Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Passion A New Theory?

In my article last Friday I referenced a post by Scott Young regarding the pursuit of multiple passions. In response to the article Cal Newport wrote an interesting piece on what he believes passion truly is.

Cal contends that passion is the feeling that arises from having mastered a skill that earns you recognition and rewards. And therefore a passion is not discovered, but it is in fact cultivated.

Brief Overview
It’s an interesting theory that on a surface level makes sense. I can recall going through school and how much I loved it in the early years. It was extremely easy and through minimal effort I received high scores and recognition in every subject. As I reached junior high certain subjects not based on logic (Spanish, Geography, etc.) proved difficult because the information couldn’t be figured out without studying. Science and math stayed easy through early highschool. I remember sleeping in Algebra class and only waking up to ace the tests. At the behest of my teacher I was asked to attend the district math competition and discovered several days later I won second place. I didn’t care and never claimed the medal or the certificate. As I took more difficult math classes the material was harder than my innate intelligence. I didn’t put in any effort to learn the material and got mediocre grades. At this point school work was no longer fun, I had lost my “passion” for school.

We all have things that we do well, but mastery requires us to apply ourselves to a vocation. How does this theory apply in the professional world? Passion is not something that strikes us like lightning and all of a sudden we are there ready to do great things. Rather passion is something that is nurtured through repeated effort and realized once we achieve a high level of skill. Find something that you occasionally enjoy doing and develop a skillset and level of mastery that allows you to achieve the life you wanted. If you are the very best X in the world do you think you could set your own hours?

In application
So for me personally that means to spend time developing something I enjoy. I’ve realize that I truly enjoy leadership. At my current job running projects, overseeing/motivating people, explaining concepts, and recruiting are my favorite activities. What I don’t do is develop my talent outside of a work environment. So let’s say my goal is as follows: to be an effective leader that motivates and improves the lives of others while providing an invaluable asset to my company. I can now identify daily steps I should take to develop mastery.

As part of my goal I plan on devoting at least an hour a day to focused mastery. This can be through an increased participation in organizations, encouragement, or increasing my knowledge base. The options go on and on. The point is that I should do SOMETHING. Additionally, I must view my job as a place to cultivate the knowledge necessary to master information that develops me professionally as an asset. I’m reminded of a great quote (unfortunately did not record the source):

Today, you have the opportunity to change everything. Your whole live hinges on today’s actions. If you do not act today, if you do not grab control of your fate today, your life will take a completely different trajectory. One path leads to greatness, and the other path leads to a life where you will look back on today as the day where you could have spoken up, today is the day where you could have reached out. You will look back realizing that today was the one chance you had to change everything. Do not let this moment pass you by.

Where do your natural abilities lie? What can you master if you set your mind to it? It’s time to put in the work, today.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving!

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