Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Passion is cultivated, not followed


April 26, 2017

Some say you should work in an area that you are passionate about. Others say that’s a lot of landfill fodder.

When I was a teacher, I used to encourage students to pursue passions first. They were young enough to make changes if their passion went south.

Even if their passion fizzled, I reasoned, they would have the experience of giving it their all.

They would know what dedication feels like and find ways to bring it to whatever came next.

I’m doubting the wisdom of that advice, however.

Following a passion doesn’t seem to work for many people.

An article on the career website 80,000 Hours included a graph with two bars. One was tall and showed that 90 percent of college students were passionate about sports, the arts and music. The other bar, barely a line above the chart’s baseline, showed less than 5 percent of jobs are in these areas.

Sadly, passions and talent often don’t match.

Tone-deaf people will never be musicians. Men who are 5-feet, 3-inches tall aren’t likely to play pro basketball.

Too often, people get passionate about things that are both enjoyable and easy.

Most work, however, is neither at first.

Mike Rowe, once an opera singer and now the narrator of “Dirty Jobs,” a show about work that many find repulsive, advises career-seekers to be practical first.

The happiest people he knows, he says, “didn’t set out to realize their dream. They looked around for an opportunity. They identified the opportunity. They exploited the opportunity. They worked at the opportunity. Then they got good at the opportunity. Then they figured out how to love it.”

Cal Newport, a computer science professor who has studied the elements of success, says passion is something you cultivate, not something you follow.

“This is a longer process,” he said, “but it’s way more likely to pay dividends. It requires (honing) your ability, and then leveraging your value, once good, to shape your working life.”

Dedicating all efforts to a single passion, others say, limits your options. You miss opportunities you refuse to see.

I think they’re right. Passion has to be earned.

Ultimately, Rowe gave this advice: “Find something you’re good at, or find something that needs to be done. And do it well.”

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: [email protected]


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