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June 11, 2011

Do what you love?

Love what you doMany people, myself included, tell others: "Do what you love."

I've always thought this was good advice. It seems to work for me.

Yet a guy named Cal Newport make a pretty good case for turning that bit of wisdom around:

"Love what you do."

Newport writes a blog called Study Hacks that lists articles with near-irresistable titles like Want to Get Into Harvard? Spend More Time Staring at the Clouds and How to Get into Stanford with B's on Your Transcript. He flatly declares that "follow your passion" is bad advice. For his full argument, read Beyond Passion: The Science of Loving What You Do

As I understand it, and I admit I'm still trying to grasp Newport's viewpoint, is that you must first master a skill, then use this to do work that gives you three things:

If you have these three things you will be happy, so the argument goes.

[Graphic above by designer/writer/teacher Frank Chimero, whose blog is also worth reading.]


An important section in the article refutes the common view that monetary rewards are the best way to motivate people. So while no one would turn down more money in their paycheck, it's not the best way to get them to perform well in creative fields.

Daniel Pink's TED talk on the science of motivation explains this in detail. It'll have you questioning the conventional wisdom on this topic.

Where does that leave us?

Wish I had an answer to that question. There's a connection to be made with how we teach people, and I've been giving that a lot of thought.

There's another connection to be made with video/computer games and their ability to draw people into virtual worlds. If we could get students to focus their attention and energy on learning traditional subject in the same way they learn World of Warcraft we'd certainly transform education.

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