Curiosity and Passion / by Graham Dew

Winter Trees at Sunset

Winter Trees at Sunset

I have read many articles and listened to many programs about creativity, but few people describe it as succinctly and accurately as author Elizabeth Gilbert. Like many others, I really like this talk she gave at TED. But good as that talk is, I keep on coming back to some closing remarks she made about passion and curiosity on a TED Radio hour podcast. This is what she said:

Everybody’s invited. When you say creative people, it’s redundant. We are creativity. And we’ve done a great disservice to bifurcate it. And one of the things I’ve been saying a lot to people is that we keep telling people to follow their passion. And I feel like that can be an intimidating and almost cruel thing to say to people at times because first of all, if somebody has one central, powerful, burning passion, they’re probably already following it because that’s sort of the definition of passion - is that you don’t have a choice. If you don’t - which is a lot of people, have one central, burning, passion and somebody tells you to follow your passion, I think you have the right to give them the finger because it just makes you feel worse.”

“And so I always say to people, forget it. Like, if you don’t have an obvious passion, forget about it. Follow your curiosity because passion is sort of a tower of flame that is not always accessible. And curiosity is something that anybody can access any day. Your curiosity may lead you to your passion or may it not. It may have been for nothing, in which case all you’ve done your entire life is spend your existence in pursuit of the things that made you feel curious and inspired and that should be good enough. Like, if you get to do that, that’s a wonderful way to spend your time here.

These are comforting words. If you have a passion, and time and resources to follow it, then fine. But few of us have the luxury to be monomaniacal; we have constraints of family, work, location and money that are at odds with having a passion. And the world seems just so big and interesting to have a singular interest. So it’s good to have our curiosity affirmed, something we can all live with and nurture.