Do what you love, and love what you do.
It's the kind of overly-cliched, happy-dandy can do phrase I instinctively tend to shy away from, and yet on the whole I find the advice to be quite true. The artisan in this card-image is making wonderful, detailed engravings on the wall. His work impresses the spectators, perhaps his clients or patrons, but it likely isn't why he does it. So much effort goes into what he does: could a person sustain that, day after day, if the process and the end result didn't fill him with some kind of joy?
It's always been my tendency to excel in the things that I love, and to neglect those I don't necessarily get along with. My grades in high school were a very clear case in point: consistently near-perfect marks in subjects I enjoyed, like history, english, various electives; near-failing marks in those I did not - math, chemistry, physics. I really do believe that a large part of why my overall academic performance has been so much higher in college and now graduate school is because at this level, it is much easier to simply avoid things that you don't want to study (I took symbolic logic to fill a math requirement, in undergrad).
I do good academically because I genuinely love the process of discussion, reading, research, writing - enough to drive me forward even when things get insanely stressful, when the work just piles on. It takes so much more discipline to stick to something you don't have a passion for. But then, should you? Life being short as it is, is it worth it spending time working on things you have no love for, if your circumstances don't necessitate it? Persistence isn't always a virtue. Even if it may feel like failure, perhaps sometimes it is best to simply walk away.
On the other hand, a reminder too, here, about the importance of continuing to engage in activities I love, of combining productivity with pleasure, things I enjoy. The creative aspect of this picture especially come to mind - yesterday afternoon, I picked up my camera for the first time in many months. The cherry blossom trees are blooming again, and they make for such lovely pictures. I took many. Photography is one of the things I love doing, when the mood strikes me - perhaps it is one of those things I should try to do more of...