Passion is Your Problem
Your passion to make a difference makes you do too much. Sincerity is a curse when it turns you into a leaf blown around by the latest possibility for positive impact. Unfocused passion frustrates and dilutes you and your potential.
Doing less enables more. The fewer things you do the better you can be at what you do. But how can you do less in a world of possibilities.
Give yourself to the thing that sustains you. Give yourself to something that gives back to you.
My grandparents took me to Sunday School when I was a kid. It was there I heard about the conversation Jesus had with a woman at a well in Samaria. It was noon; he was tired and hungry from the journey. His followers had gone into town to buy lunch.
By the time they returned the conversation with the woman was over. She was gone. But the effect of the conversation lingered. Jesus told his disciples he wasn’t hungry any more. He was reenergized.
Finding your true passion:
- Following too many passions exhausts and defeats you. Follow fewer passions so you can find and fulfill your true passion.
- Give your energy to things that give you energy.
- Courageously stop things that persistently drain you. I’m not talking about rash irresponsibility. I’m talking about letting go of what’s good so you can embrace what’s great. Your greatness gives you energy.
Correcting someone may not energize you. Terminating someone may be exhausting. The fundamental idea stands. Do more of what energizes you and less of what drains you.
Self-awareness and self-reflection show the way. You listen to others; take time to listen to you. Warren Bennis put it this way, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.”
How can leaders fight through the clutter to find their true passion, that which gives them energy?
Know yourself. Do what you do best and surround yourself with others who do other things. Our teams should be complementary and supportive.
When I am in my “zone” I am unstoppable. When I am trying to direct someone in something I do not do well, we both suffer and flounder.
Martina, I love your view of team (maybe because it corresponds to mine). Your point about what happens when we try to lead outside our skill set is dead on, and a great reminder, Thanks.
Hitting close to home today, Dan. Years ago I made a deliberate choice to turn my back on my true passion in order to provide a better life for my family. Every day I both regret and affirm that choice.
But my experience validates your post, because I find my energy in my avocations, not my work. My work I do competently, and I’ve been rewarded by success, but I don’t love what I do so it saps me.
I know what I would change if things were different, but I just can’t make a move that will bring me joy but make others I love unhappy. My reward has been the joy of watching my wife and kids flourish, and that’s my first passion anyway.
Love and respect your candor! How does this idea sit with you: If you can’t make a living doing your true passion make it a hobby. Everyone has to eat.
That’s why you see me here – at heart I’m a writer and teacher. I have a handful of blogs, some other writing I do, and I speak, teach a leader development class, and do some mentoring. For now, it’s enough. Thanks for the thought.
Greg our hobbies tend to reflect more accurately who we are but as you clearly demonstrate doing the non-avocational stuff can sometimes as in your case (and mine by the way 🙂 ) make us a lot happier and without happiness one can never be truly fulfilled. One of my favorite quotes is from Freya Stark who tells us “One can never be truly happy unless one does what one believes in.” It is obvious you believe and cherish your family above everything else, including yourself. I hear you loud and clear and it is a lesson I have learned late in life and wish I had known sooner. The good news is my mantra now is “tomorrow is promised to no one” so I make it a point to reach out to those loved ones in my circle on a daily basis. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Thanks all. I am in a crossroad. Trying to choose between moving another step forward to reaching my dream. However, also trying to make sure I know my priorities as a working Mom. I value your wisdom. I will make sure to remember “Doing less, enables more.” And I will make sure to arrive at a decision that is win-win.
We love to make a difference. Too often that results in what you state so effectively: “Sincerity is a curse when it turns you into a leaf blown around by the latest possibility to have positive impact.” I’m in the midst of narrowing down my focus – letting go of superficially impacting a larger group to impact a smaller group in greater ways.
I admire your goal, and that you’re acting on it.
Doing what you have to – inorder to pay the bill – is and must be ok and more than that – even thought its not my “cup of tea”. However in the long run work will drain us as Life itself is draining.
