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Jonah Lehrer To Grads: Follow Your Dreams, If They're The Right Ones
Neuroscience | August 29, 2011

Jonah Lehrer To Grads: Follow Your Dreams, If They're The Right Ones

Neuroscience speaker Jonah Lehrer delivered a convocation speech at Earlham College, and unlike the kind of 'follow your dreams' motivational fare you'd expect, he made a special point of telling grads that their dreams weren't necessarily going to come true. Based on Angela Duckworth's grit personality trait measurement, Lehrer suggested those armed with high grit have an ability to select the right goals from the get-go. He presents a benchmark test that involves underpants. Basically, we don't think about our underwear after a while—it's just there doing its thing. There's no excitement, no long-term passion. Lehrer suggests finding a pursuit, a job, that keeps you engaged and interested long after the initial thrill has worn off.

From Jonah Lehrer's speech, as posted on Wired:
What does this have to do with grit and long-term goals? Well, the only dreams worth pursuing are those that pass the underwear test. These are the pursuits that don’t bore us, even after we put in 10,000 hours of practice. They contain the kind of subtle thrills that don’t get old, that we don’t adapt to, that keep us motivated and interested for years and years at a time. Sure, there will be frustrations along the way, but these frustrations don’t feel permanent, which is what allows us to keep on working and learning and improving. Because that’s what it takes to succeed, to accomplish something interesting. Perhaps you want to invent the cure for malaria, or bake a perfect baguette, or create the next Facebook. Whatever – don’t apologize for your obsession. Just be grateful you are obsessed with something, that you’ve found a goal worth getting gritty over. Because if your goals ever feel tedious, if you find them as unnecessary as that last bite of chocolate cake, then you’re never going to put in the necessary work. Grit requires passion. Grit requires love. And love is just another name for what never gets old. Love is the opposite of underwear. 
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