When Did Passion Become Mandatory?

The Case for Separation of Work & Love

Erik Devaney
20 min readJul 28, 2015

“Choose a job you love,” advised Confucius, “and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Oh, Confucius — your inspirational words are perfect fodder for office cubicle decor; perfect mantra for the self-improvement obsessed.

And while it’s easy to find oneself agreeing with Confucius’s wisdom — after all, who doesn’t want a job they love? — I think it’s important that we understand where this Confucius guy was coming from when he said those words some 2,000+ years ago. (Assuming he even said them at all.)

Here’s the abridged version:

  • Confucius was born into the shi class, a quasi-aristocratic, scholarly social class who were known for their study of ethics and philosophy. (Well-played, Confucius.)
  • Confucius believed that the duty of people in subordinate positions was to be unquestioningly loyal to people in superior positions. (Yes, this is according to the guy born into one of those superior positions.)
  • The adoption of Confucian thought — with its emphasis on loyalty to superiors — is one of the reasons why China is able to achieve labor at a lesser cost in comparison to other countries/cultures. (Source)



Erik Devaney

Full-time stay-at-home dad, part-time ghostwriter, retired pub musician, recovering marketer