Thursday, January 28, 2010

Err., What's my passion?

"No way! Who wants to be an engineer?! Everyone's an engineer these days".

"I don't want to be a doctor. I don't have the mindset".

"I hate history".

"I don't want to be a geek doing Maths".

"I don't have time for extra-curriculars. I would rather hang out with friends and have fun. Life is short".

These are some of the statements that I have actually heard from some kids / young adults out there. They don't know what they want to do w.r.t college or a career. They have been to career counselors, they have mostly supportive parents, but still they don't know what they would really be happy doing. Each one of them however knows that they want to do something "cool". What that "cool" is, nobody truly knows although they do seem to think photography, bollywood dance, fashion designing, journalism are cool. But then they don't have a plan to pursue those. Some even think that it is hard to break into those fields (which I agree is true). So they don't want to pursue them when they can actually make about 20k (Rs) per month at a call-center which is enough to have a so-called "fun" life. It seems to me that "having fun" has become the utmost important criteria for many young adults these days. I totally agree that pursuing a stream or line that is fun is absolutely important and also agree that only when one pursues their passion will they be truly having fun. But not pursuing anything because nothing is fun doesn't make sense either. Off-late the media has been going crazy on the topic of letting kids pursue their true passion when it comes to college, degrees, careers etc. But I wonder if many kids have the ability to find what their true passion is and the tenacity to pursue it? I don't blame them at all. At many points in life, I was extremely confused about what I wanted to do, what my short-term (let alone long-term) goals were. Many times I was even pretty convinced I had no exceptional talent to show-off (just check my blogname, I don't need to say this really!). Am I the odd-ball for not knowing what my special talent was? I doubt it! I have met many kids (during my college days and now-a-days) in the same state of confusion. To make matters worse, some of the kids seem to have shocking amounts of apathy towards everything out there. I'm beginning to think that this is the case of the average kid. I'm also beginning to think average is the norm. Otherwise instead of having a hundred million engineers and call-center tech, we would have had a million Rehmans or a million Sachin Tendulkars or a million Vikram Seths. But there aren't, are there?

Also parents are being blamed for driving kids the wrong way. But if I were a parent with a kid who doesn't know and many times doesn't care about what interests him, am I wrong in encouraging him towards taking the path of least resistance, towards the path that most people seem to be taking, towards careers that most people seem to be making a life out of? When a kid is not displaying any great talent towards anything, will sticking to the common path not have a greater chance of a better ROI? Even when a kid says he is interested in something off-the-track like photography and takes a few pictures of this and that, what's to say he can convert it into a career if he doesn't have a plan to go about it? Should a parent allow enough time and money to let the kid experiment and possibly fail? Otherwise, what is a parent supposed to do to help their kid realize his passion? OTOH we have stars (MJ?, Williams sisters?, Steffi Graf?, Tiger Woods?) born because of their parents pushing them towards a dream career. While many might blame the parent for the chaos in these stars' lives today, it is also necessary to accept that at most times these stars are loving what they do even if they were pushed to love it so.

The barrage in the media against the top universities is somewhat annoying too. IMHO, the image that such colleges are all pressure cookers waiting to burst is not quite true. I know and meet many who come out of these top universities and I think most of them are well-rounded individuals. Many of them are not only jacks of many trades, they are masters of some too. They have many fun anecdotes about their college lives just like any of the others from the not-so-top universities. It is not like they were pressured to cram all the time and not have any fun like the media makes it out to be. So why this rage against the top universities? Why is it wrong to encourage a kid to do well so he can go to a top school? I of course know it is wrong for a parent to set unreasonable expectations for kids and to define their lives through the colleges they go to but then am I not sending a wrong message that mediocrity is OK if I asked my kid to not aim for the top?

What do you think? Is everyone really supposed to have some innate special talent or passion? If so how does one go about finding it? Is it the education system that uses inefficient teaching methods thus making everything boring and nothing special? Is it the parents who do not present enough learning opportunities to the kids? What kind of pressure from the parent is considered positive? Is it wrong to encourage a kid to excel in at least some things they are pursuing? Tell me.. I want to learn.


  1. I have been thinking so much about this I should probably just make a post out of it one of these days. Considering the amount of time I spend driving the kids to their various activities, I often wonder what makes them pros at it. Parents pushing and motivating the kids can only take them so far. I think finally it all comes down to their own drive and wish to achieve. When the kids lack that drive I want to say the parents take the safe route and steer them towards to so called safer disciplines :) Not sure if this gives you any info to learn. It's probably more like me joining you in the quest to learn :)

  2. Oh, you just put down all my thoughts! I'm also wary of all the system and school bashing that's so popular. Exactly my question, if the kid is directionless, then what do you do?

    I know I wasn't sure of what I wanted, I was just sure it shouldn't be Engg or Med! Took up Biotech (still love the subject), but now I've finally discovered what I want to really do. Whether I get there is a difft q! Meanwhile I have the degree to fall back on...

    I think the system and many parents do fail some kids who need something more or something different, that's when it makes sense to go off the beaten path towards the kid's destiny.

    About being average, I think it's a matter of perspective, many of us do have special talents or personality traits, just that it takes time to figure out how to make a career out of those! So many so-called average people, are potential geniuses in the making, but that may become evident early or late in their lives. Maybe even at age 70 or 80! Prodigies catch the eye and media attention, that's all!

