Passion versus skill

April 10, 2015 by Joshua
in Models

A reader asked

Have you ever worked with someone who found something they loved but weren’t good at? What did they do? Is it better to try to get better at something you love, or better to start loving something you’re good at?

Passions tend to be for challenging things. I don’t think of people having passions for eating ice cream and cookies. I think you have to put in a lot, overcome challenges, and sacrifice other things that are important but not as important for something to qualify as a passion.

So I’m inclined to think that everything that becomes a passion for everyone starts out as something they aren’t good at. Part of something becoming a passion is the work of developing the skill for it. I think one’s passion for something scales in proportion to the effort required to master it. Things easily mastered don’t challenge you enough to create passion.

For example, I have passions for entrepreneurship and teaching leadership. They take years to master and involve other people, who are as complex as I am. By contrast, I enjoy playing 2048, but I wouldn’t call it a passion. It’s not complex enough, just fun.

It may happen that someone puts in as much as they can, finds joy in the activity, but can’t reach the level they want. Like if I started playing basketball now, I would never reach the levels of competition I enjoyed when I played ultimate. Even if I played when I was younger I don’t know if I’d make the pros. Sometimes you can’t get out of an activity what you’d like. If so, you can choose to participate to the highest level you can anyway, however limited, or choose another activity. People play a lot of pickup basketball and there are a lot of fun leagues.

I see a lot of people giving up too early to reach their potential. Or not finding the joy to motivate them to get over the top to make something a passion. People make a lot of excuses, unable to handle the emotional challenges of not being able to overcome challenges, what many people call failure.

To answer your third question, I don’t think you can help starting with things you don’t yet love and that you aren’t good at. In that regard, I think everyone has to have some faith—that is, belief without evidence—that if they work hard enough they’ll find a payoff. Or confidence that if they don’t, they’ll be able to drop it and find passion elsewhere.

Does that answer your questions?

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