Passion vs Skill. Gen Y's Chicken and Gen X's Egg.

Columnist David Allen Ibsen is the Editor-in-Chief of FIVE THôT and CEO of market-driven business consulting firm Five Meetings Before Lunch. And, a proud member of the oft-forgotten Generation X. 

We all have passions—the things we love. And, we all have things we are skilled at—our talents. But which comes first? Which is the chicken, and which is the egg?

When I was growing up, I was repeatedly encouraged to consider what I was good at—where my skills lay, as the first order of business.  “What was I good at” was the question I was taught to ask myself. The notion was that understanding the things I was highly capable of was a way to figure out where my life’s work would be placed—a blueprint to my happiness.

I was taught by parents, teachers and mentors, that once I could figure out what I was good at, I would enjoy the sense of accomplishment that came from a job well done, and that my skill in math, music, sport, or business would become my passion—the thing I would love. The idea was the 1st comes skill, then comes passion.

I’ve from Generation X. 

For Generation Y—the next generation, the opposite may be true. “What do I love” is a more commonly asked question of the generation born post 1980. It seems that more people tend to lean towards first understanding their passions—what makes them happy and fulfilled, and then creating a skill at something by practice and participation in these passions. “I enjoy creating things,” or eating, building, learning languages or music, or problem solving is the starting point to developing a skill in architecture, or writing, or catering, or…

There appears to be a generational divide between those who ask “what are you good at” and those who ask “what do you love to do.” The latter seem to be predominantly belonging to Generation Y—the Millennials. They were raised by parents who were forced first to identify skills, then careers, and then hopefully passion. I have an old friend who used to say, “I don’t need to like what I do, enjoyment is for the weekends.” He was definitely in Generation X.

The other day I asked a new acquaintance about his life’s ambitions. He said they he knew he liked television. He liked to consume it, to think about it, and comment on it. He’s 21 and says he doesn’t know what he wants, or necessarily where he’s going, but he knows where his passions lay, and he’s pursuing a life built around those passions. He’s open to acting, writing, journalism, etc.—all things sourced from his passion for television And, it is his skill in being open minded, and proactive, and smart and articulate that will get him there.

For Generation X, we were taught that first comes skill, then comes passion. For Generation Y, finding one’s passion leads to being skilled. For one, the chicken, the other the egg. But, just like the old casualty dilemma, neither seems possible without the other.

Egg image courtesy of Shutterstock

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