    As for money and time spent while waiting for the kid to discover his passion, that's also true. as parents we want our kids to be independent by their early 20s, not funding their search forever till their 40s!!! And I most certainly will not fund any fun if they're still unsure after age 20 about what they want to do!!! me, I want to enjoy my old age ;)

  3. Whew AJ! You've articulated very well what most parents go through. Though I don't have any 'answers', I fully agree with you that conveying something to the effect that mediocrity is OK is worrying. What about setting the bar then? IMO, like everything, the general populace will fall into a bell curve in terms of talent/ passion which means the majority will be average really :) In that sense, average is not a bad thing, isn't it?

    Like Sands said, not sure if you can learn something from my ramblings. We are all in it together!

  4. AJ, do something! Your blog refuses to recognize me...bah :(

    - MFT

  5. I so agree with you AJ ... really all I knew when I passed my 12th was I may not be a good doctor and I loved mathematics and wanted to take up Engg ... now I know better ... I would have quit Medicine within the first 2 months and Engg is something I liked ... but there are other things I love .... I mean I have this realisation NOW !!! After trying out a few things ...
    I think as parents we need to make certain decisions on behalf of our kids when they cannot decide for themselves ... atleast our decision should be their fall back option if they discover something they really love later in their life and want to pursue the same.
    One thing I do know however is if the kids really have a passion for something ... they will show that keen interest in learning and as parents we ought to encourage it.

    Another point that always bugs me ... what if the kid loves something he / she is not very good at .... what should parents do ? Do we still encourage the kids since they love doing it OR edge them towards something they are good at ...

  6. TOTALLY with you AJ.

    And the last but one para, you've been inside my head right?!

  7. Sands: I think you are doing a great job by enrolling kids into classes. Even if they don't become pros I'm sure they will be thankful later that they know a little bit of everything. It makes it easier for them to settle into any kind of environment. My 2 cents..
    Starry: " think the system and many parents do fail some kids who need something more or something different, " --> good point. This system IS flawed, any exam-based system is.
    MFT: Exactly! I agree with you that average is not a bad thing at all many times. PS: This commenting bug is soo annoying.. let me search for a fix. :(
    CA: Very valid questions. Which parent can watch the dejection in a child that can come from pursuing something that they are not good at?
    Choxie: If I were in your head I would be giving the answers, not asking questions. ;)

  8. We are expected to decide at 15, right after our 10th std whether we want to enroll in Math, Science or Commerce streams. Thats way too early. Add to that, limited exposure, and no wonder the kids are worried if they are making the right choices.

    What if someone likes geography? Is there a career for that? We need counselling to help kids with these doubts.

    That said, what if you enrolled in a certain degree and found out at graduation that you hate it? Well, in that case I'd say find a job in your field, start earning and use your money and time to check out what else is there. But the one that says my alternate options are too tough anyways, so I'll take the easy route out, is plain lazy and gutless. You want to give up without even trying?

    And with Chox and you on the stupidity of bashing big league schools. People are quick to point out the failed cases from the big schools. Those are just a few. What about the many who come out successful? We have so many of them around and its a shame we choose to crib about the failed cases alone.

  9. I know its too late to comment..but just read a back log of blogs..what you are saying is so correct...its difficult for us to decide what we really want..forget at the age of the age of 27 I am not able to decide what I want in at 15 if my parents werent there to guide me, I wouldnt have even done a basic degree...While its good to let kids pursue what they want...its also good to show them the way the end of the long as you are not pushing your kid into something they absolutely DONT want to do...I think parents should have a say in the kids future...well I may be wrong...I really dont know!

  10. i think most of us dont have the clarity to know what they really want! even at 30, forget earlier. i for one am like that. just kept drifting along.

    i wanted to do something else, my dad i should do something else and i really have no way of knowing what would have happened if i had it my way.

    on the other hand my brother was clear from every young age what exactly he wanted to do and has a rocking career now! :)

    i wonder if my parents had been pushy with me it would have been helpful.

    sigh! its all very complicated and difficult to figure out!

  11. TPL: Yep, 15 is too early to bifurcate into streams. I guess choosing a major after two years of undergrad might be a somewhat better option.
    R's mom: Same boat. Don't know either.. :(
    Mama-Mia: I guess you know you are doing the right thing if you are reasonably happy at work. Like you said you might have been happier if you did something else, but who knows?!

  12. Very late to the party - but just had to say - YOU Absolutely Said it!


  13. AAh so this si where you were!

    Every time I click on your blog only the November post about two kids ki Ma comes up!!!!

  14. Couldn't agree more! You are spot on!

    I think parents do need to guide when required, and a lot of times, it gives the child a clarity. I remember when I was toying with the idea of a different stream of study, when I was in my 10th. My dad sat me down, explained the various options, and that I think helped.

    As for school/university bashing - I really think that we are going overboard. Most of the top universities are doing a great job. Infact some of our top universities are far better than the mid level ones, for turning out a balanced personality.

    And pushing a child to do well, is necessary, as far as we are not going over board. A lot of time, pushing is just a way of channeling their energy and attention better.