How do you ignite passion? I like these two examples, both of which use what might be called the “side-door” method. First, from a recent New Yorker article, the tennis-playing Bryan family set out to motivate their twin boys this way:
Who can topple that stack of tennis cans? Who can hit the most forehands in a row? At home, rather than giving his sons music lessons [Wayne, the father] turned them into the rhythm section for an oldies cover band…. “It’s motivation first, playing first, learning later, [Wayne] says. “Lessons are bullcrap.”
(It kinda worked. Mike and Bob Bryan are the top-ranked doubles team in the world; they also just released their first album.)
Second, Po Bronson, co-author of the new book NurtureShock, tells a similar story here — though his side door came in more unlikely form: Pokemon cards, which led to huge advances in his son’s math abilities and organizational thinking.
This kind of advice can risk sounding toweringly obvious. (Make it fun? Duh.) But here’s the point of both stories: this isn’t about mere fun. It’s about creating the conditions for immersion, total absorption — the deepest kind of fun, where our identities blur with the task we’re attempting (a la these kids from Liverpool or these kids from New Jersey). It’s about providing environments that turbocharge our attention systems, when we anticipate, shut out distraction, and fire those skill circuits like crazy.
(BTW, NurtureShock looks terrific — I’m buying it now.)