In the spirit of graduation season, here is a bit of advice for graduates. Actually, it's a bit of advice for everyone.
Be interested, not interesting.
During an outdoor service at Dordt College a couple weeks ago, a senior stepped to the mic and offered that nugget of wisdom.
He had heard it from a drama instructor three years before.
It is more important to be interested in the character being portrayed, rather than to try to make that character interesting, he had been told. Doing so makes the character come to life rather than appearing like the performance is forced.
The mantra of "Be interested, not interesting" also applies to life, this graduate said.
And he was right.
In journalism, the parallel is obvious: Be interested in the people and topics of the writing.
People are interesting and fun to write about. With meetings and other topics, that is not always the case. But, there is always something that warrants readers' interest. If not, there is no reason to write a story in the first place.
Therefore, the key for journalists is to be interested in relaying what interests readers. Interest matters more than the words used to convey that interest.
Parallels to other professions may be even easier. For example, who isn't interested in money? Bankers have an expectation to be interested in money and protecting investments for their customers. As a bank employee, I took pride in the work I did and enjoyed establishing relationships with customers. Interest in those people was my priority.
In other occupations, interest may or may not be there.
As a factory worker, I started out very interested in the process used to create the products at the plant. My coworkers just wanted to get those products out the door. Eventually, I developed the same attitude. We were interested in the quality of the products, but that was largely because we did not want to face negative consequences. Looking at a possible negative future took more interest than what we were doing in the present.
It is important to be interested in all aspects of life: the past, the present and the future.
There is always something that deserves interest. More importantly, there is always someone that deserves interest.
Being interested in others, and life in general, is far more important than trying be or appear interesting.