Act or Adapt: The Head

There’s some repeated advice that’s wrong. You probably heard it in June and if not June, January. It’s advice that’s superficially wrong but deeply helpful. The advice is to follow your passion.

When I taught college students training to be teachers, they often came to me for advice on their career. I told them the same message in different flavors; assemble many skills. This was true most for students who wanted to be high school social studies teachers. It was the largest contingent of each college class but the smallest number of available jobs each year. It would be like if every great college athlete wanted to be a place kicker in the NFL.

So I told them to get training in reading, tutoring, and leading. Few heeded my advice because they thought about passion superficially. What passion really means is hard work. Instead of following our passion, we should be following our hard work.

Careers aren’t vacations. Careers have crappy days. That’s okay. Cops don’t like waking up at 4:30 in the morning but they like being cops. Football coaches don’t like sitting in a dark football film room but they like being football coaches. Actors don’t like take after take but they like being actors.

Passion is only one part of what’s in ‘the head’. There’s also our relationship to money, our ignorances and how we act on them, our career capital prospects, our ego and our curiosity. All of those things are controllable. The head is like navigating a high performance car, it goes where we say.

But ‘the head’ is in a building.