RayK

What is your passion?

33 posts in this topic

I want to learn all about engineering, literature, chemistry, biology, psychology, astronomy, physics, and philosophy.

I had a similar problem in high school. Because I love science in general and find many subjects interesting I was not able to choose one career in science. That is why I decided to study physics, which I think is the most fundamental science. If you decide to go into physics then there is no better advice than Stephen's. He has been in the field a long time and I'm sure has worked with many universities.

~Aurelia

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I don't want to discourage any budding Renaissance men out there, but I want to issue a word of caution. If you have too many interests spread too broadly, you face having a lack of focus and direction in life. There's nothing that says one's career can't have more than one focus, or change direction periodically over the course of one's life.

But notice the difference between someone who is really passionate about one thing (say, oh, lasers) vs. someone who is interested in lasers as well as finance, investing, real estate, literature, kayaking, international travel, etc. With the increase in very high values, it becomes increasingly difficult to prioritize. Also, the person who is really passionate about one thing spends much more of his time on that topic, in the process (at least potentially) becoming more of an expert. (But it should be noted that many innovations come from people who see what is going on in other areas, makes analogies, and applies something he has seen in a completely different area to his area of expertise. So there is something to be said to having a broad range of interests, at least in terms of career success.)

So if someone has yet to settle on a definite career path, I suggest honestly and carefully looking at which of those really high values you care about the most. At least narrow the list to a few. Then dive into each and check them out. Take courses, read on your own, ask questions of experts, experiment with a related part-time job, and so on. If you can't get it down to just one top favorite, try to get at least close.

A personal hierarchy of values is not a given, and I believe a well-developed hierarchy with clear priorities takes time and effort to identify. And that hierarchy changes over time as well!

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Sure. You describe a generalist, and that is the "top priority" that integrates the sub-fields. In fact, seven of the eight fields you mentioned ("engineering, ... chemistry, biology, psychology, astronomy, physics, and philosophy") are all intimately connected by common principles and methods used. 

[bold added for emphasis.]

I would like to comment on what "generalist" means to me.

The "problem" of being excited about more than one field is common among intellectually active young people -- and older ones too. The "problem" can appear on any scale. One can be interested, for example, in history, biology, law, and architecture. Or, in a given general field, such as science (in the usual sense of that term), one can be interested in physics, chemistry, and biology.

Even more narrowly, one can be interested in a variety of subfields. I have met history students who are fascinated with a variety of histories: History of China, history of the European medieval period, and so forth.

One can be a generalist on any scale: the sciences overall, the "hard" sciences overall, physics overall, or nuclear physics overall. I would like to suggest that being a generalist is a goal worth pursuing for some individuals, but the scale of generalization depends on one's abilities and interests.

I would like also to make explicit an opportunity that comes from being a generalist: You will get to see the "big picture" and make integrations and therefore solve problems that more specialized individuals won't face.

Being a generalist -- on whatever scale is appropriate -- can be a deliberate goal. In the field of history, for example, there are individuals who are fascinated with all of history. Their broad studies can enable them to make the broad integrations that specialists will never make.

In a sense, a dedicated generalist is "specializing" in understanding the general nature of a subject, formulating those generalizations, and then disseminating them not only to a broad public audience but particularly to members of his own general field, members who need generalizations as context for their own specializations.

In the field of history, for instance, ultra-specialists are sometimes called "brick-makers." They lovingly craft thorough, detailed studies of single events or single individuals. Another historian might come along, examine many such studies, and produce a brick wall, so to speak. At a broader level, another historian -- one daring in his ambition and fascinated with the broad view -- can become an "architect," one who sees a whole pattern, bringing all the pieces together.

So, when formulating a central purpose in life, integration is always desirable, but the level of generalization or specialization is optional, depending only on one's interests and abilities. One historian might find a satisfying, happy life as a specialist in the history of Harvard University, while another might aspire to and achieve a history of the world.

Whatever one does, looking for the one in the many, that is, for integration, is always crucial -- at whatever scale one chooses.

Of course, the ultimate "generalist" is the philosopher, a thinker who looks at the fundamentals underlying all human interests and can contribute something to every field, at least indirectly.

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I think that one can have one central purpose in life and still go in many different directions. I think there are many examples of people doing this on THE FORUM. But, because I know myself best I will use myself as an example.

I started out with a general passion in exercise. But, if one wants to achieve the most from an area, one will have to understand it thoroughly along with linking fields. So when I have run into challenges and there are many, one has to do further reaserch not always in the "direct field". I chose to further my understanding in neuroscience, endocrinology, metabolism, the liver, the kidney, bio-mechanics, nutrition, sales and marketing, finance, engineering, history, genetics, longevity, evolution, politics, government, psychology and many many more. Of course the one thing tying these all together is philosophy.

What I do with my life and business is integrate all the knowledge, figure out how this enhances my life and then sale it to my clients. To get the most from exercise one must understand a proper metaphysics and then be motivated by a proper ethics. Of course this requires a proper psychology to motivate properly and most people do not have this when they start with me. Most people are not going to change enough to become Objectivist, but I do help them to choose reason and logic to achieve their goals.

