I have the distinct privilege of talking with young adults on a regular basis about their passions. This can often lead to anxiety when it comes to the college application process, and I wish that I could show them the picture that I will take nine months from now of them sitting around with their classmates, each one wearing their new college t-shirt. They are happy and relaxed. Their parents are happy and relaxed- and proud. They come to understand that our mantra of finding the best college fit for kids is not simply rhetoric.
I thought of these moments when I recently read an article by Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown. He captures nicely the dilemma we face when we try to “follow our passions.” He sees this differently, commenting, “Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.”
I like his idea of not looking back or falling into the “grass is always greener” predicament. Instead he notes, “The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics. These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you’re good at what you do and are having an impact on the world.” He recommends hard work in order to become good at your work. The joy will follow. Now I just need to convince my anxious seniors of this.