Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Passion and Perseverance Predict Success

Two authors I admire bounced off The Winning Edge in a recent issue of Psychology Today:They've both captured the main points better than I could have, but I also wanted to keep a quote to remind myself to come back and re-read this one later. We often think about our passion as something we're waiting to discover, or worse yet, hoping that it will discover us...but I think there's more truth in this:
"Although extremely persistent people are usually passionate about their work, that doesn't mean that the passion always comes first. Perseverance, notes Duckworth, can itself foster passion. Often the most fascinating aspects of a topic (particularly a highly complex one) become apparent only after deep immersion, to a level 'where you understand it and are enlivened by it.'"
Doug often talks about the importance of doing...doing something, anything that interests you. Having goals is great, but their primary value is in inciting directional action...getting you doing stuff that will lead to other interesting stuff. This is certainly part of what I got out of Paul Graham's undelivered commencement speech -- find interesting problems and projects and actually work on them, regardless of how "real life" may intrude. He also recommends finding difficult problems and questions to pursue, which reminds me of one of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's conditions for flow (total engagement in an activity) -- a level of challenge sufficient to stretch (but not way exceed) your skills. If I remember correctly, he studied high school students who achieved the flow state in subjects like math that they didn't enjoy, but the challenge helped them engage.

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