Monday, 10 February 2014

One doesn't discover one's passions. One develops them.

Heard a great piece on a podcast with Cal Newport who advocates strategic planning when it comes to your career. Passion for your work is to be developed, not discovered like a hidden treasure. 

He argues that many people who end up being very happy and fulfilled in their career don't seem to follow their passion. Rather, they rationally look at what is valuable in the marketplace and consider if there is an overlap between their current skill set and the thing the marketplace values. Then they work hard to become very good in this skill set. Becoming highly competent in what you do maximizes your personal feelings of autonomy, impact and connection to people, which, according to Newport, are the key ingredients in personal fulfillment.

The initial choice of job isn't that important. What is important that you match your current skill set to a position that maximizes autonomy, impact and connection to others. 

These are the traits that lead people to develop deep passion for their work. None of those traits are tied to a specific career, though. They are quite general. There is no "job you're meant to do". The goal is to figure out from the point you are NOW, what's the quickest path to a position where you have autonomy, competency, impact and connection. 

Go listen to the podcast to get the full picture (19 minutes).

Personally, I would suggest to temper this concept slightly and also include the idea of something of a higher purpose. If you have developed competency in toothpaste marketing and have plenty of autonomy and impact and get on with your colleagues and still are unfulfilled because you think that toothpaste is too banal to hang your career on it, I do think that it's worth examining the question of "what am I actually passionate about?" and then redirect the line of work to the identified passion, all the while capitalizing on the skills learned so far. So, on the whole, I do agree with the Newport concept, but do think that inherent passion can serve as a corrective when several alternatives are available. 

And finally, I find it an interesting idea to translate the idea of "don't DISCOVER, rather DEVELOP your passion" to the idea of personal romantic relationships. Many people whose marriages started on a rather rational note say that over time, their love for each other grew with the passing years. Possibly, because they learned to give each other enough space (autonomy), got to know them very well (competency), became indispensable for each other (impact) and ultimately fell in love (connection). 


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