"My advice to all of you is, don't work for money — it will wear out fast, or you'll never make enough and you will never be happy, one or the other," Cook says. The tech titan spoke in Scotland on Wednesday after receiving an honorary degree from The University of Glasgow.
"You have to find the intersection of doing something you're passionate about and at the same time something that is in the service of other people," he says.
"I would argue that, if you don't find that intersection, you're not going to be very happy in life."
Cook is not advocating that students volunteer indefinitely. Rather, he recommends finding a paid job that aligns with your sense of purpose.
"There's a big difference between loving to work and loving the work. And there's a big difference between whether you fall in love with some work that is just for profits or revenues versus work that is in the service of others. And so I feel very strongly about that."
He has followed that advice, after all, and it has served him well. He loves his job and gets paid handsomely for it: In 2016, Cook made $8.75 million.
He acknowledges that: "I've been very fortunate to wind up with an incredible company where I'm very passionate about what we do and it also stands at the exact intersection of my values."
But not everybody is so fortunate. That's why, to some, the advice felt painfully naive. After all, grocery bills, student loans and other financial obligations can't wait for you to find a passion that pays.
Watch the full speech below. (Warning, the video is not of the highest quality.)
Despite the criticism the Apple CEO has received, Cook's advice to find a career path that piques your natural interest is widely regarded by many of the most accomplished individuals.
For example, billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have both attributed their success in life to being driven by their curiosity. And Shark Tank investor and entrepreneur Daymond John has also said that being passionate about your work is an essential element of success.