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What are you passionate about?


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Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid revolutionary and beloved former president of South Africa, has said "There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."

When I was in college, someone asked me, "What are you passionate about?"

Although I had to think for a little while about my response, the question felt like a wonderful invitation to share who I was at the core of my being. Since that day, I have often asked people "What are you passionate about?" in place of "What do you do?" I like getting to know what inspires a person, what they could talk about all day, what motivates them to work towards a dream.

So, this discussion could go many ways ... here are some starter questions. Feel free to answer one or all of them – or ask your own!

What are you passionate about?

What one question do you like to ask people when you're first getting to know them?

What does Nelson Mandela's quotation mean to you?


Note: This is a public community so use your best judgment when sharing.

14 replies

@Laura , these are very complex questions. I will respond to the last one first, what question do you ask someone you are getting to know? I usually ask, “What music do you like to listen to?” Followed by, “Do you play a musical instrument?”
My mother once told me she found her closest friend when she met a woman on a train and asked who was her favorite composer? They both loved Beethoven and began a lifelong friendship as a result.

As for “passions”, this is more complicated. Passions change as you age. I don’t have my passion for mountain climbing any more as my older legs would’nt be strong enough to scale such heights. I used to be passionate about teaching music and creating the most awesomist experiences for students, but now I am retired... I have found continuous passion playing music , playing clarinet, recorder, flute, and guitar, making music with many wonderful people. I also have a passion for excellent discussions like these!

Not everyone will have a burning passion for something that is larger-than-life. Small passions and satisfactions can be equally as gratifying. Making the best possible life for yourself and your loved ones can be a challenge given many external circumstances. Mandela’s words, spoken by someone who has suffered for years is truly inspiring, proving it is possible to rise about your circumstances to be the best you can be.

Laura, what was your response in college, and did that change as you aged?
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@Laura , these are very complex questions. I will respond to the last one first, what question do you ask someone you are getting to know? I usually ask, “What music do you like to listen to?” Followed by, “Do you play a musical instrument?”
My mother once told me she found her closest friend when she met a woman on a train and asked who was her favorite composer? They both loved Beethoven and began a lifelong friendship as a result.


I love this story! It's really interesting how we meet our closest friends. Sometimes it seems like an amazing coincidence (an encounter on a train and asking a question), and other times it seems less amazing – but no less valuable. I am in my 30s and still close friends with someone I met at age 12 at a new student orientation at our new school. She was very outgoing (and still is) and she sat down next to me and introduced herself. I was shy and never would have introduced myself – I'm so glad she took that step!

As for “passions”, this is more complicated. Passions change as you age. I don’t have my passion for mountain climbing any more as my older legs would’nt be strong enough to scale such heights. I used to be passionate about teaching music and creating the most awesomist experiences for students, but now I am retired... I have found continuous passion playing music , playing clarinet, recorder, flute, and guitar, making music with many wonderful people. I also have a passion for excellent discussions like these!

Really good point that passions can change. We have the power to constantly reinvent ourselves. One passion that I developed in childhood that I don't think will ever change is my passion for animal protection. How I go about 'living' this passion is always evolving but the passion itself is something I hold in my heart.

Not everyone will have a burning passion for something that is larger-than-life. Small passions and satisfactions can be equally as gratifying. Making the best possible life for yourself and your loved ones can be a challenge given many external circumstances. Mandela’s words, spoken by someone who has suffered for years is truly inspiring, proving it is possible to rise about your circumstances to be the best you can be.

Love this point, too. It's so important to be reminded of this. For example, I think many people I know would say they are passionate about their family. Just caring for family and enjoying time with loved ones can be deeply important.

Laura, what was your response in college, and did that change as you aged?

I don't remember how I answered this question when it was asked of me in college. It caught me off-guard, and clearly launched me on a path of exploring what I am passionate about!

So, this discussion could go many ways ... here are some starter questions. Feel free to answer one or all of them – or ask your own!

What are you passionate about?


Great topic, @Laura! I am passionate about learning and helping others to learn. I have always welcomed volunteering opportunities in the education sector. They have been both in the local communities and on global online environments. For instance, when I got the first invitation to become a Coursera Community Teaching Assistant (nowadays, we are called Mentors), I did not hesitate to accept it. It opened up a new window for me to get engaged in fostering an impact on education at a global level basically because learners come from all over the world. That's why I greatly enjoy being a member of the Mentor Community. 🙂
@Laura , how wonderful that you are still close friends! I would love to respond and tell you about mine, however I think I will start a new thread with just this question and hope to hear many heartwarming stories!

i am glad you understand about the many kinds of passions we may have in our lives. There is no doubt that when I had young children they were my world, and passion! How beautiful that your passion for helping animals is something you can keep for your life!

@Maryam , I am so glad that we can be the beneficiary of your helping others here. I share this with you and am so grateful we have met.
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I have always welcomed volunteering opportunities in the education sector. They have been both in the local communities and on global online environments. For instance, when I got the first invitation to become a Coursera Community Teaching Assistant (nowadays, we are called Mentors), I did not hesitate to accept it.


The learners are lucky to have you as a mentor! Which courses do you mentor, @Maryam?
Thank you, @Laura.

  • Shaping the Way We Teach English, 1: The Landscape of English Language Teaching
  • Shaping the Way We Teach English, 2: Paths to Success in ELT
I was a CTA/Mentor for these teacher training courses initially, but they are not offered on the New Platform.

