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Dive 31: Where’s Your Passion?
Hey, it’s Alvin!
I believe it’s important to devote at least some time to something you’re passionate about. This doesn’t mean going nuts to find one if you don’t already have one. And it doesn’t have to be your job. But having a passion and committing to it can energize you and lead you to fascinating places you never imagined.
I used to have a mentor in software development who was also the team lead at the time. He’s now a CTO. And I don’t think he got there by accident. This was a man who devoted many hours of his life, pulling all-nighters, to get stuff done on time. He loved every aspect of software development. His passion for problem solving gave him confidence to help anyone who needed help with anything; not just his team members.
The point is: he enjoyed what he did. By extension, he enjoyed life. Not only did people gravitate towards his positive energy, but it propelled him from a software developer to a C-level executive. Passion fueled his success.
But like I said, you don’t have to be passionate about your job. And it helps to keep an open mind because your passion is not always what you think it is. Take me, for instance.
I LOVE baseball.
But I didn’t always.
I was a nerdy kid who wasn’t interested in any sports. To me, they were a waste of time.
My fifth-grade teacher didn’t think so, though. He was a sports coach and was an avid proponent of physical activity. One day, he started putting bonus questions on various tests about our local baseball team.
I was like, “WTF is this? A sports question on a math test?!”
Again, I was a nerd. I didn’t just want a perfect score; I wanted ALL the points I could get.
So, I started watching baseball.
As with many others, I thought the game was boring. But that was because I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know the players or the strategies. I didn’t even know the rules.
Luckily, my father was a casual spectator, so he could explain some of what was happening in the game. He and I still talk baseball to this day. It’s a great bonding opportunity. And thanks to the internet, I also caught up with the rules fairly fast.
Just as I was getting into it, my teacher stopped putting those bonus questions on our tests. 🙁
But the seed was planted.
My interest in watching baseball only went up from there as I dove into the finer details of the game. There’s so much to think about.
Who should be positioned where defensively to minimize runs (points) scored by the opponent?
Where should each fielder throw the ball given the situation on the field, the score, and the number of outs?
What kinds of pitches should the batter expect from the pitcher given the number of strikes, the number of balls, the quality of his pitches that day, and the weaknesses in the batter’s swing arc?
With my newfound understanding, baseball became fun to watch.
But watching baseball is one thing; playing baseball is a whole other ball game.
And since playing baseball was part of my school’s physical education programs and summer camps, I had to play ball whether I wanted to or not.
It turns out hitting (i.e. batting) a small, spherical ball with a long, cylindrical bat takes some hand-eye coordination I was lacking. I swung at the ball and missed over and over again. Throwing the ball with force or distance also takes techniques and muscles I didn’t have. So, while I enjoyed watching baseball, I hated playing it. I was a terrible player.
Even that wouldn’t last though.
One year, I attended a summer camp where baseball was one of the sports we played. There, I met instructors who taught me some of the fundamentals of hitting. They showed me:
how to stand at home plate
where on the ball I should make contact
how to rotate my body as the ball approaches
… all to maximize the power of my swing and the distance the ball will travel.
The one element of hitting they couldn’t explain to me was: timing. Timing is critical to hitting the ball far. Once the pitcher releases the ball, you have to determine when to start your swing so that the ball and the bat come together at the same time around home plate (where you’re standing). It’s tricky because the way the pitcher grips the ball affects its speed and its flight path.
You can’t be consciously thinking about what you have to do because that slows you down. Your swing will always be late. So, knowing when to start your swing for a ball coming at you right now takes a certain baseball instinct, sense, or feeling. And you can only develop that feel with practice.
So here I was on a warm, sunny afternoon playing baseball at the summer camp. It’s my turn to bat. I step up to home plate. My mind is focused solely on the ball, currently in the pitcher’s hand. As the pitcher releases the ball, my eyes track the path of the ball as it comes toward me. I could feel the moment, so I started my swing.
Then, I felt a THUD, as the ball glances off my bat on a sharp angle to the ground as it rockets along the ground to the second baseman.
“OMG… I hit the ball!”
The sheer joy of just making contact with the ball filled me with adrenaline, which was perfect because I needed to dash to first base. Unfortunately, the second baseman threw the ball, which got to first base before I could, so I was out.
It wasn’t the best result for the team. But in that moment, I achieved something I previously thought was impossible. And I wanted to feel the excitement of batting again and again.
That was the moment baseball became a passion of mine.
It didn’t stop there. Every time I stood at home plate, I wanted to hit the ball further than last time. And I did. In another baseball game, I finally hit the ball in the air, about 50m (160ft) to the outfield. The elation; the adrenaline – it all came rushing back as I made it safely to first base this time.
It’s not just about the joy of batting. My mind is usually filled with thoughts. Those thoughts often lead to anxiety. But when I’m at home plate, I can attain mental peace and serenity. Some call it a state of “flow.” Because in those moments, I’m only focused on me and the ball.
Everything about the game resonates with me to this day. The hitting, catching, throwing, and even strategizing. But remember, it wasn’t always this way. There was a time I thought the game was boring.
All this is to say: I know there are many of you out there trying to find your passion(s) in life. And sometimes you might think you know what they are and where to find them. But maybe it’s not there. And that’s OK. Because if you keep an open mind, with a little luck, you might find your passion where you least expect it.
I hope you enjoyed this dive Below the Surface of seeking passion. Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments. What passions do you have? And how did you stumble upon them? I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. And I’ll see you in the next one.