Jan 062016

This bit I’m embedding below is the first part in an interview that Isaac Asimov gave to Bill Moyers in 1988. He talks a bit about learning and education and how he’s taken those things on. In particular, he talks about how he has no training at all in astronomy and that all of his knowledge on the subject arose from his passion for learning and is all self taught. In contrast, he says, his formal training is in chemistry, but he thinks he knows too much about it and it doesn’t excite him anymore to learn about it. That’s an interesting concept to me. Is it possible to learn too much on a subject? Or, at least, learn so much on a subject that it loses it’s flair for the learner? I think he was on to something there. He goes on from there and talks about living life to it’s fullest, and enjoying life. This strikes me as a bit sad, considering that the interview was filmed just 4 years before his death. Here’s the video:

One other thing that strikes me is that it’s clear that Asimov truly gets enjoyment out of learning. I think that concept is lost on so many people. Not because they don’t like to learn, or enjoy to learn, but merely because they are trying to force themselves to learn something that they don’t have any interest or calling for. If people, instead, learned about things that they have an interest or calling for, I think there would be many more people who share Asimovs sentiment towards learning.

Feb 282011

I happened to catch a great article by Daniel Pink on finding what it is that you want to do.  Most interesting of the article, was this little tidbit:

So – with a voice that quavers in expectation and an inflection that italicises the final word – they ask us again, “What’s your passion?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I detest that question.

When someone poses it to me, my innards tighten. My vocabulary becomes a palette of aahs and ums. My chest wells with the urge to flee.

Oh my. The answer better be amazing – not some fumbling, feeble reply. But I know the responses I’ve formed in my head aren’t especially good. Worse, they’re probably not even accurate. And I’m not alone.

So, as the economy comes back, and people begin pondering new opportunities, maybe we can take a break from this daunting and distracting question and ask a far more productive, one: what do you do?

He goes on to tell the stories of a couple of people who merely went about doing what they do and turned it into a full time income generator.

That singular question, “What is your Passion?”, is something that’s been eating at me for some time.  Not because I dislike the question, but because I just don’t feel like I have a very good answer to it.  Like Daniel, I know the “responses I’ve formed in my head aren’t especially good.”  What’s more, I think we all have a terribly distorted view of what our passions should be.  Much like many other elements of our lives, our perception of what something is is distorted by the proliferation of the dramatized and romanticized versions of those elements.  True Love means instantly falling head over heals in love with someone the moment you first see them and never having any issues with them at all.  Doing what you’re passionate about is all roses.  There aren’t any bumps and bruises, and there certainly aren’t any times when you feel less than passionate about doing it.  Or so we have all been lead to believe.

The truth, however, is slightly muddier.  The things that we regularly (and haphazardly) refer to as “passions” sometimes aren’t all roses.  And, even while performing our “passions” we aren’t going to necessarily be happy all the time.  There are going to be bumps and bruises.  And by trying to find a “passion” or “passions” that don’t have any problems might be doing us more harm than good.  Instead of trying to find your “passions”, try doing as Daniel suggested:

So, next time you’re on either the giving or receiving end of advice, skip the hot and steamy passion and go for the calm and deeper love. Ask questions like:

What did you do last Saturday afternoon – for fun, for yourself?

What books do you read or blogs do you visit, not for work, but just because you’re interested in them?

What are you great at? What comes easily to you?

What would you do – or are you already doing – for free?

The answer to those questions is what you really are looking for.  Call it a passion if you like, but those things that you do in your free time, for no pay, are the things that truly interest you.  Define them, then pursue them.  And then, find a way to make your living from them.  That’s living with passion.  Most of all, stop trying to find the answer to “what’s your passion?” and start doing what you do.