Practice and patience lease to mastery image of violinist

Part 3: Passion Is a Side Effect of Mastery

This is part 3 in a 4-part series from “Do What You Love” Is Horrible Advice.


“The myth of the virtuoso is also a problem,” says Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor and author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Search For Work You Love. “In the majority of cases people think of someone who became a virtuoso as having had unusual talent when they were very young.”

Instead, most highly skilled people were exposed to something in a way that made it interesting. Take musicians. Something (a song, an instrument, a teacher, etc.) initially inspired them. They started learning and then benefited from what Newport describes as a feedback effect.

“If you practice hard, soon you might find you’re the best in your group of students,” he says. “That’s great feedback and it motivates you to keep practicing. Then you’re one of the best in a larger group and that’s motivating too. Practice and achievement is a gradual, self-reinforcing process.”

If the work is interesting and you think there’s a market—meaning people will pay you for that work—that’s enough to get started. Then the work itself will give you the feedback you need.


Creating a viable product will motivate you to develop your skills so you can refine that product or create more products.

Landing one customer will motivate you to develop more skills so you can land more customers. Gaining greater responsibility and authority will motivate you to develop more skills so you can keep climbing your ladder.

The satisfaction of achieving one level of success spurs you on to gain the skills to reach the next level, and the next, and the next.

And one day you wake up feeling incredibly fulfilled.

“The satisfaction of improving is deeply satisfying, as eons of craftspeople will attest,” Newport says. “The process of becoming really good at something valuable is a fulfilling and satisfying process in itself… and is the foundation for a great entrepreneurial career.”


Written by Jeff Hayden, a LinkedIn inFluencer, ghostwriter, and speaker, and an Inc. Magazine contributing editor. This post is reprinted from LinkedIn, June 23, 2014, featured in “Do What You Love” Is Horrible Advice.

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