I am a Mentor for these courses. The first one covers the fundamentals of the survey data collection and analytics process. The second course teaches learners how to conduct research mainly at the postgraduate level. My co-Mentors and I help learners comprehend the material, work through the assignments, and complete the courses smoothly through answering their questions in the forums.
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@Maryam Interesting! I took some research classes as a Master of Social Work student, then I worked as a professional research assistant for two years. What I learned in those courses played a key role in my ability to get that job. Understanding how to conduct proper research can be difficult but it's so important. In my experience, it helps a lot to have guidance when learning research fundamentals.
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@Laura great questions! I love that quote from Nelson Mandela, we should all strive to live the life we deserve, push ourselves forward and make the most of every opportunity - at least, that's how I take it!

I'm passionate about helping people, and learning. I believe the two go hand in hand - when you learn about someone's experiences or situations, you learn more about it and are more able to help. Equally, when you learn something new, there may be a time somewhere in the future when that info can help someone.

Finally, when I want to get someone talking I use music like Judith - almost everybody likes some kind of music, so its a universal conversation starter. Once you've had an in-depth conversation about music it's like you've known each other forever!
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Virtual reality is the thing that excites me; to me it will change the way we live.
Welcome, @ninotabatadze! It's great that you are passionate about VR. AR (Augmented Reality) is also an interesting subject, in my view. Yes, it is believed that both VR and AR will change the landscape of science.
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Thank you @Laura for starting this thread on one of my favorite topics. I see there are many inspiring comments already. I love Nelson Mandela’s quote as well. Considering everything he went through, it is possible to rise above your circumstances to be the best you can be as @Judith highlighted. I find it very inspirational as well. I love Judith's mom's story too. Thank you for sharing it.

I am very passionate about science, medicine and technology, in general, as well as helping everyone in need around me (which also brought me into mentoring), including animals. I would love to find solutions to debilitating diseases, to ease people's lives, especially if there is no proper cure for them currently. I don’t think this passion for me will change by age. If I am trying to help someone to discover their passion or purpose for their life, I do ask them what they are passionate about and what excites them most in life.

Incidentally, without realizing the existence of this thread, I just started another thread on passion with a list of questions to help everyone to discover their passion in life or their dream job here:

https://coursera.community/networking-social-discussion-5/have-you-discovered-your-passion-dream-job-for-life-already-do-you-know-how-to-reach-there-507

I guess it could be a follow up thread to this one. Some of you may have already seen those questions in the Mentor Training Course forums a while ago. If you don't know what you are passionate about yet or wish to revisit your passion and how to fulfill your dreams in the beginning of the year, this may be a good opportunity for you to review them once again. 🙂
What am I passionate about? Do I only get to pick one thing?

I was passionate to be an astronaut when I saw Neil Armstrong make that first small step, but as I was the neighborhood cripple even then I suspected that that one was not going to work out, although I held onto the dream for many years thereafter.

I agree with Judith that passions ebb and flow with time. One that has remained the most constant for me since early childhood is music: to listen to, to play, to write.

My favorite toy, when I was a from the time I was about 7 was an AM transistor radio that the guy on the Camera Bar at the discount retailer my mom worked at sold me for a buck when they were closing them out because no one wanted just AM anymore -Fm was the big thing. It was about the size of the cassette Walkman that came out many years later, which is to say that it was pretty small for its time period. I spent hours scrounging pop bottles to keep the thing in batteries from then on.

When I was about 8 or 9 my mom and her friend were hanging around with a musical duo that they had met at one of the clubs they frequented, the guys had a regular gig there at the time. I wanted to play trumpet, like one of them did. I figured that that would go over like a lead balloon, however, so that Christmas I asked for a guitar insead. I didn't get one, I was told that I wouldn't practice (although I think that the truth of the matter was that I would).

I bought myself a guitar and taught myself to play when I was grown and no one could stop me. It was a horrid instrument, the action was about a mile high and i developed .

When I went to college in my thirties, I started taking classical guitar lessons through the music dept. for fun.

To be continued, my computer is out of battery ...
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since childhood i have only access to traditional education but now from the boom of internet i am not only able to learn from platforms such as coursera but do well in other spheres and helping other people ,
my passion are about computer , health , personal development and learning new things. i would like to help more people to learn new things to do well and pursue their dreams.
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My favorite toy, when I was a from the time I was about 7 was an AM transistor radio that the guy on the Camera Bar at the discount retailer my mom worked at sold me for a buck when they were closing them out because no one wanted just AM anymore -Fm was the big thing. It was about the size of the cassette Walkman that came out many years later, which is to say that it was pretty small for its time period. I spent hours scrounging pop bottles to keep the thing in batteries from then on.

When I was about 8 or 9 my mom and her friend were hanging around with a musical duo that they had met at one of the clubs they frequented, the guys had a regular gig there at the time. I wanted to play trumpet, like one of them did. I figured that that would go over like a lead balloon, however, so that Christmas I asked for a guitar insead. I didn't get one, I was told that I wouldn't practice (although I think that the truth of the matter was that I would).


I love the imagery you've created here, @Halla! Did you ever learn to play trumpet?

since childhood i have only access to traditional education but now from the boom of internet i am not only able to learn from platforms such as coursera but do well in other spheres and helping other people ,
my passion are about computer , health , personal development and learning new things. i would like to help more people to learn new things to do well and pursue their dreams.


There are so many people in the Coursera community who enjoy helping people and learning new things! (I am one of them. 😁) It's great that the internet has allowed you to do more with your passions, @swaraj!

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