Raising a person who will love what they do now — and later

Published by Lori Pickert on September 2, 2012 at 01:55 PM

Some quotes from 10 Reasons Why Some People Love What They Do:

People who genuinely love their jobs … are in touch with that kid who loved to write, or tell stories, or envision amazing buildings. The important part: what these people are doing in their jobs now may not be (and usually is not) a carbon copy of those passions, but they’re successfully integrated elements of those passions into what they do. In effect, they’re energized kids with the seasoned perspective of adults — and that’s a great place to be.

This is something that a lot of people struggle with understanding about letting kids seriously pursue their interests and passions. It’s not about whether their kid will really end up as a LEGO designer or comic artist or paleontologist. It’s about becoming a person who knows how to turn a passionate interest into something real. Once you know how to do that — once you know how to deeply investigate an interest and create original work, connect with other people, and express your own ideas — you can do it over and over again as you get older and your interests change and evolve.

[P]eople who genuinely love what they do don’t allow others to talk them out of it.

When we push kids’ interests to the side (to their slivers of free time) and tell them to concentrate on the curriculum, we’re letting them develop a habit of getting talked out of what they really want to do. They learn to let go of the things they really care about. We should be doing exactly the opposite: teaching them to keep a tight grip on what they care about and not give it up. In fact, we should be helping them learn how to dig into it and pursue it with energy and purpose.

We have got to let go of our focus on the curriculum and start putting our focus on the learner. We need to help our children become expert learners. What you need to learn changes — what’s important is your ability to learn. Part of being a successful learner is having tenaciousness and grit.

I have lost count, seriously, of how many managers I’ve watched try to talk a passionate person out of pursuing a path toward the thing that fulfills them.  The manager has a plan, and this person needs to fill a prescribed role in that plan, period.  But for a passion-driven person who loves what they do — or is trying to connect up with what they love to do — that plan will receive their deference for only as long as it takes them to navigate around it.

The adult has a plan and just wants the child to fill her role in that plan, period. What does the child want? She may agree to do what she’s told, but really she’s just biding her time to get back to what she really cares about. She saves her best effort for her self-chosen work. If we don’t support that self-chosen work, we may never know what she’s capable of. Worse, if we don’t give her the time and support she needs to explore her interests, she may forget about them altogether.

When we can let go of our tight grip on the minutia of the curriculum and allow our children to define some of their own learning goals, we can move the focus where it should be: on helping this particular learner develop her particular skills and abilities inside the frame of her particular interests and talents. That’s the education our children deserve.



Comment by Lori Pickert on September 2, 2012 at 02:44 PM

When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve. — Ernest Hemingway

Comment by amy21 on September 2, 2012 at 03:40 PM

By the time I graduated from high school I had no idea who I was, what I truly enjoyed, or what I wanted to do. I was so used to being told, "You don't like science. You're a humanities person. Art will only lower your GPA. You can't go to NYU. You'll never survive in NYC." I still have so much resentment over this. I would have done college totally differently if I'd had a chance to, well, just be. Oh, I was an A student, too. My guidance counselor wanted me to go to Dartmouth because he'd never placed a student there before. I didn't WANT to go to Dartmouth OR take their 4 years of required foreign language in high school. He didn't listen. I could go on, but you probably get the point....

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 2, 2012 at 03:58 PM

that is seriously disheartening. but it seems like every adult you have contact with wants to define you — your teachers, your guidance counselor, your parents, your grandparents .. they all have fond hopes and desires or maybe they want to live vicariously through you. maybe building a habit of helping kids prioritize their personal interests and talents could simultaneously help us build a habit of *letting go* and letting our kids be themselves.

Comment by Cardenie on September 2, 2012 at 05:14 PM

DH and I talk a lot about when we were children, how some of the ways the adults in our lives didn't fully support our interests, sometimes without even meaning to.

It's almost like once you are knocking on 17, 18 yrs. old, some parents (or main caregiver or any adult in your life) freak out and try to undermine your decisions to suit themselves. That "letting go" process, like Lori mentioned that I think is very, very difficult for some parents.

Anyway, the good thing is we are aware and want to be different with our kids and do our best to fully support them now and always in whatever their passions are.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 3, 2012 at 07:53 AM

loved your post on this, too, carisa:


Comment by Zane on September 3, 2012 at 09:40 AM

Thank you for another wonderful post!

