It was late in the night, his lips were sore and sleep hung heavy on his eyelids. There wasn’t anybody in sight and why should there be? In the wee hours of the morning, the studio was deserted. The clock ticked as he put the trumpet back to his lips and began playing, for what seemed the umpteenth time – his jazz standards. As he played, his face cringed in desire and what echoed from the sonorous shaft of his trumpet was pure passion.
The man I’m talking about is one of the most avant garde and revered Jazz musicians of his time – Chet Baker. Baker had no formal musical education and couldn’t read music. It was his unrelenting passion for jazz that earned him his stalwart status.
Most of us aren’t born with unrelenting passion towards the things around us. Some are lucky to be exposed to their destinies early on in their lives, but for the rest of us, we need to go through the motions of everyday life and explore the world around us to discover what we are truly passionate about. University is a great time to figure out what your passion is, or at least eliminate some of the possibilities from the list.
“Passions evolve over time”
Passions are born out of experiences. It’s almost impossible to be passionate about something without having done it first. University can provide you with a plethora of activities to explore your different areas of interest. Whether it’s the varsity Jazz band or swimming team or the entrepreneurship club, there are so many ways to find what you are passionate about.
It’s also a great time to understand what you are not passionate about at little to no risk. You could try breakdancing and intensely dislike it and then move onto something else. Explore as many avenues as you can and you will find your passion. Internships are also a great way to understand what you like.
I was interested in the financial services industry and did my first internship with one of the big four audit firms. I gained a lot from the experience – a better network, exposure to corporate culture, some basic financial abilities. However, most importantly, I understood it was not something I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I kept looking for my passion and as time went by, I found more things I didn’t want to do. Although I didn’t directly bring me towards my passion, it brought me closer to the general direction.
“Focusing on an unified area of interest will lead you towards your passion”
I enjoy helping people and enabling them. I also enjoy being a maven of information or a knowledge broker. Writing is one of my ways I try to share my learnings with others. Writing has fast emerged as one of my passions. For instance, you might be interested in helping others and may start volunteering with NGOs and social enterprises. These experiences might lead you towards building your own social enterprise. Planning events part – time for fun and profit may lead you towards a great career in event management. One of my friends started organizing events part – time such as small shows for local bands and slowly progressed onto the NUS arts festival and the ExxonMobil Campus Concerts. It’s been five years since then and he now manages logistics for leading musical festivals in Singapore such as the F1 weekend and Singapore Social. He was a computing graduate who was honest with himself and decided he enjoyed organizing events more than anything else.
Although your passion might encircle a general area rather than a specific activity, it’s alright. You probably enjoy doing various things, try to unify them with a theme. You don’t have to burden yourself with absoluteness early on. Learn, discover and evolve your passions and looking back, it will make sense if you’ve been honest with yourself.
“Do something long enough to become passionate about it (or tired of it)”
Most areas of interest require a substantial time investment before you can start enjoying it and becoming passionate about it. Give yourself enough time to gain sufficient mastery over something. Only then will it start to delight you and invoke a latent passion. If it’s something you end up disliking, you can always try something else. I spent the first two years of university disliking programming and the new subjects I was learning. However, during summer I was referred by a friend for an internship at a technology startup.
I was apprehensive about the role at first, unsure about how I would perform and whether I would like it. I loved that summer. Although I wrote a lot of code over the summer, I was meeting immediate business needs and learning valuable practical skills on the job. I came to realise that I enjoyed building real – world products considerably more than solving exercises in an academic setting. The familiar, friendly environment and productive buzz of a young company was extremely conducive.
I still don’t know about whether I’m passionate about writing software. It has emerged as one of the things I enjoy doing the most. However, the more time I invest in it and learn from my mistakes, I come closer to being passionate about it. As Malcolm Gladwell said, even the greatest scientists, musicians and artists of their time spent at least 10,000 hours honing their craft before they experienced phases of prolific creation. As Ludwig Van Beethoven said,
“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.”
and most of all remember,
“Passion can be created”
Don’t chide yourself for not having a passion because you’ve only considered things other passionate people have succeeded in. Try out new things, get better at them, love them and then set the trend. If you can’t find your passion, try creating it. You’ll be surprised at what you find.