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My passion is computer software. It has been my passion since I was 3 but I started programming at 5. I have used computers ever since I was young, and all throughout my entire life, I have wanted to do certain things that when I thought about it, they were so easy to me but no computer could do them. My present life goal is to build the software to make what I see as possible, happen. :D

I have a secondary passion that has been part of my life for almost as long. If the world changes to be less regulated, I would pursue it. I have always loved space. I have always loved the thought of conquering space, being able to access all the untapped resources out there.

Specifically my interest is in the possibilities of space based mining. I figure that I could perhaps integrate the two passions at that point(writing software for space mining platforms or something) :D

That kind of mining has always intrigued me. Some elements that are considered rare on Earth, such as Gold, some asteroids in our solar system are filled with trillions of dollars worth. I wouldn't mind figuring out a way to land one of those. :D

The way how I plan for my career in computer software to benefit my life is that some of the ideas that I have in my head will help to perform various operations on data in a way that is easier and more logical in it's presentation than before. I will trade with other people who require easy to comprehend tools to manipulate any form of mass data.

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I have a secondary passion that has been part of my life for almost as long. If the world changes to be less regulated, I would pursue it. I have always loved space.

I've been interested in private space development for a long time, though not as strongly as I used to be. One of the nice by-products of my earlier interest was attending one of the meetings of the now defunct L5 Society, in Houston, where I had the chance to briefly talk with Robert Heinlein and to otherwise to listen to him speaking, not too many years before he died.

There's a lot of ferment in private space development now, as you probably know. One of the lesser known ones, Blue Origin, is discussed here:

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/tourism-05b.html

Blue Origin is Jeff Bezos' new space company, located on a little ranch in Texas. A little 165,000 acre ranch...

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Another thing that I could add to my post from above, is that not all my knowledge is of the same depth. I want to learn as much as I possibly can about existence, so that it enhances my life. But, there are certain areas that I just learn enough of the basics and others that I dig as deep as I can. One has to choose for oneself how these are arranged.

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I would echo the cautions made by Ed from OC. I always had a ton of interests (still do). At 18 I did have an extremely difficult time narrowing things down to a specific field. I was incredibly bright; I could have gone to college pretty much anywhere and studied anything I wanted. What to do, what to do? The one thing I REALLY wanted to do was a no go (or so I thought). I loved science, and the recent breakthroughs in biotech were truly exciting, so I started there.

However, that wasn't my passion in life. I wasn't exactly honest with myself because my true passion (writing fiction) was something I felt was impractical. It could be a fun hobby, but I'd never make any money at it so I might as well put it aside and find something else. I had many interests (science, history, business, economics, politics, psychology, philosophy, and more), so it shouldn't be too difficult, right? Oh how wrong I was. I was on this tack for many, many years and found myself completely adrift and unhappy. At my very core I am a storyteller -- there is no pretending otherwise. I began writing again a few years ago and found that there is nothing in the world that gives me more pleasure. Sheer ecstasy. While I do have some regrets (primarily the self-deception and self-denial), my meandering career exploration has actually given me the broad education a writer needs.

That said, a girl has to support herself and writing fiction is very different from actually publishing said fiction. In the last year I have found something I have enjoyed immensely that also happens to be quite profitable while giving me the time (and more importantly, head space) to write. I run my own business (a franchise, of sorts) as an independent consultant with a sensual products company. It is kind of like Tupperware, only the parties are much more educational and the plastic buzzes rather than burps. I have also found yet another interest -- helping and educating others (in a selfish and profitable way, of course). There is so much women are missing out on, so much they do not know about their own bodies, so much they aren’t getting out of their intimate relationships as most men are also equally clueless when it comes to women’s bodies and the pleasure they are capable of. I feel as though I am making a positive impact on the lives of individuals and the culture as a whole. I'm having a blast doing something that is fun, challenging and profitable, yet still leaves me with the time and emotional energy to engage in my true passion.

My advice to young people is to explore the possibilities (you just might be surprised at what ends up really driving you). Be completely honest with yourself and what it is you enjoy (and are good at!). I don’t think I am unique in finding a passion for something that is difficult to start a real, paying career in (I’ll get there… eventually). If your true passion is something that doesn’t pay well or is difficult to be paid well for (writing, acting, filmmaking, art, etc.), find something else you can do for money that you ENJOY, but doesn’t prevent you from pursuing your dreams. I found the biggest factor for me personally wasn’t finding time to write; it was creating the mental space to be creative. Don’t worry about interests changing or being interested in many things, but realize that life is finite and you can only do so much. People do change careers – I know I will eventually when I finally publish that bestseller :D . If you just can’t decide, look a little harder for something that is multidiscipline and will make use of many of your talents and interests. I love science and history, and writing science fiction means I still get to explore those interests and use that knowledge, even though I will never be a scientist or a historian.

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