Jimmy Chin and the Tyranny of Passion: A Letter To Your Students

Marcie Goodale

Product Director • Social Studies and Advanced Placement • National Geographic Learning | Cengage

Some of you may have seen the person pictured on this page, National Geographic photographer Jimmy Chin, win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in February 2019.

Jimmy is a man of many talents. He won the Oscar for producing a documentary on Alex Hannold, an American professional rock climber who had completed a “free solo” climb—meaning no ropes, harnesses, or protective equipment—of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Jimmy himself is a professional climber, skier, photographer, and now filmmaker.

As writers and editors for a World History textbook for National Geographic Learning, we have access to hundreds of National Geographic Explorers and photographers. All of them are completely brilliant and inspired and doing work that contributes to the common good either by capturing ideas and images that reveal our world to us in new ways or by using their considerable knowledge and creative skills to innovate new processes and new approaches in their fields.

When several of us were in the audience at a National Geographic Explorers Symposium in 2018, we watched Jimmy Chin talk with another NatGeo photographer about the work that they both do. He used the phrase “the tyranny of passion” and explained that the words aptly describe the way he lives his life.

Jimmy has found in his work something so fundamental to who he is, something he loves so much, that he simply can’t not do it. His work is so much a part of his thoughts, feelings, and actions that he can’t imagine a different life. Jimmy found what he wants to do with his life. He admits that he found a direction that caught him—and his family—by surprise. He’s never looked back.

The tyranny of passion. Those words have meaning for all of us.

Our message to you, then, is to know that there is something wonderful that you can do with your life, something that draws on your heart and your mind and that you will love to do. You have only to seek it.

Your ideas and your actions are important.
Share them with others.
Be heard.
And along the way, listen to others’ voices too.

From the National Geographic Learning Social Studies team

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