Passion and Curiosity. A Chicken and Egg Problem?

#Education #Curiosity #CNDInnovation

#tltr Curiosity is the main driver behind innovation, scientific discovery, and critical thinking. To foster a nation of innovator let’s instill it as early as possible in our youth and drop the mystical fandom surrounding passion.
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Passion takes on an almost legendary form these days. You hear it in the news, magazines, and books. Somewhat shrouded in mystery, it has been described as an elusive goal holding the key to your happiness. Often used interchangeably, or within the same soup of words, with terms like dream job and success. A distant cousin of something that you love. The mystical source of the success of all the people you look up to. While its definition feels impalpable at best, it seems everyone agrees on one thing: We should all have one.

But you don’t have one… Well that sucks…


It’s a perverse twist of language that the most common way you’ll find the word used these days seems to imply a sense of uniqueness. You’ll often hear:

  • Your passion”: singular and possessive. Apparently you’re meant to believe you only have one.
  • This seems to be in opposition to more traditional turn of phrase such as: “a passion for music” which implies plurality and a sense of sharedness.

So what is this passion really all about?

Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, suggests,

“The most successful people are obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball.” — Drew Houston

To increase your chances of happiness and success, he said, you must “find your tennis ball — the thing that pulls you.

It’s an inspiring thought aiming to focus our efforts into something we care about. Nothing wrong with that. Yet this popular view of passion appears to me as also divisive and a detrimental perspective to hold in anyone’s quest for purpose.

This can sound strange. After all, didn’t we just agree that passion is intrinsically linked with success, recognition, fame and all in between? The idea that passion can be detrimental does indeed appear laughable; I’m glad we agree.

What I’m arguing against is the position it holds in our everyday speech and collective fandom and the detrimental effect it has on a large portion of the population. What happens to those who don’t have one? Or on the contrary those who seem to have too many!

The pragmatist among you will have well-intentioned ready-made answers to these everyday calamities. “Focus”, “Just chose one”, “You’ll find your passion one day”, “Keep searching”. Easy rhetorics that do not hold any measure of compassion towards the complexity of each of our lives. Dismissive comments that do not address the yearning inside each of us for a sense of purpose and recognition. Maybe we can do better.

Passion is not a one-size fits all solution.

Rather than stick with an idealized view of individuals being already filled with a blinding sense of purpose, I would encourage anyone to unite behind a more universal sentiment. Something we can all freely share and that has driven innovation and scientific discovery since the dawn of time: Curiosity.

To keep in the spirit of Houston’s analogy, if passion is chasing a tennis ball, curiosity is a dog chasing cars.

“You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just… *do* things.” - The Joker

The key insight isn’t in the anarchist views of the joker, but rather in the liberating perspective of pursuing something simply because it is alluring to you. Simply because you’re drawn to it. Even if it’s only for a short period of time. To pursue as many and all interests that may tickle your fancy. To try new things, explore opportunities, discover your boundaries. And to do so for their own sake rather than a self-imposed (or forbid externally imposed) narrative of what success and happiness should be for you.

@MinisterISED To foster a nation of innovation, aim where it matters the most and that’s at the earliest stage of education. Doctor recommends a healthy dose of curiosity.