Passion is a Paradox by@inovak
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Passion is a Paradox

by Ivan NovakAugust 21st, 2023
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Passion is not a prerequisite; ***it's a byproduct***. It's not bestowed upon a lucky few; it's available to anyone willing to embark on the journey of experience and expertise. As your competence grows, so does your confidence and, inevitably, your passion for the craft.
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There's a pervasive narrative that infects us.

It's one that's been fueled by countless commencement speeches, motivational posters, and well-intentioned advice:

Follow your passion and success will follow.

What if we've got it backwards?

Passion: The Starting Point or The Endpoint?

The notion that we should first find what we're passionate about and then pursue a career in that direction is tantalizing. It suggests that there exists, hidden within us, a pre-defined compass that will lead us to a fulfilling life if only we can decipher it. However, reality, like most things, is not so simple.

Rather than discovering passions fully formed, most people develop them over time. As Cal Newport's research suggests, passion tends to emerge as a byproduct of mastery and experience. That means, instead of waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration, we should be seeking out experiences and opportunities, investing in our skills, and cultivating expertise. Under this premise, passion is not the spark but the flame – the result of tending to our growth.

This is amazing! And, the most empowering realization we can come to is that passion is not a prerequisite; it's a byproduct. It's not bestowed upon a lucky few; it's available to anyone willing to embark on the journey of experience and expertise. And here's the best of it all: the control is in your hands.

Experience First: Why Mastery Fuels Passion

Consider the chronology. Before we fall deeply in love with something, we usually have to engage with it, understand its intricacies, and get better at it.

  • Discovery through Doing: It's in the act of doing that we unveil layers, nuances, and facets of a field that might have been invisible from the outside. This discovery, over time, nurtures a deeper connection and can gradually morph into passion.

  • The Joy of Competence: There’s an unmatched gratification in looking back and realizing how far you've come in a particular skill. As your competence grows, so does your confidence and, inevitably, your passion for the craft.

  • Seeing the Bigger Picture: The more you immerse yourself in a field, the more you recognize its potential impact. This larger understanding can be a significant catalyst for passion. When you see the ripple effect of your actions, it's hard not to fall in love with what you do.

The Proactive Approach to Passion

The passive narrative of "finding your passion" places the onus on external factors, suggesting that it's something that happens to you. In contrast, understanding that passion is cultivated puts the ball in your court. It empowers you to take charge, seek experiences, and be proactive in your professional journey.

This proactive approach doesn't just apply to the realm of careers. Think about personal relationships. While the initial spark is crucial, enduring partnerships are built on shared experiences, challenges faced together, and the deep understanding that comes with time.

The Beauty of Control

Understanding that passion is cultivated and not merely discovered is liberating. It means:

You’re Not Bound by Destiny: You aren't waiting for a mythical "calling" to reveal itself. Instead, you have the agency to explore, immerse, and eventually find passion in various fields.

Growth is in Your Hands: If passion is tied to mastery and expertise, then it's within reach of anyone willing to learn, adapt, and grow. Every challenge faced and skill acquired is a step closer to cultivating passion.

Freedom to Pivot: Realizing that passion can be cultivated means you're not chained to a singular destiny. If one path doesn't resonate, the freedom to pivot, learn anew, and cultivate passion elsewhere is always available.

The idea of being "self-taught" and pursuing something out of sheer interest does carry romantic appeal. It suggests a genuine curiosity and love for the craft. However, it's essential to understand that for many, passion isn't the reason they started but the reason they stayed.

Passion as a Journey, Not a Starting Point

In dismantling the "passion first" narrative, we open doors to countless possibilities. It's no longer about seeking that one thing you're meant to do, but about diving into experiences, mastering them, and letting passion emerge organically.

Embracing this perspective is not just empowering; it's also inclusive. It says that passion is not the realm of a chosen few but an attainable reality for anyone willing to put in the work. And in this journey, the grind, the learning curve, the perseverance... every effort, every challenge, and every small victory becomes a beautiful part of the process.

While the world may romanticize stories of those who "always knew," there's an even more inspiring narrative awaiting those who dare to carve their path, master their craft, and let passion find them.

It's not about finding passion… but building it.

Also published here.