Passion isn’t enough



I saw this interesting comparison of the Finnish and American educational systems posted on Facebook, which made me think of this article linked in The Transom on Monday on why so many members of Generation Y are unhappy. I don’t think the article is completely fair to that cohort. You can’t deny they’re coming of age in a really rotten economic situation. But many of the critiques ring true.

For example, one of the comments from the Finnish educational system article, which points out that education in Finland is a highly competitive field, and only the best of the best qualify:

“I’m sorry so is the author suggesting that we only let students with the highest grades become teachers? I did poorly throughout high school and middle school but I pulled it together at a junior college and got decent grades. I think I would make a EXCELENT teacher because I would be able to reach those students who recieve poor marks and turn their lives around. Right now I work as a teachers assistant in a special education classroom and I am constantly praised by my coworkers and the parents about the changes that they see in their children from me working with them. I wonder what kind of teacher the author is who expresses that students with poor grades shouldn’t follow their dreams.” (Copied and pasted as is, errors intact.)

This guy’s belief in himself isn’t just motivation to try hard and do great things; it’s the reason great things should happen to him. The demand for excellence — in this instance high grades — is unfair because he has passion for what he’s doing. The educational requirements shouldn’t apply to him because he’s following his dreams. We’d laugh this guy off the internet if his dream was to become a surgeon, but because it’s “only” educating our children, we nod sagely and tell him to carry on.

Nuts. Passion isn’t enough. There is a world of opportunity, but you have to work for it. And opportunity is just that: a chance. You have a chance to fulfill your dream. You may fall on your butt. No, you will fall on your butt. Passion doesn’t guarantee success. What passion can do is help you get up off your butt and try again.This isn’t a failing of any one generation, although the chickens have come home to roost on poor Gen Y. It’s endemic to our entire culture, stemming from this notion that the most important thing someone can do is to follow his dreams, and, because he is filled with passion and specialness, he has a right to have his dreams fulfilled.
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As the Gen Y article notes, when that belief system runs up against reality, unhappiness ensues. And then there’s the fact that there are things more important than individual happiness, which makes the whole “do what makes you happy” advice not only bad but potentially immoral.

Do I think people shouldn’t pursue their passions even *gasp* follow their dreams? Of course not. People pursuing nutty dreams and crazy ideas is what built this country; it’s what has given civilization nearly every advancement we’ve had. But just because you run the race, doesn’t mean you’ll get the prize. You have to fight for that. Passion alone isn’t enough.

*The Gen Y article also makes mention of The Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers, but skips over Generation X, the Rodney Dangerfield of Generations. We, too, think we’re special — especially cranky. Honestly, we’re the generation that’s been telling everyone to get off our lawn since grade school. Behold, our motto:



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