Science: To Be Great, Be So Passionate You Can't Stop Learning


The image below is the most fundamental images you need to know to become world-class at any skill. It was developed by famous researcher Anders Ericsson of 10,000-Hour Rule fame.


The basic idea behind it is that most people only improve to the point where they become good enough (also known as the OK plateau). Then, the skill becomes autonomous. And the person stops trying to improve.

Think of everyday skills like driving or handwriting. You perform these without even thinking about them. And, you probably haven't improved in many years despite hundreds or thousands of hours of experience. What we now know is that no one becomes world-class via just on-the-job experience.

People who become world-class expert performers keep pushing themselves to improve through deliberate practice. They keep going even when they're good enough. They put in the time (thousands of hours). They set constant improvement goals. They devote the highest energy part of their days to improvement. They search out and integrate honest feedback even if it is hard to hear.

Despite the tremendous benefits of being a world-class performer, most people simply aren't willing to put in the time and effort.

I've always been curious about why. I wondered...

What is the difference between people who stop improving and people who keep on improving?

“I’m certainly seduced by mathematics. I couldn’t help myself being a mathematician." —Successful research mathematician from a study

As someone whose studied the biographies of hundreds of great scientists, and leaders, and entrepreneurs, I've had a suspicion on what the answer might be simple... passion.

I've had this suspicion for a few reasons...

  • Nearly everyone who is great at something seems to be deeply passionate about it.
  • Passion helps people get over the inevitable humps. It takes a lot of hard work to be world-class.
  • At some point, you have more money than you need. You have the respect of your peers. The motivation to keep improving and growing seems to be intrinsic.

For example, I've seen a ton of videos like this one...

Today, I came across a fascinating framework that confirms this suspicion. It is from the The Science of Expertise Handbook: Behavioral, Neural, and Genetic Approaches to Complex Skill, and it shows how passion and expertise co-evolve together over time. This framework is based on dozens of studies.


The table below explains each of the stages a little more deeply...


The first three stages are adapted from Dr. Benjamin Bloom and Jean Côté. And the final stage is from Arielle Bonneville-Roussy and Robert J. Vallerand.

For now, I'm excited that there is a whole field of people who study passion, and I'm excited to dive deeper into the research...


Do you think that passion is essential to becoming a world-class performer? How do you think passion is developed?