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Monday, July 14, 2014

Passionate Losers?

“‘Do What You Love’ is Horrible Advice!” That headline certainly caught my attention. Thank you, clever headline writer.

It is an interesting article, albeit one where there is room for disagreement. I make my own assertions at risk, since the author of this article is a Georgetown University professor (Cal Newport). Hopefully he likes HIS work.

So here is a piece of his thinking about doing what you love: “That advice has probably resulted in more failed businesses than all the recessions combined... because that’s not how the vast majority of people end up owning successful businesses.” He argues that following your passion has it wrong — “Passion is not something you follow,” adding that passion follows those who work hard and provide some value to the world.

Professor Newport correctly cautions people that it is easy to confuse a hobby or interest for a profound passion. In more recent decades, much has been written encouraging people to pursue what they most want to do. Reality is that this is sometimes true, but not always. And the hobby piece certainly fits in the discussion.

Here’s the way I see it. Part of the beauty of God’s creation of humans is that He has gifted each of us. All people have talents, interests, and abilities in which that giftedness connects. Some have more. Some have fewer.

As a young boy, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Only one thing kept me from that career: talent. Doing what I loved worked well until curve balls and better fielders and hitters got in my way. But the door was still open—to coach kids and to play in softball leagues as an adult. Which I did. Forget my “career calling” as a Chicago Cub.

It took me until about the age of 40 to determine that of the several things I enjoyed doing—and was capable of doing well—being on the radio was my “bullseye.” Since then, I have aggressively pursued my career calling. I have put those two words together for a reason.

Professor Newport breaks down work into three categories. There’s a job: that pays the bills. A career: which is a path toward increasingly better work. Thirdly, Newport views calling as work that is an important part of your life and vital part of your identity. But I believe your greatest satisfaction comes when your career matures in a field where you sense it is also your calling.

There is truth to the point that what we pursue should be of value to others. And there is truth to realizing that enjoying work at the expense of not paying the bills lacks wisdom. But for most people there is a happy medium that can provide a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction in our daily work.

So what about this advice? 

“I have seen what is best for people here on earth. They should eat and drink and enjoy their work, because the life God has given them on earth is short. God gives some people the ability to enjoy the wealth and property he gives them, as well as the ability to accept their state in life and enjoy their work. They do not worry about how short life is, because God keeps them busy with what they love to do.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NCV)

This wisdom from Solomon does not pan out perfectly for all. But his reasoning on this matter followed a lifetime of people research. Probably more than our friend Cal.

I’m pretty sure it’s time for some passion fruit.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

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