On Childlike Passion

Recently, I read Mastery, by Robert Greene. Greene’s perspective on choosing what to do in life begins with looking at what you liked in childhood. He claims that people forget what kind of obsessions they had in childhood because they listen too much to the clamor of outside opinion, or the superficial allure of wealth. Yet, often times, what you enjoyed in your childhood is what you will have a deep interest in all the way through to adulthood.

Some examples:

  • As a child, Marie Curie found excitement every time she would visit her father’s laboratory. Following her interest in science into adulthood, she eventually started her own lab and discovered radium, becoming the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize.
  • Albert Einstein was entranced by a compass he received from his father at age 5. He became deeply curious about the invisible force that moved the needle and wondered if other similar forces existed in the natural world. This curiosity about physics followed him into adulthood.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci spent his free time as a child painting flowers with such meticulous detail. His knack for careful pictorial description bled into all the other things he pursued later in life including science, mathematics, painting, architecture, music, etc.

Greene argues that your childhood passion should become an all-consuming obsession. Something you can become utterly lost in. Something that challenges you, while also being attainable.

…people forget what kind of obsessions they had in childhood because they listen too much to the clamor of outside opinion or the superficial allure of wealth.

My earliest memory was at age 5, in kindergarten. We were learning to write cursive letters by tracing dotted-line templates of the alphabet. I asked the teacher for an extra sheet of paper, carefully tucking it into a green folder.

“Why do you want another sheet, Lucy?” My teacher asked, bewildered.

“I want to save it for the future when I get to teach my own students!”

While I no longer hope to teach kindergarten, my 5-year-old self found something she was intrinsically drawn to. Even now, I feel the most alive when I’m teaching and mentoring. 

A little girl playing among the rocks. Woods Hole, MA.

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