Some time ago there was a wonderful television advertisement that started with a close-up view of a very glum young boy. Gradually the camera panned out and we saw the young boy sitting on a bed, elbows on knees, wearing a white shirt, white shorts, white socks and over-sized cricket pads and gloves, holding a massive cricket bat. We then hear him say to the camera, “I don’t like cricket!” The camera then follows him as he stands up and walks out of the bedroom, out the front door and gets into a fancy car along with his family attending, we now assume, his sister’s wedding. As he gets into the car, the young boy’s face lights up and he says, “I don’t like cricket; I love it!” On seeing the boy sad at first, our assumption is that he is being forced to play cricket and wear all the necessary kit when he does not enjoy it; however, the end reveals that he is sad only because he has to attend his sister’s wedding but he loves cricket so much that he chooses to wear his cricket kit to the wedding!
by Tim Middleton
It is interesting that many years ago, the term “amateur” was seen as a compliment and the term “professional” was deemed a criticism, whereas today, it is the total opposite — if we describe someone as an amateur today we are saying they are not particularly good at something while the term “professional” suggests quality. However, the literal differentiation between the two is that an amateur does it out of love while a professional does it for money; interestingly, many professionals do not enjoy sport as much as amateurs because so much money depends on the results.
Following on from a previous article which considered curiosity in the light of Albert Einstein’s quote that, “I have no special talents. I am passionately curious”, it is worth turning the final phrase around and consider being curiously passionate. Denis Waitley, the author, famously urged people to “Chase your passion, not your pension”, to do what they love, as being a surer way to achieve happiness and fulfilment. Sir Ken Robinson, the celebrated educationist, was curious to find out what enabled people to succeed and so wrote a book about this, The Element, in which he discovered that the key element is when “natural talent meets personal passion”.
It is all about passion; passion is what gets people really moving. Passion is more than simply excitement, enthusiasm, conviction, belief and drive. It is an inner strength, courage, a stirring that moves us; it is our purpose, our commitment, our desire. It is what gets us up in the morning and it is what keeps us going through the dark night. Oprah Winfrey says that “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Tony Robbins, the life coach, may have been referring to Einstein when he said that “Passion is the genesis of genius” while Vincent Van Gogh exclaimed, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” Bishop TD Jakes put a slightly different emphasis on it when he said, “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.” In a similar vein, various people, ranging from Confucius to Marc Anthony and Mark Twain, have argued along the lines that “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Passion is crucial. We must allow, enable and encourage our youngsters to find that passion, to do what they love doing, if they are to do something with their life.
All these notable writers exhort us to pursue those things that excite us rather than doing things for money or for our pension (not least because our pension might be worthless when we come to draw it, as only Zimbabweans know). For our children, therefore, it is crucial that we help them find and develop that passion and not try to impose our passion on them. They must not chase their pension but they must not also chase their inheritance, in the sense that they must not pursue their parents’ dreams, ambitions, passions or ideas. Parents have a dreadful habit of trying to force their child into studying subjects that their child does not enjoy or even do well in, because the parents believe the subjects will bring about a better (meaning, in blunt terms, a higher-earning salary) career.
Passion is not passive; we must pass-it-on. If we want our children to do well, there must be a wedding of talent and passion at school. They must know it is fine to be an amateur. We must bring our youngsters to the point where they paraphrase the young boy above: “I don’t like school. I love it!”
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools and author of the book on “failure” called Failing to Win.