This is such a powerful quote as it very nicely encapsulates the thesis of Cal Newport's excellent book So Good They Can't Ignore You, why skills trump passion in the quest for work you love. Cal Newport makes a compelling case for why the "Pre-Ordained Passion-Hypothesis", although it produces nice sound bites, is not only unhelpful but also can be harmful to individuals who incessantly search for their 'true passion' . Watching Lebron James dismantle the Boston Celtics in Game 7 last night, and talk about how his love for the game drove him through fatigue, pain and adversity to lead his team to his eighth straight NBA finals seems to perfectly illustrate the validity of the "Pre-Ordained Passion-Hypothesis." However as all NBA fans already know, Lebron is a true anomaly and the real unicorn in the NBA. Therefore trying to model your career trajectory after Lebron's is of suspect value. I am an unequivocal hoops junkie, who can watch and discuss hoops all day, but even I have the perspective that while basketball is a sport I am infatuated with, it is just a hobby. That is why major professional sports jobs are so incredibly difficult to land.
So what can the rest of us mere mortals who are not blessed with the requisite physical tools, nor have developed the skill to become a professional athlete/musician etc or turn a hobby into a highly lucrative career do? Develop the Craftsman's Mindset. I have talked about the Craftsman's Mindset in a previous blog post about why I quit social media (Read More Here), but I was compelled to expatiate on this concept because of the profound benefit it has had on improving my work flow and peace of mind. I conceptualize the Craftsman's Mindset as shifting your focus from what the world can give you (ex. a job that fulfills my passion) instead to what YOU can give to the world (ex. what rare and valuable skills can you develop and share with the world to earn a highly sought after job.)
This may seem quite esoteric so I am going to discuss how I am applying the Craftsman's Mindset right now and planning to apply it during my third year of clerkship at UBC Medical School. As I mentioned above I have recently quit social media (Read More Here), and a major reason why is because instead of being incessantly focused on getting more views and clicks on my YouTube videos or Blog Posts through social media primarily through "attentional collectivism" I am obsessively focusing on developing my writing and speaking skills. Further, during clerkship I am going to focus not on the experience I feel I am entitled too (I am entitled to nothing), but instead on how I can develop my knowledge base and practical skills to become the best physician I can be.
Applying this approach to my work has not only increased my effectiveness but has imbued my life with a sense of meaning and calm. Instead of worrying about the myriad of statistics to track the traffic going to my YouTube Channel or Blog I am instead focusing on one thing, the quality of what I produce. Similarly, during my clerkship instead of solely focusing on whether my preceptors or the patients I get the privilege to serve think highly of me, I am going to focus on continuously developing my skills as a physician. This approach to focus on what you control vs. what you can influence or simply live your life inside-out is eerily similarly to the principles Douglas Heel applies in his Be Activated system to optimize the physical function of the body. What I have learned is that the more we can shift our focus to our 'Zone 1 (aka ourselves)' and the actions we take the more effective we become. But this is definitely nothing new, Stephen Covey has been talking about this since 1989! Focus on excellence and joy will be the result of the process needed to cultivate greatness.
- Be so good they can't ignore you, aka adopt the craftsman's mindset with an obsessive focus on excellence and developing your skills.
- Focus on what you can control vs. what you can only influence, aka live inside out.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
I am a medical student who is obsessed with the Be Activated Muscle Activation Technique, mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive.