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“First comes interest.”
— Angela Duckworth.

My former PhD advisor used to tell his graduate students that in order to develop expertise in one’s field of research, the study itself, i.e. reading scientific papers, working out the details of math and physics, has to become a hobby. This is what Richard Feynman called “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”.

I recalled this as I have been reading an excellent book by Angela Duckworth called “Grit” on the importance of stick-to-it-iveness and ways of cultivating it. One point that she makes, which is kind of a truism if you think about it, is that it is easier to stick to something if you love what you do, i.e. if you have a personal interest in the subject.

What is less obvious is that this interest develops gradually. For example, I don’t expect my students to be gung ho about fluid mechanics right away, even at the graduate level. Likewise, my daughter didn’t have much enthusiasm for her first golf lessons.

Curiously, and conversely, what initially starts as an exciting personal interest inevitably acquires less enjoyable (read ‘boring’) aspects of a real job. With photography, for example, they say that to become a professional photographer is a sure way to kill a good hobby.

Personally, I am glad to have an opportunity to do photography at a professional level. I think that it adds a lot of quality to the craft, both technically and in terms of the purpose. It is satisfying to know that my photos have a life beyond my hard disk. This is the answer to the all-important “Why?” question that keeps me chipping away at processing a high-wolume dance photo shoot or getting out to a late-night basketball game.

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