Several weeks ago, a friend referred me to a TED Talk video with Larry Smith, titled. “Why you will fail to have a great career.” A blunt, funny, and all too true talk, worth checking out. There is a brief section where he discusses the difference between passion and interest. He proposes, “You need 20 interests, and then one of them, one of them might grab you, one of them might engage you more than anything else, and then you may have found your greatest love in comparison to all the other things that interest you, and that’s what passion is.”
This caused me to wonder; did I have enough interests in my life, and was I encouraging my kids to pursue theirs?
A leadership mentor of mine once told me, “Generalists don’t make money,” something we both learned in our late 30’s. The trick is knowing when to specialize and when to gather inputs. I’ve decided a life well lived regularly alternates study time between the two.
In early September, I convened my kids and set a family goal that each of us would have at least 20 interests. As expected, they groaned, and after waving off “another one of Dad’s ideas” it took root.
Recently, I revisited the topic and over dinner. We took turns reciting our 20 interests, five at a time. Hearing them vocalized made it easy to identify overlap and a network of common interests between us. Equally exciting were the things unique to each of us individually. No one struggled to list their attractions, and eyes lit up when someone touched on the things that were exceptionally meaningful. We gave life to our interests; they no longer resided passively in our heads, and it was invigorating.
The goal in pursuing 20 interests is to explore the world around us and collect a diversity of thought before making our own judgements. Those things that spark imagination and quicken our pulse, are the clues to future specialization. This has also helped to minimize teenage boredom and adult malaise. Proclamations of, “I’m bored” are met with incredulity. “How can you possibly be bored? You have 20 different interest to pursue. Pick one and go, learn.”
Can you give yourself permission to list and declare 20 interests, or are you too busy? Are you at least busy with something that interests you?
I encourage you to list your 20 interests, and then, look them over. Some will pop and be easily identified as a passion of yours. Some are likely to be new, and some have been with you since you were a child. Pick three; a strong one, a new one, and an old one. There are your objectives for next month. What actions will you take to pursue each one of those interests?
If you don’t want to use a blank sheet of paper, you can download a one-page 20 Interests worksheet here.
Karl Bimshas is an Executive Accountability Partner, who helps new leaders and leaders in transition to meet their great goals. He is the author of “How to Stay When You Want to Quit;Strategies to get over yourself“.