Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Image found here.

We had an interesting class discussion the other day and it made me think about the buzzword of many a leadership program, passion, in a whole new way.  The term is thrown around so often in the business school that I've been weary of using it too frequently myself. So when my professor started talking about passion at the beginning of class, I admit, I started to tune out.

I am glad that I didn't completely lose focus, however, because he was not talking about passion in some sort of grandiose manner. Rather, he addressed the issue of passion in such a realistic and applicable way that I left class that day feeling refreshed. His point was that the reason so many people are unhappy and unproductive in their working lives is because they are not doing what they're passionate about.  

Ok, so far this is probably old news to most of us. But what really struck me about his lecture was that he took that idea one step further - the reason so many people are in jobs or living lives they are not happy with is because they do not even know what they are passionate about. That means they might go to a job that makes them miserable everyday from which they receive no sense of satisfaction, but they do not even know what would excite them enough to pursue a different path.  That's powerful.

So how does one wind up in such a predicament?  From a student's perspective, I can understand the pressures to obtain a job right out of school.  We are taught to justify taking employment that does not reflect our true ambitions because we need security.  Our passions can come later, after we have a stable income and food on the table.  But wait, then comes an expensive wedding and the expectations of having children.  By that time you have already established a quality of life that would be compromised by the risks associated with a major career change or lifestyle transition.  And perhaps, over enough time, we have been so busy trying to maintain the lives we have built that we no longer know what we are truly passionate about.

The truth is, I do not know for sure what I am passionate about anymore either.  I have been so busy with classes, work, taking on leadership roles for the sole purpose of bulking up my resume, and pragmatically searching job postings, that I have less and less time to pursue my own interests... if I could remember what they are.  

Have you run into this problem?  Perhaps you are in the minority of people who wake up excited to get to work each day and disdain the sun's fall in the sky as it means you might actually need to stop for sleep.  For the rest of us - do you know what passion you would pursue if you could? What is preventing you from making a change and going after it?

I think my most prominent passions are purely delicious foods, finding new ways to decrease my own ecological footprint and encouraging others to do the same, animals and animal rights, bicycling, and getting people to laugh.  In an ideal world, I turn these passions into my life's work. If anyone has suggestions for how to do that I hope you will share. In the meantime, you'll have to read on to find out whether or not I can figure it out on my own.

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