3 Parenting Alternatives to the Bad Advice of “Find Your Passion”

  by Andrew Wolgemuth

Word is that a soon-to-be-released scientific study from Stanford and Yale-NUS College in Singapore (home of the Halcyons, as you surely know) calls into question the age-old advice we’ve all heard at one time (or many times) or another. Namely: the encouragement to “find your passion!” and the belief that doing so will lead to increased happiness.

A summary of the study is here, and it highlights that a key problem in seeking your passion is that it makes one think that there’s some magical, special, one-of-a-kind passion out there to be discovered and easily embraced. This mindset leads to frustration when the inevitable roadblock is encountered; Well, I guess this isn’t my passion… is the easy and potentially wrong conclusion. If roadblocks or challenges are perceived as signals that something isn’t a passion and – therefore – isn’t worth pursuing, it’s easy to flit on to the next thing with the hope that the ideal passion is just around the corner. Better, instead, is to pursue varied interests and to cultivate passions.

Learning the flaw in the “find your passion!” advice is good for you and me, and it’s especially important with regards to how we guide and parent our kids. Having passion and working and living within it is a good thing, after all. So what are the best ways for us to encourage children to go the route of cultivating passions? We’ve identified three keys.

Encourage a Growth Mindset

Possessing a growth mindset means believing you can grow and develop talents. That you aren’t limited to the capabilities and expertise that you possess now (Harvard Business Review summarizes it well here).

The alternative to a growth mindset is a fixed mindset: Who I am now is who I’ll be forever. It’s easy to slip into this thinking (especially when challenges arise), but it’s not true. You and I can grow and learn and develop…and that’s a good thing for our dadcraft. Growth is possible for our kids too, and you and I can and should be key in reminding them of this.

While a growth mindset is a great place to start, it’s not the destination. To encourage our kids further, we need to…

Encourage Curiosity

Key to growth is learning, and key to learning is curiosity—the spark that sets us off in asking questions, exploring, wondering, pondering, investigating…being interested about what we don’t know in the world around us.

Curiosity is contagious and — as with so much of fatherhood — our kids observe how we live. Are we curious? Do our kids know that we’re curious? Have they seen us plow into confusion and seek answers?

Further, do we encourage (or even reward) their own curiosity?

Curiosity is effective in getting us moving and exploring, but challenges and obstacles will arise. In preparation for that, we need to…

Encourage Grit

Grit is a key trait for our kids to develop, and—as a result—a key point of emphasis for us as fathers. As Chris wrote in his dadcraft article on the subject, “And at the heart of grit is resilience—the ability to take risks, lose well, and try again.” This is required in so many aspects of life, especially in pursuing in cultivating passions.

Curiosity leads to passion when challenges are overcome, and that overcoming requires resilience and pressing-on…grit. The growth and resulting passion will be worth it.


Xianyi Wu demonstrates life as a curious dad, and LeBron, Ben, and Nick didn’t just “find” their passions—more than a little gritty cultivation was involved.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash