Coding is a passion of mine. I love getting to code as part of my job. Yet I didn’t always feel crazy about coding. A year ago when I began to teach myself to code, I thought it was only vaguely interesting. What changed from then to now? For me, the first step towards uncovering this passion was deciding that I would no longer look for my passion. Instead, I focused on developing the craftsman mindset.
In Cal Newport’s phenomenal book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, he argues against the popular advice ‘follow your passion.’ As Newport shows in his book, most people who love their work didn’t start out with a pre-existing passion for it. They started with an interest in something and became increasingly passionate about it as they got good at it. Newport argues that not only is ‘follow your passion’ bad advice, but it can also be dangerous advice. When we buy into this idea that following our passion will lead us to the perfect dream job we were destined for, we experience frustration and self-doubt when we inevitably don’t get to that right away.
When I started coding, I didn’t think it would be my passion. I thought it was interesting and I wanted to see more of what my older sister’s job as an engineer was all about. With no pressure of needing it to be perfect for me, I started coding each day. I sucked at it. I didn’t think it was very fun. I didn’t feel it came easily. But I found it kind of interesting and I kept learning. A few months later, I was coding all of the time. I started to love writing programs and learning new coding concepts. I got better at coding and I became incredibly passionate about it. I worked to develop what Newport calls the craftsman mindset: slowly and surely putting in the work.
Instead of focusing on finding your passion and then finding a job to bring that passion to, focus on building the skills that interest you and leveraging them to shape your career into one that you love. Don’t follow your passion, build it.