Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Follow your passion
It all starts with a soccer game. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Huge soccer game over the weekend. My daughter’s elementary school team (coached in part by “yours truly”) won 7-0.
Wait, did you think I meant Liverpool FC beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final? OK, that was a pretty big game, too.
But in our game, frankly, the team did so well—a 4-0 lead within the first 10 minutes or so—that my co-coach and I had to figure out quickly out how to put the brakes on things for sportsmanship’s sake.
Let’s just say that was a new experience for us.
It’s been a lot of fun to watch as the kids learned the game a bit over the past two seasons and got better as a team—and by far the most important thing at this age: had fun and developed a bit of passion for it all. I’m really proud of them.
With that as an introduction, let’s talk about an amusingly specific study I read recently about exactly that last point: passion and success (and as it happens, soccer). I’ll jump straight to the authors’ summary of their conclusions:
“For people who are the best of the best in their field, passion is absolutely the biggest factor. It's the essential key to success.”
That's Hermundur Sigmundsson, a psychology professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology and lead author of the study, which was published this month in the quarterly peer-reviewed journal New Ideas in Psychology.
Sigmundsson and his team say they set out with no preconceptions to determine whether any of three specific mental traits might be shared among the most elite school-aged athletes they could find. The three traits included:
passion, defined as "having a strong enthusiasm or desire for something."
mindset, defined as "belief that achievement is variable, and that abilities can be developed over time."
grit, defined as "a personality factor reflecting persistence in accomplishing long-term goals."
The study focused on Norwegian soccer players in two age groups:
an elite team, averaging age 22, whose players were qualifying to play in the top Norwegian professional league; and
a junior-level regional team, averaging just under age 15, whose players were highly proficient but were at a younger stage of their careers and playing at a lower level.
From there, there were two components to the study:
First, players were asked a series of 24 questions designed to assess their passion, grit, and mindset.
Separately, their coaches were asked to rank their teams, identifying the players with the highest competence and the lowest competence.
Results? Higher levels of players' passion correlated to higher rankings for competence.
Measurement of the other two mental traits—players' growth mindset and grit—were much less aligned. To quote from the article itself:
These results may indicate the important role of passion for achievement and for becoming a good football player.
Our findings indicate clear difference between HFC and LFC groups for both Elite and Junior team in passion, supporting anecdotal evidence.
The results of our study suggest that passion may be a key factor for athletic success.
So, if you're trying to field a Norwegian football team, I guess you have your answer.
Anyway, the study has its limitations. Most glaring at the outset might be that they only included men and boys in their study. Unfortunately, this is something that comes up quite often in these kinds of studies (example; other example).
But it made me think:
Maybe passion is the initial pre-requisite—like, how much do you even care about this particular activity?
From there, growth mindset has to do with a person's belief that they'll be able to grow and succeed—while, grit has to do with whether they'll stick with any growth opportunity placed in front of them.
So maybe the old advice about “follow your passion” isn’t quite right. It would be more like: “Follow as many paths as you can, so that ultimately you’ll find great things you’re passionate about.”
Elementary school-aged soccer seems like one of a few thousand great places to start.
Thanks to everyone who submitted “Signal Boost” ideas after I rolled this out Friday. I’ll have to figure out the best place to put them in the newsletter. (For now? Right here.) For today’s Signal Boost, subscriber John Fees has a book recommendation:
I just completed the new book by Arthur Brooks called, Strength to Strength (Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life). It's a useful book with insights into aging and performance. Excellent for middle-aged adults, but it also has a useful message for people of all ages to help prepare you to make the most of life at each stage, and to understand how to apply your strengths to perform at your best. (ArthurBrooks.com, Amazon)
7 other things worth knowing today
An 18-year-old who opened fire at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday, killing 10 people and wounding three others allegedly drove three hours from his home to reach a predominantly Black area, live-streamed the massacre on Twitch, and posted a lengthy and racist manifesto. (CNN)
Residents along parts of North Carolina's Outer Banks are living on edge as the ocean pushes ever closer to people’s homes, following a potent coastal storm that wreaked havoc much of this week and washed two houses out to sea.(Accuweather)
Congress will hold its first public hearings on UFOs since the 1960s, but the House will host one tomorrow. “Someone has to do it,” said Representative Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, who is overseeing the hearing. (BNN Bloomberg)
Five Air Force reservists have been disciplined after using a military aircraft to make an unauthorized landing at Martha’s Vineyard in March to pick up a crew member’s 1970 BMW R75/5 motorcycle. The aircraft was spotted by local residents eating lunch at a restaurant near the airport, and the story soon went national after being reported first by the Martha’s Vineyard Times. (Task and Purpose)
A new report by LendingTree, which analyzed mortgage data, finds that Gen Z now accounts for 10% of homebuyers across the country, and they're not buying in expensive traditional places like NYC & San Francisco. Salt Lake City tops the list as the most popular metro for Gen Z (16.60% of mortgages), followed by Louisville, Kentucky, and Oklahoma City, where Gen Z makes up roughly 15% of home mortgages. (Fast Company)
An 18-year-old high school student and drummer who learned that Pearl Jam's drummer had COVID and wouldn't be able to perform in a concert at Oakland Arena volunteered to step in, and the band took him up on it. Kai Neukermans of Mill Valley had met Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder's daughter, Olivia Vedder, at a music festival four years ago, so he reached the band through her. Within hours, they asked him for an audition video, invited him to rehearsal, and took the stage with him in front of nearly 20,000 fans. (People, Twitter)