Benjamin Todd: To Find Work You Love, Don’t Follow Your Passion at TEDxYouth@Tallinn (Transcript)

Benjamin Todd

Here is the full transcript of 80,000 Hours’ co-founder Benjamin Todd’s TEDx Talk presentation: To Find Work You Love, Don’t Follow Your Passion at TEDxYouth@Tallinn conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: To find work you love, don’t follow your passion by Benjamin Todd at TEDxYouth@Tallinn


When I graduated from University, I didn’t know what career I wanted to choose. I had a lot of interests, but which interest should I pursue and try and turn into a job?

So, back then, I was really interested in martial arts. Here is me. But I didn’t want to turn that into a career; here’s my face.

I was really interested in — and I was studying philosophy, but one of the philosophers I most enjoyed reading, late at night, in my dorm room, recently said: “Philosophy is a bunch of empty ideas”. And there’s no jobs in philosophy, anyway. So that was out.

Being a slightly weird kid, I was really interested in investing and finance, and I had even taken a portion of the small savings I had and invested them into gold when I was a teenager.

Now, I knew that following the finance root would be a really well-paid career, but I was wondering, like, maybe I wouldn’t make as much difference as I could in that, it wouldn’t help society. So in the end it wouldn’t really be that fulfilling.

So I was left with the question: How could I choose a fulfilling career? And maybe many of you have asked yourself the same question. And I thought about this question, I realized I didn’t even know how to go about choosing a career. And I, you know, read books, I went to careers advisors, I just couldn’t really find information I really needed: what would I be good at in the end? What skills should I learn now? Which areas is there a great social need where I can make a difference?

These unanswered questions led me to, kind of, delay the decision by a few years. Instead of actually settling on a career, I founded an organization dedicated to researching the question of which career to choose. And this organization is called 80,000 Hours. That’s the number of hours you have in your working life, that’s a long time. So, it’s worth really doing some serious research and trying to work out how best to use them.

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We help you do some of this research and we publish all of our findings as part of a free online careers guide, Here’s some of the team today, surrounded by laptops and whiteboards, as normal.

So, you might at this point be thinking to yourself: “Well, you hardly look like you’re above the legal age to drink, what could you tell me about choosing a career?” Well, it’s true that one of the main things we’ve discovered is that we have a lot to learn. Choosing a career is a complex problem and not enough serious research has been done into how best to do it.

But we have spent the last three years doing research with academics of University of Oxford and most importantly we’ve coached hundreds of people on how to make real career decisions. All this research and thinking has led us to the conclusion that careers advice today focuses on the wrong thing.

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