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Alexander the Great
Was Alexander the Great, passionate about conquering the known world at his time, when he started his “Conquer your neighbor tour”? Was Sir Alex Fergusson, focused on establishing the greatest football team that ever came out of England when he started managing Manchester United? Was Mark Zuckerberg passionate about making Facebook a global phenomenon with 1 billion people subscribing to it, when he started it in his dorm room? Not Really! None of these people had grandiose suspicions of how far they could go.
When I started writing this article, I nearly fell into the abysmal black hole of preaching the passion mantra…which simply states, “Follow your passion… and wealth shall surely follow you”. But something nagged at the back of my mind. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, which states that to be good at anything you have to have spent no less than 10,000 hours on it, strung me along.    
Steve Jobs in his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 talked about doing what you loved and not settling for anything less. In this statement belies a problem, most men (and women) on average have 40-45 years of productive career lives. If one was to seek what they were passionate about they would waste half of this time, and fail in the process.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
It takes time to be good at anything. Even the geniuses like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Garry Kasparov spent their 10,000 hours. Also if you analyze closely, some of the best people really do make a deliberate effort to improve their skills, consistently, while embracing and integrating honest feedback.
So if we put this into practice, two programmers side by side, one depends only on what they are taught in class, and the other spends his extra time reading books on the field, honing his skills, taking projects that are beyond his current comfort zone and capabilities, and planning his time well. Is there any reason why the second will not exhibit value beyond his peers? This deliberate effort the programmer has made cuts across all fields.
For this reason, I urge you to set goals in being the best person you can be in whatever you do, remember that people who are motivated at the workplace normally have these three elements; autonomy, competence and relatedness.
While most people crave to be autonomous is making decisions about what they do and how they get it done, few normally have a clue about what they are doing when they start their careers. Culturally, they are normally placed under a person, and taught the ropes. This is the wrong time to be autonomous because you will learn nothing. Autonomy is a quality directly proportional to your skills.
Then there is competence, as you do a certain thing over and over again you gain skills around it, you broaden your understanding, and if you integrate deliberate effort and practice in the whole process, you get to be better (or the best).
Finally when you begin your career, you normally know few people in your specialization, but with time networks are built, and you gravitate towards people you like and appreciate, which is important, since we are social beings. 
Simply put, the more you do something, the more likely you will be motivated by what you do.
On the other side of the coin if Mary, who has never been a software developer, decides to start developing code, because she is passionate about it, is likely to fail if she has no reference point to software development in her past. As opposed to Mark who when younger, did develop code, and had continued doing so at his spare time, as he worked as a consultant for a large tech firm. Of these two, the one who has better understanding of the market and has probably the right deliberately developed and honed valuable skills will survive in their new career while loving it.
So…sure you are passionate about Banjo playing, or football, or tennis?Please ask yourself do you have the skills to sustain your passion before you quit and follow it? If not get ready for turbulent times as you go through your 10,000 hours.

Article was written for CIO East Africa June 2013 


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