🙂 I have also learned that work can drain more or less and that some work/activities will move us past time and space and fill us with – nothing less than happiness. 🙂 Finding and knowing our true passion is not only usefull but it is also wonderfull. Both for me and for the people around me.
Thank you Dan for one more great post.
While your comment “Following too many passions exhausts and defeats you.” may be true for some people, I think most people follow to many things that aren’t passions/great or even good, but more distractions from what is great.
Having said that, I appreciate the accountability and introspection you bring by talking about these types of issues.
A post that could have been written directly from my life.
How can leaders fight through the clutter to find their true passion, that which gives them energy?
I think somehow the answer lies in learning not to be “reactive” to all of the myriad things (good though they may be) that present themselves as “needs” in your life. Perhaps it is not YOUR need to fill; perhaps someone else could grow or be energized by filling that need. I personally feel like I have given myself away 15 minutes at a time (as in, “could you just send a few emails for us?” “it’s just a few hours a month” or “just make 4 phone calls”). That is all well and good but agree to “just 15 minutes” to too many people and you have absolutely nothing left as a leader (or human being). The other struggle I face as a working parent with many outside interests is that my core passion is my children/family – and they often struggle for their 15 minutes amidst all the clutter too.
Great insight, Paula, that the problem often isn’t the big things in our lives, it’s all the little things. I sometimes wonder how much of the things we do aren’t simply enabling needy people; they come in and drop their need on our desks and if we pick it up, well . . .
Your post today REALLY spoke to me. Yesterday I took the time to actually sit in total silence and to write about things that drain my energy – about what “interferes” with my quest for focus/passion/authenticity. Increasing awareness is paramount – and the only way I can do that is if I take the time away from the “noise” of my life to just sit and “be”. This does not come naturally to me.
Thanks for sharing – this helps me to reinforce what I know to be true, and to keep at it!
Be the clutter! What is your role in the clutter? Own the clutter!
While at some moments that clutter may have been your passion…is it still and perhaps more importantly, moving ahead, does it need to be or is it just some mementos (sometimes anchors) that you can let go of? Letting go means looking ahead to…the unknown…yeah but I am sorta comfortable here, why move?
Tough introspection you are asking of us Dan. Are we comfortable in our compromises, with the life noise, the 15 minutes here and there, and level of energy drain that we tolerate? If so, why? If not, remember there are new doors waiting to be opened and you won’t know what’s behind them until…
(Greg-I second Dan’s observations, thanks for sharing!)
Great addition, Doc. You remind me of a “demotivational” poster I once saw that said, “Until you’re willing to lose sight of the shore, you’ll never know the abject terror of being totally lost at sea.” As with most funny things, there’s a kernel of truth: it’s the fear of the unknown (or fear of the fear?) that keeps us so close to the familiar.
Hi Doc, I like your comment. The “clutter” conundrum reminds me of the aphorism “someone’s junk is someone’s treasure.” My clutter or at least what I consider clutter may in fact be your nectar which begs the question is my passion different from yours? I certainly hope so. Diversity is the often forgotten fuel of creativity and innovation.
Just like with Greg’s “de-motivational” poster if we believed it we would never discover “new lands.” As I recently read “fear is the assassin of opportunity.” Cheers 🙂
I buy about half a dozen despair.com calendars each year and pass them around…great stuff!
Dan’s graphic with ‘Let Go of Your Clutter, There’s More Round the Corner!’–a winner!
Great reminder that being able to do something doesn’t mean I should do it…. Leaving open space for passion to take root creates real joy for me.
Absolutely excellent article!!!! God is good.. This was an answer to my prayers. Thank you!!
