Photo by Bobby Johnson on Unsplash

Understand You Before Your “Passion”

Many people say that “college is a time to find your passion”, but a lot of times college students mistake this for “my passion will come to me” or “that perfect idea will be there one day”. Instead of finding their way through life, college students lose their internal compass and what makes themselves unique.

This is the driver for herd mentality, where a large portion of people look at each other on what to pursue. Chances are that they won’t really enjoy what others are doing because there are not any emotional connections or personal drivers to that specific goal. Many of these “goals” such as getting a job at a very prestigious firm or getting into that research lab become institutionalized. Many students’ decision-making criteria for a school is based on how good a program is. If the university has a good business program, a majority of kids say that they are gunning for the business school. This may not seem like too much of a problem, but when survey results point out that almost 80% of people hate their jobs, it is obvious that this is the starting point.

The mentality that “your passion will come to you” is one of the worst things that any student should think because it 1) leaves your future to external factors and not yourself 2) leaves many people unhappy because they don’t even understand themselves and lead dishonest lives and 3) causes individuals to dabble and not achieve mastery.

Let your passion be yours and not the ones of millions

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

This is so ingrained into a lot of high achieving students that even preaching how “failure leads to growth” leads to no change. High achieving students don’t push themselves outside their comfort zone and stick to what they are good at, which is school. The most that these lessons do is that they try out different activities inside school, but rarely do students go outside institutions. We show how the biggest leaders failed countless times before their success, but students still follow the herd in pursuit for “security”.

The truth is that the ones we always talk about never go on that traditional path. They never go by the book. If it was that easy, then everyone would be at their level. Obviously, there are people who are pursuing their interests, but then there are millions of people who hate what they study and work every day. They are miserable because they are forced to push themselves in a direction they don’t even want to go in.

Prior to my reflection, I thought about why I was working so hard. I was one of the hardest working people I knew. Yet, there were some people that were progressing way faster than me. It seems like my hard work left me spinning my wheels. I had set morning rituals everyday to optimize my productivity. I started taking freezing cold showers to boost my alertness. I ensured that I had every hour of my day completely planned out and structured. This gives off the perception that a person is getting a lot done, but a lot of times people don’t think about what they are doing. This creates a negative feedback loop that is hard to break out of. I was miserable most of high school and first year just because something didn’t feel right. I felt as if I was working hard, but not smart and not on what I actually wanted to. This is why it is important to figure out who you are before you figure out any of your passions.

Do you know who you are?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” — Aristotle

The easiest way to understand who you are is to do a lot of introspection. However, you need to introspect the right way and really be honest to yourself at your core. What really gets you going? And this shouldn’t be some watered down bullsh*t like “I just want to be happy”. Go deeper and really understand what your motivations are behind doing things.

Bing Chen, one of Youtube’s Global Head of Creator Development & Management, spoke about a way to reach this level of introspection. He said to think about the things you like doing. Literally all of them. Write every single one of those things down. Most people have anywhere from 70–100 things on this list. Once you have that list, make “bundles” of all the things that have similarities between them. For example, if you have a like that says “I like going to the movies with my friends” and another one that is like “I like going paintball with my friends”, the obvious bundle to create in this situation is that you like to hang out with friends. Once you have bundles created (should be around 20–40 depending on how many likes you started off with), then it is important to find reasons on why you like doing that bundle. With the friends example, why do you like hanging out with your friends? The reason to that is you like being social because you want to build emotional connections. Once you have one reason per bundle, the objective is to find reasons for those reasons. With our example, why do you want to build emotional connections? This is probably where people have different reasons for why they do certain things. You want to keep finding reasons until you can’t anymore or the same words keep appearing in your reasoning. With those words, you can create a mission statement for your life. This statement should be so ingrained in your values that it shouldn’t be changed for almost every 5–10 years.

Let the mission statement you create drive your decision-making and direction in life. True happiness comes when there is alignment with your actions, emotions, and thoughts.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

If you dabble, there will never be passion or mastery

Many people have the tendency to jump between new fads. This is known as “Shiny Object Syndrome”. The most recent big example is when the cryptocurrency bubble burst. Many people entered in the space when Bitcoin was at incredible prices and then took out their money when Bitcoin dropped below $10,000. Then they jump on the next hyped up thing without taking the time to develop themselves in a particular area. This is the mindset of the dabbler.

If you really want to be passionate about something, give things a shot. For example, I hear a lot of prospective Computer Science students saying, “I really like CS but I am not good at it, so I am going to choose something else to major in”. It is obvious that you will make a lot of mistakes in the beginning of any new venture you pursue, but giving up right away prevents any depth and potential for mastery. Do yourself a favor and give a timeline for big pursuits in life.

Stop with the excuses

There are so many excuses such as “What can a college student start now? There isn’t much you can do with little money,” or “wait until you have a stable job to start a business”. Both of these excuses and all the other ones are just mechanisms that justify our fear for going into the unknown. Whatever you may think of the academic system, students can get very comfortable with it by the time they are in high school or college. This is because they have been in this style since 5 years old. Very few people venture out and start something ground-breaking of their own.

There are always some students that figure this out very early and start pursuing their passion regardless of the circumstances. They are relentless in their pursuits and it motivates people around them just with their energy. Let this be you with your involvements. Let the energy come from your heart and not from those next to you.