Jimmy Fallon: Followed his passion? No..Pursued his interests and now, he’s got talent!

It is funny how things I read get synthesized.  The things I hear and see and experience seem to come together like a “yureka!” in my head and then I want to write about it. Such a thing happened yesterday as I was thinking about Jimmy Fallon and how he has risen to success with what Parade magazine calls “boyish enthusiasm and creative drive” as well as a smile and an insane amount of talent that continues to exceed even his own expectations of himself. His ability to get his guests to be silly and have fun unleashes that within us when we watch his show, especially the “Best of Jimmy Fallon” special. I spent much of Sunday doing work and watching his greatest moments from Saturday Night Live too…and then it hit me…

Earlier last week, I stumbled upon an article on the Daily Muse (my favorite job search/career advice website and start-up), Want Work you Love? Don’t Follow Your Passion, written by Erin Greenawald where she asks, “Well then what should we do instead?” Many might think that Jimmy followed a passion of being a comedian all his life but his early college years suggested that he wanted to go into Computer Science and Communications (ultimately he earned a degree in the latter). While enrolled, he pursued an interest and refined a talent for jokes doing comedy shows and impressions at a local club and, because he was doing something he loved, he was exuding that same charm and enthusiasm he does now but at a time in his life when he was still honing his craft. When I encourage students and clients to follow or discover their passion, I am sincere of course, but what I am actually communicating and what Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work you Love is stating in the video from the Daily Muse article above, is that in order to passionately go forth in your career, you must follow your interests and cultivate talents that are needed for the world– those unique to your conglomerate of skills.  The confidence in the skills you have honed as a result of pursuing your interests causes you to be passionate because not only is what you’re doing an interest of yours but it is also something that you are now good at and that other people recognize as such. Others take note of your competence and the confidence you exude. We cannot prove you’ll be successful following your passion because passion develops over time by continuous or sequential exposure to things that interest. You do not follow it you create it, taking hold of or cultivating the skills that allow you to be talented at specific things.

For example, I pursue all things career related because I have always naturally wanted to help people discover what they want to do and learn about themselves. Naturally, then I try to pursue my interests so I have anecdotal information to share with my students/clients about how I have felt in doing so; sometimes relentlessly to the point that I am super busy all at once pursuing everything I am interested in! However, the beauty in that comes the rationale that because I am consistently involved in cultivating my interests, I am becoming better and more talented at those interests which have become over time: community engagement, leadership development, certain matters of economic development, as well as the teaching of professional development tips and skills.

Fallon’s career is an example of how rubber hits the road.  He was patient in the pursuit of his career, in fact, he had several years in between his time as a regular on SNL and before he took on the Late Show where he was off of most everyone’s radar. He did a few movies to test out that market with his skills, met his wife (on the set of Fever Pitch), had a beautiful baby girl and is now host of the Tonight Show. However, he wasn’t “following his passion” during those years away from television, he was pursuing an interest he had to do movies; to try something different as he was redefining and exploring another facet of his career. Luckily for us, those pursuits did not pan out and he returned to what he does best and what Lorne Michaels said he was a natural at, “[being a comedian who entertains with] a free-wheeling hodgepodge of chat, skits, piano-playing, ad-libbing, man-on-the-street interviews and loopy stunts,” similar to that of the original Tonight Show host, Steve Allen. Lorne recognized Fallon’s talent early on, during his SNL days, and then called him back to Late Night and the rest is history…

Putting in your best effort while pursuing your interests builds skills that others recognize and given a forum to do those things, can put you in the limelight.  Whether that be on a national, regional, local or familial stage, it does not matter.  What matters is that you’ve created a stage where the skills you’ve cultivated into a career are now what fills you with passion!

**Fallon actually acknowledges the mystery around how he arrived on the Tonight show further supporting this notion that you do not follow your passion, you create a career by cultivating your interests. Check out the beginning of his opening monologue and then consider his final statement which essentially said the following, “[We will talk about what is going on in the news, I will make fun of everyone and ultimately, I want to make you laugh so you get to bed with a smile on your face and stay happy]”

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