A truly passionate post, I agree that too many passionate can drain you out. Having passion with less number of things can increase concentration and creativity. I believe it is difficult to be passionate with too many things. We can be emotionally attached with many things, but passionately attached to one or two things. When we have too many passions then it becomes our interest. And interest always has less intensity than passion. When passion becomes interest, that becomes problem. Usually passion is connected with vision or goal. One cannot have passion without goal. To become truly passionate, you need to emotionally attach to your vision. At the same time you as Late Steve Jobs mentioned “You need a lot more than vision — you need a stubbornness, tenacity, belief and patience to stay the course. It is clear that stubbornness connect you with your goal. So, when we have passion without goal, that is the problem and when we have passion with purpose, we enjoy and embrace it.
“Following too many passions exhausts and defeats you. Follow fewer passions so you can find and fulfill your true passion.”
Someone recently told me when we were talking about one’s “self” that taking on too many things at the expense of one’s “self” may not only be a lie to ourselves that our own needs and passions are not worth our own time, but also highly “self” destructive.
Very thought provoking post….as usual
Dan, I have a challenge to all the managers who might read your post. Passion, in my belief, is where employees can be engaged. Engagement creates commitment, loyalty, and focus. Whether it is myself, or my direct reports, I seek out individual passions and find a way to connect the passion with the work – including through succession planning and skill development.
Luckily my passion is employee development. Unfortunately, my ‘job’ is generally related to managing a team in accounts receivable/collections. Further, when I learn a new skill, I get ‘passionate’ about it. If it isn’t exactly related to my specific role in the organization, this passion becomes misunderstood by my superiors. Ugh!
As a manager, I try to make sure this same thing does not happen to my employees. In this way, my employees can make better career decisions. They get to examine whether or not the position they are spending their time upon is really the best place for them to be at any given time. Luckily, most of my employees enjoy working for me and stay in position long enough to become experts and add great value to the organization.
To all managers – discover and harness your direct reports’ passions or launch them on their way!
Thanks for the post.
Yap, important to cut on the fun things too, not just the bad.. what to do when there is so much fun out there? 🙂
Peter Westlund (@bastlund)
As a few others have said, I feel like this post was written for me. I’ve been on a journey over the last two to three years to bring the multiple strands of my life – working mom in a senior management role, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning – under control.
What started out as a concerted effort to help me get to everything I needed to and wanted to do, has in the last year become an increasingly deeper understanding that the answer lies not in finding ever more clever ways to “manage time”, but to stop filling my days to the brim.
The initial catalyst in this change for me was exposure to lean systems thinking, and starting to apply that to my own life, that of our family was and my work. The core principle of lean is “do less to do more”, Just yesterday, I sat down and prioritized areas of my role at work to explicitly remind myself what areas I would give most attention to, and where I would rely on my team and give them more room to grow. It’s empowering and liberating for me, too, since I’m finally starting to release myself from the stranglehold of the unreasonably high expectations I have of myself.
But finding a position with a company that enabled me to give of myself in an industry that deeply resonates with a number of my core passions and beliefs about making a difference has brought the most freedom with it. I am starting to withdraw from community and school commitments that really don’t need me and my unique set of skills, knowing that I’m giving of myself to a cause that does.
There will always be others who can take up the gaps that you’ve left. Let them, so that you can step up to your true potential.
The visual for this is priceless! So true.
I work in a university, where impressionable people are told to follow their passion; chase their dreams. I asked Billie Collins (US Poet Laureate) what he thought of that and he said it sounded short sighted. “Perhaps follow your bilss”, he offered. I think leaders find passion in whatever they are doing. It used to be called pride in your work. It doesn’t matter if you are saving lives as a surgeon or on the bottom rung of a large corporation, you should be able to find passion in what you do. If you can’t then yes, it is time to look for another vocation. Leaders at all levels need to find something about the job/project/effort that they can be passionate about, and then communicate that passion to their whole workforce. You can have too much of a good thing. A leader that expresses passion about every aspect of every project is going to come off as a cheerleader and a fake. A leader without passion is disengaged and will find him/herself surrounded by disengaged employees. An Authentic leader with passion, who cares about people as well as the job, will find him/herself on a team.