Follow Your Skills NOT Your Passion

With the ferocious debates over the forgiveness of student loans, it seems only fitting to ask “How are we getting into this mess, in the first place?” Though I do appreciate the idea of forgiving my debt due to my student loans, it seems our energy is misplaced. These debts did not magically appear. It came through poor guidance and being told to blindly follow one’s dream.

If you are a young man or young woman, these debates are probably far from helpful and only serves to create a sense of fear and uncertainty. Would you like some strategic tips to help you chart the right course for you? I’m proposing to share some ideas that is not limited to a college education. It’s a strategy that is helping me in my job as a content creator. You could also apply it to other areas.

I’ll use the idea of career path as it is a lot simpler and most relevant. It all begins with the quote from Mike Rowe. Mike Rowe does have a point and I’ll share my own understanding.

Here is what you’ll need to know about the man writing this article. Yes, I am 57 years old and do have serious disabilities. I’m visually impaired and hearing impaired. No, I am not going to do a “When I was 17” routine. That would be pushing it for today’s audience. Instead, I’m going to do a temporal displacement.

What if I had been 17 years old in today’s setting? I was already exposed to what a computer could do, for me. So, it is not a stretch to see that I’d want to make full use of it. I could easily hear my typing teacher saying “Keep your eyes on the screen; not the keyboard!” I can also see myself writing more freely and not worried about my handwriting.

Since I was a reader, it makes sense that I’d continue with this part of me. For me, books were a way to escape in to another time or place. With today’s audiobooks, I suspect that I would have dared to listen to classic literature. For some reasons, I prefer listening to such books more than actually reading the actual book.

Why am I sharing the above passions? I just described my passions or the things that I enjoy doing. With the Internet, I may have developed an interest in joining a sci-fi & fantasy book club because that is what I enjoyed reading. What about writing? Isn’t that a passion?

Writing is not a passion; rather it is a skill that one can cultivate over time. I could have used my old interests in videogames and I did enjoy playing these games. However, I would not call it, a passion. For me, it was just for fun. Though I did use videogames to escape the many emotional stresses that I experienced, I would not say that videogames are a passion of mine.

Are you confused? Passion is like a driving force behind your interest in either reading books or playing videogames. You can say the same thing about a variety of other things. Here’s the key. It is the degree of intentional effort or energy that you spend on that interest. Here’s a simple example.

I’ve a copy of Minecraft on my PC and I do enjoy playing it. Do you know when the last time that I played it? It’s over a month since I last played the game. Plus, I’ve no real interest in hopping into Reddit and talk about this game; never mind posting a video on YouTube. Obviously, it is not a passion or a driving force.

What about reading books? How can I know that it’s a passion? Have you seen my book reviews? Where do you suppose I gained the insights into Scripture and other topics? It came from a passion for reading and learning. Did you read the last paragraph? Did you notice that I’ve a desire to share what I learned?

How do you suppose that I’m sharing what I learned? Is it not though my writing skills or communication skills when I do my videos? There is just one thing, passion needs to be cultivated for it to help you, in the long run. However, you should never confuse your passions for what you are actually good at. Can I be good at something and not have a passion for it?

Yes, it is quite possible to have the skills for something and not have the passion for it. Yet, it is your skills that will land you into success; not your passion. In school, I am told that I definitely have the skills for writing and storytelling. However, I did not have the passion to write my stories. As a result, my writing skills suffered.

Do you know what helped in improving my writing skills? A day came, I felt a need to intentionally develop my writing skills and my passion for reading became a big help in that department. I felt a need to share what I discovered and my passion would provide some needed clues to what I should share.

At birth, God has given me a series of gifts and talents. It’s for me to decide how I’d use these talents. For me, I prefer to credit God and have a thankful heart for what I’m given. The same principle applies to you, as well. Each person is given talents or what they’re naturally good at. It’s up to the individual to decide how they’ll use that talent.

One thing is certain. I don’t want to be like the one servant in Matthew 25:14-30 and hide my talents in a hole. Though I may fumble the ball and fail, it’s better than doing nothing. Thankfully, I can trust the Holy Spirit to help me in learning the right way. Of course, I do have to listen and trust Jesus to direct me in the right way.

