As I mentioned in my post about becoming an independent teacher, I encourage my students to shape our lessons and choose topics and articles that are relevant and interesting to them.
One student this week chose an article that talked about the following advice – “Follow your passion!” The author had a rather negative view of this commonly given piece of advice and argued that passion is cultivated rather than something that is innate – (“‘FOLLOW YOUR PASSION’ IS CRAPPY ADVICE.“)
This led to a great in-class discussion and got me thinking about how I got into what I do now: ELT and web design & marketing. I am very passionate about both fields and love what I do.
But, six years ago, I had absolutely no interest in either. I had created a couple of free sites but found it unrewarding. As for teaching, I had no experience of this and expected to get back into marketing after completing my travels. If I had followed my passion back in 2007, I would have become a professional footballer (soccer player). The Premier League’s loss is my students’ and clients’ gain.
I started teaching more out of necessity (easy to find work; could live abroad with my American girlfriend) rather than anything else. I had considered it once or twice as a profession but kind of fell into it without really knowing what it was about. And, I also fell into web design because I created my website for my new teaching business and started to build websites for friends.
I had certain skills that I could transfer over to these two new worlds, and I am a perfectionist so I made sure that I got both right. But, I didn’t go into teaching and web design because I was following my passion; this came later. And what Cal Newport describes as cultivating a passion really resonates with my outlook on my two professions:
“…It requires you to approach your work like a craftsman. Honing your ability, and then leveraging your value, once good, to shape your working life toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you”.
I love thinking about myself as a craftsman, always improving, always following my own path. He goes on to differentiate between excitement and true passion:
“The sensation of excitement about a particular idea is often a different sensation than the type of deep passion that drives people into a fulfilling career. Excitement comes and goes. True passion arises after you’ve put in the long hours to really become a craftsman in your field and can then leverage this value to really have an impact, to gain autonomy and respect, to control your occupational destiny.”.
Have you followed your passion into ELT? Or has it been cultivated through becoming an ELT craftsman?