Great column today by Daniel Pink in the Sundays Telegraph on the difference between trying to identify your passion vs. pausing to think about what you actually do in your spare time. Here’s a section in which he talks about a woman named Gretchen Rubin, who lives in New York City. Pink writes,
After graduating from law school in the early 1990s, Rubin served as a law clerk for the US Supreme Court. This job is perhaps the sweetest plum in the American legal orchard. It practically guarantees a career of high-level positions in law firms and government.
But during her stint, Rubin’s eyes wandered away from the law.
“When I had free time, I never wanted to talk about cases or read law journals, the way my fellow clerks did. Instead, I spent hours reading, taking notes and writing my observations about the worldly passions—power, money, fame and sex,” Rubin says.
“Finally, I realised, ‘Hey, I’m writing a book.’ And it dawned on me that some people write books for a living. This project didn’t have to be my hobby; it could be my job.”
She wrote her first book—Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide—and soon she realised that she wasn’t a lawyer. She was a writer. Now she has four books to her name, including her latest, The Happiness Project.
Rubin might have felt an occasional bolt of passion while writing. But that didn’t offer much guidance. Instead, she took a step back and watched what she did.
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School can help facilitate this process. One of the best things we can do is to give kids autonomy in how they spend their time, including time in which they’re not required to do anything in particular.
As educators we can stand back and observe how they spend that time. Students will fill those unscheduled slots with activities that give them joy. (This is the part that many people have a hard time believing. They think kids are lazy and unless they’re told what to do, they’ll just sit around. It’s simply not true.) Then we don’t have to ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Instead, we can say things like, “I’ve noticed you’re spending a lot of time drawing superhero characters. Would you like to meet a professional illustrator?”
The way traditional schools are structured causes kids miss out on these opportunities. They spend their days sitting through required classes, then it’s home to decompress from the stress of school with video games or YouTube videos, then it’s homework time (interspersed more decompressing on Facebook).
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Emma Jones is the founder of Enterprise Nation, a London company that supports small businesses. She has discovered that people who notice what they do when nobody is watching them, or even paying them, often end up as entrepreneurs.