Not for me, more for me

I’ve always been prone to enthusiasms, but if I ever tried to press them onto others I can’t remember. I can remember measuring people on how well their enthusiasms matched mine—but that only vaguely.

Life got better once I switched from grading others on the content of their enthusiasms to grading them on the quality. Even if what turns them on does nothing for me, or turns me off, I can relate to their passion for the thing—enjoy it, even learn from it.

Pro tip: a surefire technique for meaningful conversation is to zero in on a person’s passions, ask a leading question or two, then stand back and watch the excitement pour out. It’s usually easy (and often delightful) engaging with what they say and how they say it, even if the subject leaves me cold. I’ll take this approach with people I don’t know well, and especially with kids.

I like this drawing by Austin Kleon on how to deal with enthusiasm mismatches:

(He offers some other conversational shortcuts here.)

4 thoughts on “Not for me, more for me

  1. I still wrestle periodically with the content of my main obsession of the last ten years. But I think I’ve given up worrying about it. But the principle you specify is how I was advised to choose university courses — if you have a choice, pick the best / most enthusiastic teacher, not necessarily the topic that interests you the most.

  2. Servetus,

    Yours is a perfect example — I’ve spent enjoyable screentime tracking your adventure in enthusiasm, learning a lot about fandom as a pursuit, even though the subject itself is “not for me.” Well, “more for you“, I guess!

  3. I’m glad if it’s interesting to you in any way.

    I wouldn’t want to be a person without enthusiasms — it’s actually something that employers look for, low key, in academic interviews; people can smell if you’re curious in that particular way. A shared sense of enthusiasm (if not the same one) plays an important role in bonding a successful university department. It’s certainly a way of thinking about what the right way to live might be.

    (and yeah, more for me :) ).

  4. And I should say — I don’t think I’d necessarily want to have lived through your adventures of the last decade but I certainly have enjoyed reading about them, particular insofar as we do share the assumption that pursuing the right way to live (morally) is an important priority.

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