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Strength vs. Passion

  1. Aug 10, 2012 #1
    Im on the verge of choosing my major and i have a quick question for everyone.

    Do you necessarily think that with passion comes strength in a certain field?
    I am positive that being good at something does not breed a passion for it, but what about vice versa?

    I recently discovered my passion for physics and math however, they are both my weakest subjects, so your opinions would be cool! thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2012 #2


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    The problem with passion is that it is volatile. You need to perform hard work and deliberate excercise in a subject in order to become good at it, over many years. Passion might not be sufficient to make you do that. It needs a conscious decision and the willingness to follow up on it. On the other hand, if you have never done that before in some subject, you cannot know your potential in it.

    Answering your question is difficult. Most people can reach a very high level of competence in almost anything if they put enough effort into it (but again: it is hard and unpleasant, so the great majority never does that). On the other hand, there are some intrinsic limits. For example, you can never become basketball star if you're 5"8' and you can never become a world-class gymnast if you are 6"2'.

    You need to decide for yourself what you can do; you and maybe your teachers are the only persons who can know that. But keep in mind that it is very unlikely that you'll keep passionate about something for ten years or more. You should have another motivation to keep you going if the passion runs out...
  4. Aug 10, 2012 #3
    Passion helps secure the motivation necessary to pursue a goal. The bad thing about passion is that it can also fade over time. I would choose a major based on both something you are very interested in (passionate about it or not, interest in a subject can also drive motivation) and has decent job prospects (this part is tricky, as few of us can see into the future...). I'm passionate about black and white film photography/printing, but I would never set photography as my major. To each his own, but that's just how I see it.
  5. Aug 10, 2012 #4
    ckg's answer is very good. Especially the notion about that "passion" can be momentary. Many, if not all subjects take years and years of practice to become good at them. Passion may drive to do something, but passion may not necessarily lead to advancing in the subject.

    I think the best motivation is to always have a goal. To reach that goal, you need to learn and do everything that is required to reach that goal. When you reach that goal, you set up another goal, because you become interested in something else or something which requires a higher level of skill and knowledge or a different position. This kind of thinking feeds itself. I would not say it's necessarily about "passion" to a subject, but a constant interest in learning and doing new things in general, which one may think of as having a passion for something, but I think being interested in new things is a more general and open attitude. Having a passion may lead to stopping learning, if learning new isn't required to feed that passion.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2012
  6. Aug 10, 2012 #5
    Muggsy would disagree with you about the basketball thing.

    Just wanted to put those out there.

    But in general what you folks have said is otherwise true.

    EDIT: Notable mentions: "Spud" Webb at 5'7"; Nate Robinson at 5'9" and not just a few others in this range.
  7. Aug 10, 2012 #6


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    To really answer your question for yourself, you'll have to figure out what you mean by "weakest" subjects.

    If, for example you mean that you've got a 98% average in high school and the 93% that you're pulling in AP physics is weighing you down then I think you're in a good position to pursue physics if that's what you're passionate about.

    If on the other hand you're struggling to pass these subjects despite an immense effort, or you're struggling to understand the basic concepts, and your passion has simply been piqued because you read a popular science book, you may want to re-evaluate.
  8. Aug 10, 2012 #7
    They're my weakest subjects because theyre ten points lower than the rest of my work. And it's been my passion for 3 years now, however i dont struggle to learn basic concepts, and have given several conceptual lectures about certain topics i love (like relativity and the physics of time travel) however when it comes to test taking... i end up with C's and B- 's
  9. Aug 12, 2012 #8
    I think cgk and Choppy both have good advice.

    It sounds like you've been taking these things seriously for a while, although it's not clear to me how well you're doing--are you getting C's and B-'s on exams, or as final course grades? I think it's definitely possible to study something that's not your first talent. I started out as a creative writing major. I took a math for non-majors class as a first-year and it blew my mind. I hadn't been bad at math before, but I had not devoted unusual effort to it, and on my standardized tests, my math scores, while still good, were many points below my English scores.

    I never did change my major, but I took all the math I could. It was hard. I was an A-/B+ student in math, and it took a lot of work to pass the exams. I definitely failed a couple exams and had to salvage my grades with homework and quizzes. It was not something that came naturally, and I spent a lot of time in tutoring and office hours. It wasn't all a bundle of fun like it was when I was starting out, but I still like it, and I'm starting a math master's degree on transitional coursework track this fall. I studied some this summer and my fingers are crossed.

    So yeah, you can do things you like even if they aren't your best talents. It just depends on how hard you're willing to work, what kinds of grades you're hoping to make, and what would make it worth it to you.
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