I can’t say I’ve had very many “deep” thoughts this summer. Recuperating from Semester at Sea and working three clients and studying the prior fall has rendered my desire to exert effort in pondering anything pretty close to nil. But recently I was leading a seminar session about career goals, and one of the attendees asked if you should follow your talent or your passion. This question has stuck with me for the last few weeks. I’m not pondering a career change personally, but it got me to thinking about hobbies, weaknesses, strengths and how we spend our time and money.
What are you passionate about? What are you talented at? What are your hobbies/activies that you spend your time/money on?
I think I am good at what I do, very good in fact, but I don’t possess the ego to believe that someone else out there can’t (and indeed probably is) doing what I do professionally, better. The fact that I have a passion for the intersection of business and education, the belief that I have a talent for interpersonal communication and motivation lead me to believe that it takes little effort for me to be very good at what I do, but someone who lacked those things could probably do them just as well with a lot more dedicated focus or energy.
I’m passionate about cooking for example, but I wouldn’t consider myself talented in that arena AT ALL. And I believe I’m a pretty good cook. I possess a talent for writing (perhaps a minor one, but you get the idea) but I don’t have a passion for writing in the way that someone driven to write a book or who dedicates a career to producing original fiction does. At the same time, I seriously believe that if I wanted to/set the goal to write a book/novel, that I could do it. And again, because I don’t have an ego about this sort of thing, I fully believe that you could too.
I believe what separates the very good/great from the merely good, is simply effort. I don’t put 110% into everything, or even most things now that I’m old enough to calculate (albeit subjective) return on investment of my time/money. But I quite simply belive that: There are thousands smarter than you, hundreds prettier than you, dozens upon dozens with more resources than you, but nobody can outwork you if it is something you really want.
In this way, passion vs. talent isn’t really the question, it is what is the role of effort in achieving greatness? I think most people haven’t figured out what they are passionate about and what they are talented at. And yes I believe you can be both passionate about and talented at the same thing: Tiger Woods (golf); Steve Jobs (technology); Alan Greenspan (Finance); Will Smith (entertainment); and the list goes on when you throw in the countless educators, lawyers, doctors, etc. I also believe that just as you can be passionate and low on talent (me and cooking), you can be talented and low performing, i.e. those with talent still have to practice their craft relentlessly in order to perform at a high level and not lose their ability. Thus, it really is effort that makes the difference between good and great.