“My dear family, guess what. Today I found out what my special purpose is for. Gosh what a great time I had. I wish my whole family could have been here with me. Maybe some other time as I intend to do this a lot. Every chance I get.”
– Navin R. Johnson, The Jerk
A few days ago, I was scrolling through YouTube and watched a clip of Lex Fridman talking about truly smart people. Lex has a BS and MS in computer science, and a PhD in electrical and computer engineering. He’s a research scientist at MIT (among other things). If he thinks someone is smart… they’re smart. He observed that the one common trait he sees in these folks is a complete and total mastery of whatever their field is.
I would agree. I’ve met a handful of people in my various careers who’d I consider experts. They just had an encyclopedic knowledge of their field. They could recite studies and papers off the top of their heads. They knew obscure formulas and calculations without needing to look up references. They knew the who’s who in that field. I am not one of those people. While I was good at my job and did well, I was never interested enough in my field to really dive in and truly master the subject. I suspect that’s true of most folks.
Last night I watched a silly movie called Burnt with Bradly Cooper. It’s about a chef who had a fall from grace and tries to make his mark in the food world again. What struck me was the complete and total passion the protagonist had for food. Actually, you could see it in all the chefs portrayed in the film. They all had a sincere love for what they did. Even at home you could see the care they put into making a simple meal.
Yes, I know it’s a movie. But I suspect the sentiment is largely true in the higher ends of the cooking world. And then it dawned on me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a passion for any pursuit. Like, ever.
Are there hobbies and things that I like to do? Of course. But I’m not passionate about them. I don’t have one hobby that I’ve completely dove into and understood from beginning to end. I don’t research the latest technology or who the current big names are. I don’t lose track of time reading about the latest and greatest aspects of whatever it is. I drift in and out of my hobbies over the years.
And it occurred to me that this may be what’s missing in my new retired life. A passion and a focus on something… anything. I find myself drifting from activity to activity, day to day, without any real purpose. If the snow’s good, I’ll ski. I hike the dog. Reading when the weather is bad. Household chores. My daily planning consists of looking at the weather report to decide what activity to do. I’m certainly not bored. But it’s beginning to feel a little like just killing time.
I wish I’d cultivated a passion for something years ago. If I had, now that I have the time, I could be wearing a train engineers’ hat and spending all my waking hours building a model train empire in the basement. So, I think it’s time. Time to dedicate myself 100% to a hobby. To become an expert in something.
I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. Cooking? Photography? Video? Start a business? Or maybe I pick a sport and devote myself to it? I don’t know. Like I said, I enjoy all the things I do. But none of them jump out at me as something I want to completely immerse myself in.
Maybe passion is learned? Maybe the passion comes after you dive in and begin the process? I don’t know. But I do know that I need to do something. Maybe I’ll just put all the activities in a hat and randomly pull one out?
Although, I do like trains. And I have a basement. Do they even make model trains anymore? Hmmm…