The Power of Passion

Friday was one of the proudest days of my life. Those of you with school age kids will understand the feeling…you know the one…it’s the one where you  get all teary eyed when your child is up on stage doing a school performance. Friday was like that for me…except it was my husband that was in the limelight.

After four years of part time study, Alastair finally graduated with an Associate Degree in Forestry Management from Melbourne University, and he scooped up four out of the available five awards for his group. He won:

  • the Forests NSW Forest Protection Award
  • the Hancock Victorian Plantations Award for Academic Achievement
  • the Department of Sustainability and Environment Forests Service Prize in Silviculture, and
  • the Willmott Forests Award for High Achievement by a part time student.

We weren’t going to travel down to Melbourne for the ceremony because of Al’s work commitments, but the lovely people at the Creswick campus emailed and hinted that he had won an award and encouraged him to try and make it down….we had no idea that he had won FOUR awards! He absolutely blitzed the course, receiving HDs for all bar one class (he got a D for that one).

The terrific thing about all of this is that when he first went to university, straight out of high school, he hated it! He didn’t get his first preference, and wound up doing a computer science degree. He scraped through with passes and the odd credit. This left him with the concept of himself as a poor student. He lacked a passion for computing, and he wasn’t motivated to study, and ultimately that reflected in his grades. Fast forward 20 years….following a random conversation with his dad about the diminishing supply of cabinet-making timbers, and the purchase of a block of land to start to grow a small stand of our own, Al decided to head back to uni to learn more about how to manage what we hope will be our retirement nest-egg.

Two or three times a year for ten days at a time, Al made his way down to Creswick in the middle of Victoria. Several times a day I’d get phone calls or emails  telling me about all the different kinds of trees, and about chainsaws, and about herbicides and about the characters he was meeting that were so different to the people he normally hangs around with. He was so excited! Like a kid in a candy shop. He was so passionate about what he was learning each time that it was no longer a chore to do the assignments or to sit through lectures. It was a breeze!  He was having fun at school and doing well without the angst and “pain” he’d experienced when he was at uni the first time. And it was refreshing for me to see him so excited about something!

When we’re passionate about something, our perspective changes so much! The workload does not decrease. The complexity of the information doesn’t change. The length of time you have to spend doing you assignments doesn’t change (in fact you’ll probably take longer because you want to keep digging to learn more about your subject). The shift happens in our heads – in the way we think about things. When we are passionate about anything — whether it’s work, or sport, or study, or our hobbies, or family, or faith — it stops being about putting in hard work, and starts being about revelling in the thing that we love to do. It’s natural and organic. It’s about having a life that’s fulfilling and a life where we are fulfilling the purpose we were created for — which is where our passions are born!

The challenge for me as a parent now is trying to guide my sons towards choosing an educational path that will let them work within their passions rather than working against them and making life more difficult than it should be. But how to do that? I don’t know yet. If you have had any experience with this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here are some photos from Friday:

All robed up and ready to graduate

All robed up and ready to graduate

He said he felt like Harry Potter with his robes on :)

He said he felt like Harry Potter with his robes on 🙂

Al with the perpetual trophies that will go back to the Creswick campus

Al with the perpetual trophies that will go back to the Creswick campus

Well done my tree-hugging-lumberjack :):)

Well done my tree-hugging-lumberjack :):)

3 responses to “The Power of Passion

  1. Wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts here Michelle! (Kudos to Alastair – well done. All these trophies just confirm what you already know in your heart. Still so nice to have public recognition and some visual keepsakes.)

    Passions do make our work seem more like a hobby. There is joy in learning more and sharing information.

    Advice that we were given early on, really helped us with parenting in this area. Preschool teachers were adamant that one of our children should take Art Lessons, so I looked into the possibilities, even though it seemed a bit silly at his age.

    One local studio teacher suggested just nourishing his interests over the next few years, but not narrowing his life into one area at such a young age. His experience had been that children who were driven into their talents often “burned out” by the time they were ten, and lost their passion.

    Left to develop more broadly would, in his opinion, allow the choice to be HIS if and when he decided to pursue art (or any passion). Then it would bring life-long enjoyment.

    In the end, my son’s interests did fall in a different direction but still incompassed design, but in an engineering/architectural way. He is now pursuing a dream that far exceeds what I ever would have imagined for him in my own mind back when he was four.

    We applied the same advice to our other son, who at that time was showing a great interest in writing and drama. All these years we all (including him) expected he would follow this path. But now he is doing a Chemistry degree! He still loves the other pursuits, but by keeping his options open, he was able to discover a new passion.

    So many thanks to Greg Devenny-Mackay for his great advice! Where my boys “go” from here, who knows. But by keeping options open and by encouraging them to follow and develop their passions, I think they will continue to find life both exciting and rewarding as they are able to give out from their gifts and talents.

    A parent’s job is to guide, and with the example set by their dad, your kids are bound to benefit and bloom in their own gardens, too!

    • Wow! Your boys are doing great! Congratulations! Thanks for the advice! I guess the boys will do what they want to in the end hey? I’m beginning to think that if I can teach them creativity, adaptability and teachability they should be able to face whatever life throws their way.

  2. I think you have the recipe right, Michelle! You are doing a great job.

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