Though I was born with writing skills, I had to learn how to write and I’m not just talking about good grammar. Good writing requires that you communicate your idea or plot point in a written format. It’s a skill that take time to develop and reading books and blog posts can definitely help. It also helps to care about what you’re writing. Guess what is key in helping in that department?

It’s time to turn that mirror and have it pointed at you. Do you know what your skills or talents are? How does it relate to the idea of going to college? When I went to Stockton State College, now Stockton University, I was asked a simple question. What do I want to major in? There is just one problem. I really didn’t know what to say. I just wanted to work on the computer.

Yeah, I know that it’s a lame rationale given today’s reality. Even then, my fears were needless. My college’s computer labs were quite open to my using the PC for writing my papers. Here’s what I really needed to do, though.

I had to learn what my strengths and weaknesses are and my disabilities are not on that list. Where do they belong? You’ll find out! I begin by examining what I am good at and honestly recognizing what I am not good at.

Though I can do basic math, my math skill was weak and I’ve the headache of Advanced Algebra to prove it. Though I have a hunger to learn, hard science was not my friend. How I dreaded the general science class that I had to take! Do you want to know something? It’s okay that I didn’t do well in certain area.

You and I can’t be good at everything and it’s not the end of the world. I simply need to focus on my real strengths and not be afraid to take a risk on a weakness. Failure is not a bad thing. In some cases, failure can be the best thing to happen to you. For it may be that you’re doing something wrong and try a different way.

How did I learn what I am good at? It helped that I was given positive feedback from family and my teachers. It was my teachers who said, “You definitely have the skills for good writing. However, you need to work on your grammar and tightening up your stories.” They are right and I’m thankful for the constructive criticism given to me. Today, we’d call such words, a critique to distinguish it from a destructive criticism.

Do you know that you can ask God about your strengths and weakness? After all, God is the one who gave you those skills hidden inside of you. It will not hurt to ask Jesus about it. I honestly wished that I had done that, when I was young.

I did not forget about the role of passion. It’s in the next step. Write down your list of strengths, skills and talents. Create a second list and write down your passions. Yes, I am talking about your hobbies, and other areas of interests. I told you that I didn’t forget it.

I’d suggest getting in the next step. Here is what you are looking for. How are the two lists overlapping? Are there any common grounds? This step may require some research because the overlap may not be clear. Why did I say to ask for honest and objective feedback in this step?

It is because we are masters at deceiving ourselves into believing there’s a match when one does not exist! Yes, I am paraphrasing Jeremiah 17:9. Here’s a fun illustration involving certain videogames. Let’s say that I enjoy videogames related to driving cars and I’m visually impaired. Do you think it would be a good fit for me? I don’t think so!

At the age of 17, I did think that I could drive a car and it is possible that I’d use my skill in a videogame to justify such an idea. Thankfully, I outgrew that idea. As I already pointed out, we are quite good at deceiving ourselves. That is why it helps to have friends who will speak the truth in love.

Why did I say to see if your passion corresponds to your list of skills and proficiencies? Your passion will act as a driving force to help you in learning what it takes to be good at something. Remember, your passions will often follow your skills and not the other way around.

Here the next step and it’s where we can easily mess things up. This step has to do with marketability. Let’s say I have a passion for plants and the skills needed study botany. However, the demands for botanists are low and I’ve a plant-based allergy. I could insist on pursuing such a career; however, I would not anything to show for it; except a large student loan that will follow me.

It would be wiser to look for other alternatives to what I just describe. Perhaps, I could create a YouTube channel and focus on a specific area of botany or do the same thing with a blog. The point is, there are solutions however, it requires honest research. Did you notice that I chose botany? It is because there is an actual career attached to the study of botany.

Here’s the final tip. Don’t be fooled by the allure of a college education. It’s not the only way to get the needed training to pursue a career. I know some great people who have good paying jobs as mechanics, electricians, YouTubers, restaurant owners, construction, and so forth. Don’t be afraid to look into trade schools and other types of training.

I realize that I just gave you a possible overload of information and you’re likely looking for the nuggets in the midst of what I’ve written. Don’t be afraid to ask Jesus for wisdom in what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to seek God for direction in choosing the right career path for you. Unless it goes against the clear teachings of Scripture, it would best to ask the Holy Spirit for a direct revelation or a personal prophetic word.

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