I wanted to share this article I read recently on Huffington Post. In it, Cal Newport gives voice to a thought that has been nagging at me for a while.
I’ve heard others, over the years, give the career advice of “follow your passion and your dreams will come true”. It always rings hollow for me because while it sounds lofty, it’s more thin air than anything else. Many of my peers didn’t “follow” anything. They were intrigued by various interests and pursued them, often doggedly. Those pursuits revealed truths (i.e. I’m good at some things, not so good at others, and very poor at many things). That experimentation gave me some insight as to what I wanted to be, but I didn’t become truly passionate about it until I had been immersed in the field for a number of years and had learned more about it and, perhaps more importantly, what I could contribute to it.
My initial curiosity led to exploration, which created opportunity, which led to deeper knowledge and greater connection, which then revealed passion. That was/is my journey and it seems to be somewhat similar for many of my peers.
Perhaps its the term “follow”. Many of the most successful people I know pursued, cajoled, convinced, poked, prodded, inquired, hunted, persisted, persevered, and went after their careers. Rarely, if ever, did they follow. More likely, though, it’s that the advice doesn’t go far enough. For some, “follow your passion and your dreams will come true” is absolutely accurate. For many, perhaps even most, it is not. I talk to too many students whose goal is “to be famous”. The don’t know WHY; and they certainly have no idea how much work it takes to make that happen. They also don’t want to hear that quite often despite hard work and diligence, “fame” still eludes them. Being famous is clearly not a goal, but that’s also not something much of our youth wants to hear, either
I strongly believe that those who have reached a level of success in their fields have an obligation to give back, and to provide advice & insight to the next generation of artists (or workers) in their field. While we want to inspire dreams, we also must provide actionable, concrete advice in order for the next gen to be successful.