Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
While doing a leadership training for MentorLink in Nairobi, I recently sat with two of the participants during a break. We chatted about a number of things. One of them turned to me and said: “I want to be as passionate as you are when I reach your age.”
To be honest, I really don’t think of being passionate. It’s not something that you try and be. It made me think on what has made me passionate. I touched on this recently in my post titled “Why”.
When my oldest son was growing up, he was passionate about geography and little else. It affected his education because, if a subject was not in his passion “zone”, he cared little and often didn’t pay attention. He was interested in cultures and geography, and nothing else mattered in his world.
As parents, we tried everything to broaden his interests or at least get him to realize that he needed to pay attention to subjects he didn’t care about. We tried the carrot and the stick approach – rewarding him for good behavior and punishing him for messing up.
Nothing really worked. I finally realized that until HE decided he wanted to excel, we were going nowhere.
That led to helping him go to a private school where we hoped that he would be challenged and motivated. It worked, albeit after a couple of setbacks. He became passionate about learning and finally achieved what we knew was in him. He retains his passion to this day, but it is buttressed by a much broader perspective.
My passion has always been to help others improve or excel at what they want to do. That hasn’t changed really over my life.
Having a passion is something innate to each individual. My passion might be an anathema to others and vice versa. It’s kind of like horse races: not everyone bets on the same horse.
I have spent much of my life on helping others tap into their passion.
For the Next Generation, studies show that they are passionate about making a difference in the world. But that is a broad stroke, and the question is: How are they actually going to accomplish that in a real sense?
Most commencement speakers commonly tell graduates to “find your passion”. It might not be the best advice.
A study by Stanford University suggests that telling someone to follow their passion may be detrimental because it might foreclose other experiences which might be influential. Thinking that a passion can be “found” can cause people to limit their pursuit of new fields.
My own son comes to mind as an example. He was laser-focused on his interests to the exclusion of everything else.
The author’s advice: instead of finding your passion, you should work on developing it. The authors suggest that if you find something interesting and “it could be an area that [you] could make a contribution in”, you should pursue it by investing in it, “taking time to explore, face challenges and ultimately make a commitment.”
The study used two groups, one called “techie” and the other “fuzzy”. The former was interested in STEM topics, and the latter in the arts and humanities. The groups read two articles, one that was related to tech, and the other one on humanities.
They found that the techie’s were closed to appreciating the fuzzy article. It was outside their interest span. The authors felt this attitude was a problem.
“Many advances in science and business happen when people bring different fields together, when people see novel connections between fields that maybe that hadn’t seen before.”
The Stanford study is important in a world where competition for a career is not just with humans but with Robots and AI. A myopic focus on your passion without opening yourself to other interests could spell disaster in the long run.
Interesting stuff. So, what is your passion? How did it occur and how did you develop it? Who helped you along the way and how did they do it? Those questions are on the mind of everyone in the next generation who are interested on making a difference in the world.
The next generation should not to be so focused on their passion as to exclude keeping up with developments in other fields that might impact them. This is where a mentor can aid them to see the difference between the forest and the trees.
The challenge is to help the next generation not only identify their passion, but to help them develop it. Sometimes that means walking beside them when they face unexpected setbacks and challenges. Everyone needs someone in their corner who can communicate to them that they are on the right track. That’s what a mentor does.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Being a mentor is a good way to help the next generation hone, develop and refine his or her passion into their reality.
FURTHER READING: Stanford Study on Developing Your Passion
WORSHIP: Listen to Passion sing Jesus only Jesus
MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.
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