Monday, November 11, 2013

Don't Follow Your Passion, Bring It With You

I've been struggling lately with Big Picture Development Questions.  Like: Am I effective? Is this project even making a difference? And even the more day to day struggles like: Does anybody even care?

I think it comes with the territory when face with complicated approaches that may or may not be working in a culture that you don't really understand. I like to think that I'm good with ambiguity, but a few things have let me down lately where it makes me really doubt if what I'm doing I will stand on its own if I wasn't around to push it forward. These things are small - inconsequential, really - holding Monday morning staff meetings, regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance, getting the generator fixed - but they need doing. I'm getting ready to head on vacation for a month at the holiday season, and I'm seriously doubting that anything will continue when I'm out.

I've seen this before, I've had the conversations with other, wizened, cynical Development workers and let me be clear - I hate feeling this way. What's even more frustrating is that I don't think I've been here long enough to feel this cynical. And really, nothing terrible has happened. I just...for whatever reason, feel kind of blah.

Because I'm conducting an experiment to see how long I can go without television (my sea shipment hasn't arrived yet), I've been doing a lot more reading, a lot of more writing and a lot more navel gazing. I came across this recent TED radio hour about Success (published Nov 1). Mike Roe, the host of Dirty Jobs was interviewed for part of it. He mentioned something that struck a chord with me.

"Follow your passion, that's probably the worst advice I ever got," he said. The idea that passion makes a great career choices is a misnomer. What is more appropriate is finding the job, and Digging In. Don't follow your passion, Bring it With You.  It struck because I realized that as of late, I'd lost my passion for development work. I'm not really energized by any of the daily conundrums put before me (granted, recently they've been more along the variety of how to get a trash bin in the ladies bathroom...not particularly stimulating..)

The same TED radio hour highlighted a school teacher, Angela Duckworth, tenured professor at Penn. She recently got a Macarthur Genius grant to study why some students are more successful than others. What she found was that it wasn't the smartest kids that did the best. It was those who had the most Grit. According to Ms. Duckworth, Grit is the disposition to pursue very long term goals with stamina. Grit is living life like it's a marathon.

Grit. Grit is the voice in your head that says - this is hard, but I'm going to do it anyway.Grit is continuing to smile even when the electrician lies TO YOUR FACE that he will arrive the next morning. Grit is staying late to google the different parts of a generator to figure out if you're being overcharged. Grit is asking the external evaluation firm to revise their qualitative tools yet again, even though you're two weeks behind schedule. Grit is tedium wrapped in faith that one day, something will click.

So this is me. Digging in. I must not have packed my Passion, but I have faith it will come.

Perhaps it's in my sea shipment.

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