I wanted to marry his daughter. So I took the brave step to schedule a day to introduce myself formally to her parents. I had prepared to be drilled with questions(almost like I had prepared the clothes I would wear days beforehand). I had rehearsed all the possible questions they would ask. I had all the backing answers to potential questions. I had even asked her for ‘tips’.

My then girlfriend’s father asked about my ambition. I was confident enough telling him about my career history and about my passion and how I was going to quit my job in the upcoming months to face my passion. It sounded bold and it sounded wise, me laying out all these ambitious plans. If I had a projector, I may have made a good presentation.

And then he stopped me cold, catching me by surprise. “You boys of nowadays. You should chase a living before chasing your passion”, he said and I paraphrase. “When you have money, you can chase your passion”. I went home thinking about this. In fact that entire year, I had that as one of my deepest reflections.

In his book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”, Cal Newport goes against what he calls the Passion Mindset and instead advocates for the Craftsman Mindset.

He writes, “Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you. When you focus only on what your work offers you, it makes you hyper-aware of what you don’t like about it, leading to chronic unhappiness. More serious, the deep questions driving the passion mindset “Who am I?” and “What do I truly love?” — are essentially impossible to confirm. “Is this who I really am?” and “Do I love this?” rarely reduce to clear yes-or-no responses. In other words, the passion mindset is almost guaranteed to keep you perpetually unhappy and confused.

A Passion Mindset focuses you on only the type of work you want, you forget other critical parts of learning- which includes doing work you don’t like. With a Craftsman Mindset, you are more focused on offering value which eventually leads to fulfillment. With a Passion Mindset, you are inclined in a different direction- find fulfillment and then people would realize your value. This works sometimes but are we not many who realize that it doesn’t work for everyone this way.

Is it possible to have the Passion Mindset and eventually be well crafted? I believe so. However, because passion dwells in the emotional range, you are more likely to not show up when you feel uninspired(and those days will come). Whereas with a Craftsman Mindset, your only job is to show up!

It’s been 3 months now that I have been learning an aspect of technology. It’s been very difficult. You only have to look into my daily to-dos to see the entry to learn every single day. No, I am not joking. Every single day! I must confess, there are days I am too weak to even attempt learning. There are days I tell myself it’s too hard and I just want to resign to mediocrity. I don’t know when I will eventually tell the world I am at expert level but one thing I know is that with each week, I am getting better and better- even by a bit.

I recently read a CNN interview with Steve Martin. He was asked about his strategy for learning how to play the banjo. He said, “I remember when I was going through a particularly difficult time of learning, I’d go, “Well, if I just stick with it, one day I’ll be saying, ‘I’ve been playing for 40 years.’ “

This singular statement got me so pumped up and allowed me to create personal strategies to nail the Craftsman Mindset.

Focus and Rely on Daily Habits

Instead of depending on feelings, inspiration, and passion rely on Daily Habits. This strategy has been invaluable to me thanks to a few lessons from Michael Hyatt. In the spirit of Craftsmanship, I created daily tasks out of what I’m being deliberate about learning. Slowly these tasks become a habit and the habit becomes a lifestyle.  I have learned that you have to be very purposeful about what you want to take out of your duties. Focusing makes the process easier. For instance, I worked a job where all I had to do was assign projects to teams, evaluate quality, talk to clients etc. I have always loved to work in the trenches- to get my hands dirty. But this time around that wasn’t in my role. What I did then was to focus a given time during the day to these administrative responsibilities while consciously learning how to engage clients more positively. You see, I am naturally not extroverted and would rather sit at my computer.

Source and list your motivation channels

If we agree that chasing your passion is good but motivation can be fleeting, you’d agree also that certain events trigger your inspiration. For me, it can be reading a good article, reading a book, watching a Youtube channel, the environment I get motivated the most. I carefully study these, making a note to recall these variables when I need them the most.  This is the reason why Vision Boards are useful.

But why is this important? Merging your passion and your craftsmanship can produce exceptional qualities.  I love to perform magic tricks. I am also good at creating very creative presentation templates. But I am ironically very shy. Being called to speak at a gathering used to be very daunting for me. Merging all the things I love with what I am not keen on makes me more optimistic and eager to speak at events. When the motivation is not there, I go to my list and pull them out.

Don’t forget the Fuck It List

I keep a Fuck It List. Once you stop pushing yourself through life, you’ll be amazed by how much more energy you have. Update your list as you go through life.

In the craftsman-passion dilemma, I am reminded to always remember to ask myself what I want to offer the world!