This weekend we’re hosting the first in a series of webinars for our community of fellows. We know that passion is a key component of innovating to save the world, and we’re obsessed with figuring out how schools can help kids cultivate their passions more effectively.

Although we don’t have it figured out yet, here are two distinctions that serve as important starting points:

  1. Cultivating passion is different from “following” your passion. The term “cultivate” implies that passions can be purposefully nurtured and developed. You hate to write? Feel like you’re lousy at math? This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t cultivate a passion for poetry or statistical analysis. Passions are not preexisting sparks of interest that we naturally discover and tap into; on the contrary, they require deliberate effort, planning, work, and encouragement. In an interview with blogger Joshua Fields Millburn, Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport (and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You) noted:““Follow” implies that you discover the passion in advance then go match it to a job. At which point, you’re done.

    “Cultivate” implies that you work toward building passion for your job. This is a longer process but it’s way more likely to pay dividends. It requires you to approach your work like a craftsman. Honing your ability, and then leveraging your value, once good, to shape your working life toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you.”

  2. Passion is different from preference, talent, or enthusiasm. While kids may prefer to study science, demonstrate remarkable musical talent, or appear enthusiastic about hands-on engineering tasks, these things are not the same as passion. Passion moves beyond initial aptitude and excitement toward deep fulfillment. Passions are rooted in strong beliefs, significant impact, and a craftsman-like honing of skill.

How do we help kids cultivate their passions? We’re not sure. But it likely starts with dispelling some myths about what passion is and how you create (not find) it.