore you and companies to tempt you with fat paychecks, you first need to have actual skills that are both in high demand (in your desired industry) and slightly difficult to learn.
Teach yourself new skills with books, free online resources and hands-on experience. Wanna learn coding? Head to Code Academy. Wanna learn how to write great blogs? Copyblogger is a great resource. Wanna poke around a little bit more? Coursera gives you access to dozens of topics from universities all around the world. Don’t worry if you don’t have any “passion” yet – that’ll come later. Just focus on becoming good at what you do first.
Start today – leave me a comment below or send me an email telling me what skills you’re planning to develop. I’d love to hear from you 🙂