The other day, I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.
There was the usual small talk and she asked how work was going; I was more positive than usual because I'm working on a few exciting projects and change invigorates me.
I feel I'm invested in what I'm doing... it has worth.
“At least you’re working on your passion” she said… “I wish I was passionate about something”.
At first this struck me as a little sad.
I also realised this is not the first time I’ve heard this.
Another friend is a well-educated, professional in his 30’s; at times, he too, talks to me with envy, of how I’ve found my passion and he often wished he could find that “thing” that would ignite him and give him a solid purpose.
So it got me thinking…
What exactly constitutes Passion?
It’s a clichéd term tossed around a lot these days.
Every contestant on reality television swears singing/dancing/performing, is their passion” no matter their skill level.
Passion or to be passionate seems to be a term that allows one to forgo skill, training or discipline, in order to compete.
At the same time, it is lauded as an attainable goal and something to pursue…
“To live a life of passion... to love passionately... to pursue your passion”.
No accountant would ever get an interview based on passion alone.
But any passionate person is permitted to audition and how dare we (the educated public) crush their aspirations.
Herein, lies the clue to passion which separates it from other verbs...
Passion belies an emotional investment in ones actions – an investment, I would argue, that supercedes an outcome of simply winning or losing.
I often imagine it as a slow burning ember; something that is always present and (try as we may) never leaves us.
It makes sense, that if we pursue our passions (that which we are emotionally invested in) then those actions will be sustained longer and ultimately have a more rewarding pay-off.
I also have my Father to thank in realisiing, not everyone’s employment is their passion. Many don’t require that attachment and would rather emotionally invest in areas outside of work, like sport, family and friends.
So is passion something you find one day, like lost treasure?
Is it a journey you commit yourself to?
It may be both.
But I will take great lengths now to dispel the notion that passion is the magical cure for all your ills.
Due to my genetics, I am a passionate individual.
Looking back now, as I write this, I suspect I always have been.
Through school, I fantastically couldn’t give a f*ck about things that didn’t specifically engage me; though I successfully managed to teach myself foreign languages in my spare time.
While I was a passionate actor, writer, film-maker, I was also a passionate Barista… which isn’t nearly as creatively inspiring.
Passionate, meaning I was emotionally invested in my work – I took pride in being professional and doing a good job.
Passionate, also meaning I have an emotional reaction to things that affect me… ie: customers, staff, employers.
Having to remake coffee, noticeably pissed me off.
Rude customers were taught manners (whether they liked it or not).
This may make me sound more temperamental than I am (maybe)... but such is the nature of “passion”.
An emotional investment is not something you can turn on or off.
Try turning off your attachment to your children, or your lover.
I’ll also note, that as much as I loved making coffee, it was never (not once) the burning desire that got me out of bed in the morning.
Therefore I’d argue that passion is neither an object to attain, nor a journey to take, but a verb meaning – emotionally invested action.
Understanding this allows us to credit passion where it’s truly applied.
There is something distinct about Passion, in that it surpasses logic or finance and this is what gives it its “magical” quality. But by dismissing it as ethereal, diminishes all the legitimate work passion can achieve.
Christopher. S. Sellers is an expert on Creativity + Innovation
Founder + Director of Black Bulb Creative