Why Passion Isn't Enough

passion realistic skill

The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense. - Thomas Edison

hard workNo matter how determined you are in weightlifting or any sport, there are limits to your strength that are determined by your training. If you're a beginning lifter, it doesn't matter how badly you want it, you're not lifting 500lbs.

No matter how badly you want something or how hard you're willing to try, you can't get by on passion and verve alone. You must develop skills and account for your ability.

This should be clear to us, but sometimes it's not. We may think, "I can do it [right now]!" or, "I can't do it [now or ever]." The belief that you can accomplish some dream has two parts: a belief that you as you are now contain the potential for accomplishing anything, and the acknowledgement that doing so involves the process of growing and acquiring the skills necessary.

You must hold within your mind's eye both your present and your future in order to draw the connection between the two. One on its own isn't enough.

This might mean letting passion carry you through mistakes as you acquire the skills and experience necessary to succeed, but it might also mean tempering your passion to take some classes, gain some experience, and put in your hours before you tackle the dream itself.

Work Smart, Then Work Hard

Passion can provide the fuel for your efforts, but you must also keep in mind the importance of sober self-assessment and the value of taking the time to "work smart, not hard." Once you've figured out where your efforts will make the most impact, dive in.

It's great to believe in your capabilities, but do your due diligence to make sure those capabilities are actually up to the task.

It is vital to have a realistic grasp of what you can and cannot do so you don't lose hope when the latter proves extremely difficult. I've often caught myself working really hard at something, continually failing, and getting frustrated because I have all this passion and determination, but I'm still doing worse than those with neither passion nor determination. The problem is that I haven't learned how to succeed yet, I just really want to.

Work-Growth Balance

This is not an excuse to put things off! Research and preparation is a common excuse for inaction (one that I use a lot, despite my better judgement), and it must be accompanied by a willingness to test your skills eventually.

Most of the time, we over-prepare because we believe we can somehow avoid every risk. Since there is no substitute for real-world experience, however, this is a waste of time. At a certain point, we've acquired all the skills we can at the beginner level, and no matter how much additional preparation we make, we won't  acquire the actual skills needed for the next level until we take the first real steps (because some of those skills are what we call experience).

To write a book, you can spend years researching writing technique, practicing on short stories, and taking classes, but until you actually write your first novel, you won't become a master. And even then, you need to actually find ways to improve your skills, either through self-critique, classes, or a writing group. This requires a huge amount of humility, something that doesn't always mesh well with passion. Without that humble willingness to judge yourself by a real standard of quality, you're just an enthusiastic hopeful.

Photo credit: Mad Wraith on Flickr