Since Steve Jobs died, his famous 2005 commencement speech has been tweeted, blogged, and written about extensively. It is, to be sure, a very inspiring speech. But Robin Hanson points out that the most prominently featured advice isn't actually very practical:
Now try to imagine a world where everyone actually tried to follow this advice. And notice that we have an awful lot of things that need doing which are unlikely to be anyone's dream job. So a few folks would be really happy, but most everyone else wouldn't stay long on any job, and most stuff would get done pretty badly. Not a pretty scenario.
OK, now imagine that only graduates from colleges like Stanford or better followed this advice. Since such folks have more fulfilling job options, a larger fraction of them would end up really happy. But we'd still have too much job turnover among our elites, with too much stuff done badly.
Now notice: doing what you love, and never settling until you find it, is a costly signal of your career prospects. Since following this advice tends to go better for really capable people, they pay a smaller price for following it. So endorsing this strategy in a way that makes you more likely to follow it is a way to signal your status.
I'm not sure that this captures what I found unsettling about the speech--and I did find it unsettling. I'm not sure that Jobs was trying to signal anything as much as he was offering very good advice . . . for Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs', um, job, is to tell graduates how they could be Steve Jobs. And if they are to have any chance, they do indeed need to follow their bliss and take risks rather than settling down to a degree in accounting.