Review: Larry Smith’s No Fear, No Excuses – What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career

no fear

This review first ran in the May 9 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

No Fear, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career

By Larry Smith



There’s a binder in our basement that proves my wife picked the right career.

The binder is full of stories that my wife wrote back in elementary school.

She was a kid who loved to write and express opinions.

My wife took her passion and built a great career in journalism. While she’s collected a bookcase full of awards, my wife most values the notes and letters from the victims and families who’ve been given a voice through her stories.

So how about you?

Are you passionate about what you do for a living?

Or did you settle for a job that’s merely interesting?

“The grown-up world is where talent goes to die,” says Larry Smith, an adjunct associate professor and career counsellor at the University of Waterloo and author of No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career. Smith’s Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career TED Talk has been watched nearly five million times.

“The rules are clear: do what you are told and you get paid; work to live on the weekend and dread Monday; look forward to retirement and hope you do not end up dreading that as well; expect that pleasure or satisfaction in the work is an uncommon bonus.”

Smith challenges us to break those rules. Follow your passion and create a great career that delivers a lifetime of satisfying work, makes the world a better place, earns you a dependable and adequate income and brings personal freedom.

Passion makes us exceptional. “Passion brings an intensity of focus that effort, discipline and persistence cannot match,” says Smith. “With passion, you have the wind at your back.”

The absence of passion makes us replaceable cogs. We’re reduced to chasing and clinging to  a dwindling number of good jobs while competing against a crowd that has the same education, credentials, experience, skills and resume.

Pursuing your passion takes courage. It’s easier to make excuses.

We don’t want to make a fool of ourselves.

We can’t resist the pay and perks of today’s hot jobs and ignore how fast these jobs turn cold thanks to competition and technology.

We tell ourselves to soldier on and live for weekends and vacations.

We fool ourselves into believing that mastering a skill is more important than pursuing our passion.

We hold out hope that we’ll eventually learn to love our job.

We don’t want to disappoint our family and their white collar dreams.

We sacrifice our passion to be a great parent and partner and pretend that it’s impossible to also have a great career.

But Smith says our biggest fear should be failing to achieve the highest use of our talent.

Not sure what you’re most passionate about? Smith offers proven strategies for sorting through your interests, finding your passion and then custom-building a great career.

Along with freshly minted grads and mid-career professionals, Smith’s book should be required reading for parents. Every kid has a talent. What we tell our kids influences whether they pursue their passion or bury it.

“When your child is using his talent to its fullest, he is most likely to be both happy and successful,” says Smith.  Telling our kids to quit dreaming, be practical and have a back-up plan that pays the bills is lousy advice.

“Since we are protective of our children, why would we send them on a blood-sucking and soul-destroying path?”

We don’t have a binder of stories written by our daughter. Instead, we have photos of our daughter dancing. She’s been dancing for more than a decade. She doesn’t dance to win competitions and bring home giant trophies. She dances because it brings her joy.

For the last two years, our teenager has spent her entire Saturdays volunteering with her dance teacher. She’s never complained and we’ve never once had to drag out of bed .

Maybe our daughter will want to turn her passion into a career. If that’s her dream, my wife will speak from experience and tell her to go for it without fear or excuses.

That career and life advice will be the best gift we give our daughter.

@jayrobb has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and serves as director of Communications for Mohawk College.