For award-winning scientist Adam Steltzner, finding a passion was a happy accident. He jokes, “I was sort of studying sex, drugs and rock and roll in high school.”
In the September series, “A Lot to Learn”, we’ve released old ideas about self-help. We’ve replaced a fix-it, “one and done” mentality with the idea that constant course corrections are natural and even rewarding. As our wisdom grows, our choices and responses progress.
Adam Steltzner’s passion started small. He began noticing stars after late night gigs with his high school garage band. However, before he could study astronomy at his local community college, he had to back-track to complete physics. After astronomy, he kept going, eventually earning a mechanical engineering degree. He became part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team that landed the Curiosity rover on Mars.
Is he resentful that he didn’t have a straight road to one of the most elite divisions in NASA? No. He says, “Surrender to the process, rather than the goal.”
Steltzner isn’t alone. In his New York Times article, “Four Steps to Choosing a College Major,” Nathan Gebhard explained that for many people he profiled, “Their major – whether they stuck with it or applied it in new ways – was the start of channeling their interests, values and skills into work that made the struggle and hard work it took to get there worth it.”
This month, we’ve met a lot of people who surrendered to the process of learning:
- In “We All Learn,” we saw how Lori Goldstein changed an innocent mistake to a lighthearted moment of discovery. Gaining knowledge isn’t limited to a classroom. It can, and should be, ongoing.
- “Skip or Skim At Your Peril” explored the current “10,000 hours” idea. We shifted to the deep understanding that becoming an expert happens when we do something well, not simply with repetition.
- “Shifting the No” showed how hearing “no” is a natural part of stretching. Rather than getting derailed, we can transform disappointment by reframing “no” into “not quite”, “not yet” or “not now.”
A key Soul Boss principle is that great bosses are present. They’re never afraid to do the work. But doing the work doesn’t mean you sit alone, endlessly acquiring facts. It’s about taking your hard-earned knowledge, especially the “a ha!” insights, into the world. At that moment, sharing your transformation can influence and inspire others. As theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
It’s time to surrender to the process and help others do the same. Maybe you know how to show grace when someone is struggling. Or perhaps people at odds found common ground as you helped them see the heart of the matter. Those simple actions may seem basic to you. Yet for someone else, understanding how these behaviors fit into the process will be essential. It may even be the beginning of an exceptional future.
This week, take the pressure off a passion. Find something that intrigues you, and then take a single step toward it.