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Getting Down to What You're Good At

Winnowing through my many useless interests to discover my life's passion.

Saw a quote on Twitter this morning that caught my eye:

"The man with 100 interests is twice as interesting as the man with 50, and four times as interesting as the man with 25."

As someone who has a number of interests (but few passions), there was something about that little line that made me smile. But it also made me shake my head. I'm learning that having a lot of interests isn't necessarily a good thing.

It comes down to a conversation that I've been having with my wife lately, a conversation spawned by a single question from her: What are you most passionate about? Which of your gifts mean the most to you?

I don't want to sound like an egotist, but there happen to be a lot of things that I do that fall somewhere between "pretty good" and "very good". Carpentry is not on that scale. Nor is plumbing. Nor simple math, geometry, checkbook balancing, financial planning, thinking more than five minutes ahead, putting my clothes away neatly, driving patiently, or understanding the apparent simplicity of female non-verbal communication.

Seems most of my gifts are patently useless. But at least I don't stink at them.

And there's the rub: when you have several things that you do fairly well, and genuinely enjoy doing each of them, how do you narrow the field in order to do at least some of them with excellence?

When you truly enjoy many things, how do you decide about which you are most passionate?

For me, I've had to put some thought into this. Develop some internal criteria. Create a value structure. Consider what, of all the things I like to do, I simply couldn't live without.

For instance, I love videography and movies. We even developed a videography ministry within my youth group, and we get together and create funny videos that we show on Wednesday nights. I love filming. I love editing even more. I love the rush that comes when a room full of teenagers laughs at our little productions.

But could I live without it?

Yeah. It's fun, but it's a process, and when you don't have a genuinely funny or inventive idea, it can be a little boring. So as much as I like movie-making, it's not something that I'm passionate about.

Or take music. I love music. I've written lyrics for countless songs, do my best to carry a semi-decent tune, and have often dreamt longingly of learning to play the guitar. But music isn't my passion; I'm not dying to try out for The Voice or American Idol. I don't have the drive that a true musician does - a drive that I see in my brother, who is constantly working to improve his guitar skills or expand his vocal range or hone the unbelievably awesome instrument that is his flawless tenor voice.

(And if you'd like to sample my brother's talents, you need only visit Graystone Church off Ozora Road on a Sunday; my brother sings with their band. His name is Ryan Brooks. Tell 'em I sent ya.)

Same thing goes for cooking. Or painting. Or writing poetry. Or photography. Or golf. Or working out. Or writing fiction.

I like them all. But I'm not passionate about them.

So as I've pondered Rachel's question, I've found myself coming again and again to the same two things: teaching/preaching and writing.

I like to teach. I like to preach. In some circles those things are one and the same, so that's why I counted them as one. But I dig the interaction of being in front of an audience of people and sharing with them, taking their questions and offering my own, responding to people who don't share my views, and just being able to see even one person have an "ah-ha!" moment. It's very gratifying, and it fulfills me deeply.

And it doesn't have to be in an audience setting. I feel the same way when I'm one-on-one with my children, or with a friend, or with one of my students. I love seeing the light bulb go off above people's heads, and I equally love it when they challenge and stretch my own thinking. (That's why I enjoy Grant's comments and musings so much; they challenge and stretch me.)

Writing falls into the same vein; there's something about being able to put words on a page/screen and know that those words resonate with your readers. (Or, in my case, reader. Hi, mom!)

Perhaps it's better boiled down to communicating. That's my passion. Sharing ideas, challenging ideas, shaping ideas - seeing people come alive when they use their imaginations for more than just idle daydreaming when bored at work. If I could spend the rest of my life just communcating with people - either in person or in print - then I think I would spend the rest of my life doing so. It's my passion. It's my gifting. At least, it is as I see it.

And I can't live without it.

So what about you? What in your life are you both good at and passionate about? What could you not live without?

Here's hoping you either know, or have the time to discover, the answer. And here's hoping even more that you have the courage to chase after it.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Melissa Steele March 29, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Great article! I think a lot of people are, and should be, pondering this subject. It's a world wide time of reflection, and that reflection is necessary for us to all live in a better future world.

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