The blessing of a true passion
I always liked people who are extremely passionate about something. Anything, really. It truly doesn’t matter what it is, may it be sports, arts, business or something else, but I always thought that it is cool to have something in life that you care so much about that it defines you. A skillset you want to learn, in any kind of area, and that you are so passionate about that you constantly think about it, train it and sharpen it, in the attempt to rise from mediocrity and become the best.
Those are the people we worship, those are the people that fill our history books and those are the people that ultimately move mankind forward, by pushing the limits over and over again. People who focus on something and are willing to put all their passion and power into it in order to excel at it.
I think that this is a great thing to do and believe that having this kind of passion project enriches everyone’s lives. Sure, we won’t all go down in history, but it still feels damn good to achieve the personal victory of truly mastering a skill.
The curse of a true passion
This takes a lot of time and effort though. Time and effort that will inevitably be taken away from other areas of your life. So while excelling in one particular area, your passion project, you might fall behind in a lot of others that are also important to you. You have to make sacrifices and might get to the point very fast where you ask yourself if “this is really worth it”. But the only other option seems to be to spread your time equally and risk half-assing everything. Either way, you lose.
My own passions
I myself can get very extreme if I am truly passionate about something. When I was only 11 years old, I got into long-distance running. Even though I wasn’t really talented, I truly loved it. I wrote my own training plans, I meticulously documented my improvements and I trained twice a day, every day. During vacations, I even trained three times a day. Sure enough though it didn’t take long until I overtrained. I got sick all the time, I constantly sprained my ankle and a few years later my doctor diagnosed that I had permanently damaged my hip. So I had followed my passion of running at the expense of my health.
Then I went to college to study business and I was really passionate about that, too. I had the idea that if I just worked hard enough, I would get a high-paid job in some bank or investment firm later-on, which was my dream at the time. So I spent hours upon hours in the library, studying. During exam periods I often woke up at 7am, went to the library at 8, stayed there until 10pm and went to bed at 11pm, effectively studying 14 hours a day. And I would do that for weeks or even months in a row, without break! This however resulted in me neglecting my social life. I didn’t have the social circle I wanted to have, I didn’t date the girls I wanted to date, I didn’t experience the college lifestyle I wanted to experience!
So again, I made a priority shift. I decided to become more social, more open, more out-going. And that’s exactly what I did: going out. To clubs, to bars, to parties, to any kind of social gathering that was available. Often 7 nights a week I would go out and meet people, increasing my social circle, pushing my comfort zone and gradually becoming the kind of extrovert I wanted to be. I met amazing people during that time, I made great friends, and hooked up with more girls than ever before in my life. On the other hand though I didn’t take university as serious as I used to, thus resulting in lower grades. I partied hard, resulting in bad physical shape. I neglected these areas of my life in order to get ahead in another.
So at all these are examples of different times in my life when I excessively followed one specific goal: Either I binge-ran, I binge-studied, or I binge-partied. And it always resulted in me getting better very fast in that one area, but noticeably worse in others.
That’s why I will try a new approach from now on: I call it plate spinning.
Imagine different plates representing different areas of your life. One plate is health and fitness, one is professional life, one is social life and so on. Imagine further that through engaging in these areas of your life, you can give the plates a new spin. So what I will try from now on is to balance all these different plates and make sure that they never stop spinning.
What do I mean by that exactly? Well, I will still focus on one area in my life more than on others, fully immersing myself in it for a while and making rapid progress. But at the same time I will make sure that I don’t completely neglect the other areas and give them a little “spin” from time to time.
This will achieve two things:
- when I shift my focus from one area of my life to another, it will keep the previously accomplished momentum going.
- it will keep the habit of engaging in that area alive, which keeps that area from becoming a blind spot.
I know that this sounds all very theoretical and in some way impractical, but it really is quite simple. Right now for example I am working on Wolkify as a website, trying to make it more user-friendly, more advanced and more popular. This is my passion project and I often invest up to 12 hours a day into that work. Now, it would be easy to neglect everything else, since I truly enjoy that work. But instead I choose to take breaks and push myself to engage in other areas of my life that are important to me, too. Last week I went to Beijing and Shanghai, covering the ‘travelling’ aspect of my life. Last night I went out to meet new people, even though it was cold, raining, and I was all alone, coving the ‘social’ aspect of my life. And today I went mountain biking in the Chinese hills next to my town, covering the ‘fitness’ aspect of my life.
This way I am not half-assing the project I am truly passionate about right now, I merely choose to use my breaks from it wisely to remind myself that there are other things too, that I care about. Keeping the plates spinning 🙂