I'm in the middle of your book, and I love it. What a gift to the parenting world! I keep coming back to this sentence: "But setting aside time for project work becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—it attracts the work you value." So true. Not only is reading your book giving me more respect for my children's interests, it is helping me to prioritize my own passions. Thank you, thank you.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 3, 2012 at 12:17 PM

thank you so much — i truly appreciate your taking the time to let me know. what a great comment to find this morning — you’ve made my day. :)

Comment by CathyT on September 3, 2012 at 07:07 PM

So true. My 18 year old has his own business, taking senior portraits, and it is so hard for my dh and I not to comment on how much time he spends focusing on his website that he made himself related to his business but we are really working on being supportive. He has had some success too - I need to keep that in perspective. Yet he doesn't want to go to college next year to be a photographer as he considers himself already accomplished in that area. So we are waiting to see what he is interested in. Waiting, that is so hard.

Was it your blog that pointed out changing the word TIME, as I don't have time to do something, to the word PRIORITY, as in that is not a priority for me. We have been talking about those two words quite often since I read and shared that with him. It has helped redefine some conversations in a positive way. My husband and I are working to help our son define his goals and priorities and working hard to listen and not preach. Letting go - on some levels it has been easy, in other ways so difficult.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 3, 2012 at 08:11 PM


yep, here’s that post:


it is difficult, that balance between letting go and supporting. but i feel like if that close relationship is there, and that history of working together as a team, maybe it will be a bit easier. i hope so. :) my oldest turns 16 in a couple of months!

would he consider taking some business classes and maybe *teaching* a photography class? i’ve always found that preparing to teach a class is like taking a master class myself, due to all the preparation I have to do. plus he could make some extra money, and that’s always welcome when you’re building a business. :)

Comment by mrs.grateful on September 4, 2012 at 05:06 PM

I do agree, I worry about my children and all most every other child in my society, with school and other activities there is so little free time left and the time left they are exhausted and look for peace in front of the screen. There is no time to develope their personality, desires and individuality.

Comment by CathyT on September 4, 2012 at 07:46 PM

Yes, we are working on building a feeling of mutual trust and respect and we have a very good relationship. That really does make this from high school to part time college/part time work a better one -- we take walks together a couple times a week if we can manage and talk about all sorts of stuff then. Car rides are also good, though he has his license and I don't seem to ride with him as often as I used to :).

He actually went through all the work to prepare to teach some friends photography at the beginning of this summer, making a syllabus for himself to follow and they had one class. But it fell apart as they all worked different hours and lived quite a distance apart. I will have to ask him about that again.

And we are talking about next semester's courses -- maybe a business course or some other creative outlet class. He has so many different interests that he has no idea what to take as a major if he decides to go to college fulltime next year.

I tell you, raising an infant seems easier than raising a teen :). Yet I love it all (most of the time!).

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 4, 2012 at 07:51 PM


i recently read a conversation on twitter among artists who were talking about how much they wish they’d studied business in college, because every artist eventually does work for him- or herself and needs to be able to negotiate contracts, market, etc.

that’s great re: him preparing to teach a class — he sounds like he has a great head on his shoulders. :)

i’ll be interested to hear what he decides to do!

Comment by Fanny Harville on September 6, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Yes, yes, yes. I see so many college students in my classes who have lost touch with their passionate interests and/or have no idea how to make something of them. When given the opportunity to take charge of their learning within a class, they panic because they've been relentlessly trained to take direction, not to own their work.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 6, 2012 at 02:21 PM

fanny, i am writing something about that very thing right now. it’s strange how a person can actually lose touch with their own interests and opinions, but it must happen because they are simply never called upon, so they wither up.

Comment by David on September 12, 2012 at 12:02 AM

"When we push kids’ interests to the side (to their slivers of free time) and tell them to concentrate on the curriculum, we’re letting them develop a habit of getting talked out of what they really want to do. They learn to let go of the things they really care about. We should be doing exactly the opposite: teaching them to keep a tight grip on what they care about and not give it up. In fact, we should be helping them learn how to dig into it and pursue it with energy and purpose."
Love this Lori! Love your book too!! I read it in one night and am now going back over some sections to let it sink in some more. I think you have this wonderful way of being able to express things so clearly and(even though we don't have any children of our own) this book will be an absolutely vital source of inspiration and provocation for so many homeschoolers. Thanks! :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 12, 2012 at 08:14 AM

david, thank you so much. your approval means a lot! it was very important to me to try for utmost clarity when i was writing the book, so i did a lot of reorganizing and rewriting — a *lot*. ;o) so it means a lot to me that you thought it was clear! as you and i know, these are big ideas and sometimes they are quite unwieldy for people unused to them; i want to give them as much scaffolding as i can. ;o)

Comment by sooz on September 12, 2012 at 12:46 AM

What a great post to read. My husband and I are in the process of trying to decide whether to homeschool our son or not beginning nxt year with K. Reading your blog is giving us much to reflect upon in trying to make this decision.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 12, 2012 at 08:14 AM

thank you, and good luck with your decision! :)

Post new comment