Anyone Can [fill in the blank] … ?

Seth Godin asks in his latest post:

A newspaper asked me the following, which practically set my hair on fire:

What inherent traits would make it easier for someone to becoming a linchpin? Surely not everyone can be a linchpin?

Why not? How dare anyone say that some people aren’t somehow qualified to bring emotional labor to their work, somehow aren’t genetically or culturally endowed with the seeds or instincts or desires to invent new techniques or ideas, or aren’t chosen to connect with other human beings in a way that changes them for the better?

I’ve heard this so many times that it almost sounds true. But then I watch Ratatouille again. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll just skip ahead right to Anton Ego’s final review:

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

I think Ego — or rather the writer who put the words in his mouth — is closer to the truth than Seth. No, everyone can not be whatever it is they want to be.

Not because they aren’t “qualified to bring emotional labor to their work”, but because emotion isn’t enough. If it were, Rudy wouldn’t have been the subject of a movie.

He had more passion for the game than any five of his teammates, but as Fortune tells him:

You’re 5 foot nothin’, 100 and nothin’, and you have barely a speck of athletic ability.

All the passion in the world didn’t overcome some limitations that he just couldn’t fix. Never could. Sure, his coach eventually rewarded him by putting him into a game. But only when the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

Until recently, stories like Rudy’s were for the most part private affairs. But now the auditions for American Idol show a parade of contestants with all the passion in the world, and no more talent than Rudy had. And they simply refuse to listen to the advice of people who also have passion, plus talent and a record of successfully identifying new talent.

Part of Seth’s definition of a linchpin is that they’re indispensable. That can only be true if the “emotional work” that you do is work that other people value. It still depends on what other people want.

So if what you have passion for is something that you just aren’t capable of doing well, or that other people don’t value, then what you have is a hobby.