Each of the authors has a wonderful, intelligent, creative, beautiful daughter graduating from college this year. Two have already celebrated the successful completion of this stage in their academic career and the third will occur soon. None of us can ever fully relate to you how very proud we are of the grit, growth and gravitas each of you demonstrated throughout the journey you’ve just taken. We’re especially proud because we know each of you took on this task by your own choosing
Despite the fact that society increasingly pressures youth in America to feel as though they are failing (see yesterday’s post) if they don’t attend university, study some subject endorsed by the masses as leading to a successful profession (doctor, lawyer, etc) and then commit to grueling internships or residencies in order to climb the ladder of success, each of you chose independently to study at the place and in the department that brings you joy and fulfillment. Some would describe this as “following your passion.” In fact, I think a previous post uses those exact words. But where do you go from here and will the same approach lead to success?
That is a question the three of us have wrestled with in varying degrees from the time we left school and joined the military to find answers. Some of us still wrestle with that question. It is truly the exception that someone “follows their passion” for an entire lifetime of professional and personal gratification and service. The better advice, in my humble opinion, is to take your passion with you wherever life takes you.
If I had followed my passion, I’m pretty sure I would be either a starving artist or a failed athlete selling insurance somewhere in the Midwest. Things worked out much better for me, and I believe my friends and coauthors, because we weren’t able to follow tour passion. We learned we were able to serve our country and make a difference every day in ways that most people will never know. We met people, including each other, who have shaped us and supported us and made us far better men than we would have been without each other. We’ve had multiple “jobs” and “careers” that have allowed us to build expertise in leadership, technical acumen and critical thinking that have helped us get through the many moments of doubt and darkness when we questioned our own value to our profession, our circle of friends and society in general. The one thing that, unwittingly, we all did through those years was to bring our passion to the moment as opposed to following our passion to a given moment. We didn’t let the moment, the job, the peer pressure, societal norms or even family advice push us somewhere we didn’t want to go. We have been and continue to be the authors of our own aspirations.
We are each passionate about serving others. We are each passionate about the “career” we currently have and the impact it has on our nation’s security. We are each passionate about our relationships. We are each passionate about you and the future God has for you and everyone you will touch along the way. Take your passion with you. Author your own aspirations even if it’s counter to what we tell you. And don’t forget to look back occasionally. You’ll see us smiling at you with pride and love.