Russell and Duenes

“Pick Something that You Wouldn’t Mind Investing Years in Mastering”

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So saith Cal Newport. My wife turned me on to Newport awhile back, and his advice has been quite helpful to me. He dispenses with the “follow your passion” or “do what you’re good at” advice, and instead encourages young people (and, I imagine, older people too) to think of a skill that can be developed, and really it can be any skill, and then pursue that skill to a point of mastery. People can spend years considering their “passions” or casting about for what they’re “good at,” and never get anywhere. Yet when it comes to one’s vocational life, Newport says: “[C]areer satisfaction almost always follows: (a) building up a rare and valuable skill; then (b) using this skill as leverage to take control of your working life.”

I am finding this to be true as I stand on the cusp of becoming a work-a-day attorney. When I came to law school, I thought perhaps that I wanted to be a bioethics or constitutional lawyer of some type. As I’ve said before, those areas still highly interest me, and I do have some knowledge in them that could be turned into a kind of mastery. Yet I have also found that I want to gain mastery in the skill of being a lawyer, and there are various arenas in which I might do so.

One arena, which had not occurred to me before law school, is the arena of energy. We have a phenomenal oil and gas law program here at Washburn Law, and I thought I would avail myself of it. I had no background in oil and gas and never really gave it a thought. And after my performance on my first oil and gas law final exam (my lowest grade in law school, by far), it might have been the better part of wisdom for me to call it “one and done.” But no, I doubled-down on pain, and took the advanced class, and did better. I also took a Water Law course, and have attended several environmental law conferences. More recently I took at job with Kansas’ state public utilities commission and have found it quite stimulating. Further, one cannot help but see that the energy sector pervades every nation on earth, for every nation needs energy and will continue to do so as long as humans are there.

So I have found that I “wouldn’t mind investing years in mastering” some segment of energy law, to the glory of God. Whether this will happen, only God knows. Yet I have found this to be fruitful, both professionally and in my soul. Thus, Newport has a big fan in me. I commend him to you as well.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Duenes, Work

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