It can take years of adult life before an individual realizes what they’re really good at. Years! Since I’ll be applying to graduate programs in a number of months, I’m inclined to speed up that process.
I’ve found that passionate interest can be very hard to tell from practical talent, and when pursuing a career, talent (more than passion) is what counts. Passion is a prerequisite to talent, and acts as the necessary motivation to devote time and effort toward an activity. However, the presence of passion doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of skill.
Take for instance my three years of competition in speech and debate. What got me started in the league was my passionate interest in oral interpretation, a form of storytelling and acting. I also experimented with debate out of curiousity. As the years went by, my interps never ranked very highly (though I loved performing them). Debating, however, was another story—I consistently ranked higher as my skill level rose. Despite my own bias towards interp, dispassionate panels of judges helped me realize where my strongest talent existed.
The ingredients of speedy self-discovery seem to be experience, second opinions, and (to a lesser degree) contemplation. When all these components come together, it’s hard to ignore the boundaries separating talent from pure passion.