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Shrutarshi Basu

I think that the idea that passion is "discovered" is very damaging. It leads people to believe that someday an apple will fall on their heads and tell them what their passion is. Until that day there are doomed to boring, every-day lives. But that's not true at all. You can only be passionate about something until you know enough about it and are relatively good at it. You have to consciously choose to find out about something and then go explore it before you'll know if you're passionate about it. Of course you may not be passionate about the first few things you get interested about, which is why you have to keep exploring. I wasn't passionate about music, painting, chemistry, electrical engineering or physics (even though I continue to be interested in them). I am however passionate about computer technology and its applications and I don't think that would have happened if I hadn't gone through all those other things first.

Karen Matthews

I loved your post! This is exactly what The Passion Test for Business is all about. Impacting productivity, creative innovation, and profitability through transformational employee engagement. Creating efficiency and effectiveness; synergizing people at all levels of the organization through an alignment with corporate and individual passions. Supporting connection, and nurturing relationships in an environment of open communication, cooperation, mutual support and teamwork.
Generating E-Motion…Energy, Effectiveness, Efficiency through Employee Engagement . Karen

George Swan

Bravo! Passion is now out of the box (the 'box-of-our-own-making'). I believe passion, like happiness, is a correlated benefit of loosening the grip of our own ego-centric fears. The box closes in when 'it's all about me', resulting in downward spiraling performance. Getting out of myself, looking outward, like getting our heads above water, is courageous and liberating. Jump in, the water's fine. Go for it.
I recommend the stage-thinking explained in 'Tribal Leadership' by Dave Logan et al, at www.culturesync.net.
Bravo, everyone!


I love this. Thank you for this.

Sravan Ankaraju

I am in the same boat as Robin Chase. It describes my own personal motivations and feelings as I go about my work. My work consumes & energizes me. As you said, Passion is long and enduring. I ignite passion in others as a by-product of pusuing my own and helping the organization achieve its objectives.

For me understanding the big picture is always important and essential to moving forward. The picture is as clear as the next step in the path because there is still so much to explore. Along the way, I clear the obstacles, share my learning with others, and take the next vehicle (bus, tuk-tuk, plane) to next stop in the journey.

You are absolutely correct that from the institution standpoint, passion has to be predictable.The reason firms push for predictability is for balancing forever quest for knowledge and timely action/decisions. This is very important for any individual to learn in pursuit of passion.

Great post!

israel Gat

I believe part of the problem is a matter of confusing passion with lack of objectivity. Bobby Fischer - one the greatest world champions ever - was insanely passionate about chess. However, he was very objective about evaluating his position while playing. As a matter of fact, objectivity was one of his greatest virtues as a chess player.

Various execs fail to appreciate this distinction when they encounter strong passion. They don't quite get that one can be very passionate about a profession without affecting his/her objectivity with respect to the task to be carried out. Programming is a domain where this kind of failure takes place fairly frequently.



I think you nailed this passion piece well. It describes my own personal motivations and feelings as I go about my work.

My work consumes AND energizes me. I feel pretty relentless in my pursuit of it. It makes me happy (almost all of the time) so it is easy to keep doing. And as you noted, collaboration or reaching out to people in adjacent disciplines does seem part of my modus operandi because it forwards the work and expands its potential.

I heard you at Supernova a week ago, where I too was a speaker. If you want to take this off-line, I'm happy to help and engage.

I wasn't always passionate but I was ready to be; it has taken a while to find this particular groove and now that I'm here, it is absolutely right.

Robin Chase
Co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar


Excellent post!

Much of your analysis suggested an overlap between your concept of 'passion' and the psychological concept of 'flow'. I'm sure you're familiar with flow, but it might be valuable to revisit the classic book and consider how flow and passion interrelate [http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Optimal-Experience-P-S/dp/0061339202/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260485615&sr=1-1] .

To continue your exploration of passion, I'd recommend these two books:





My belief is that everyone has passion about SOMETHING - there are degrees of passion, or perhaps degrees of repression. As you noted, everything about the school system and corporate life aims to suppress passion, individuality, and differentiation.

Few people can successfully spurn this suppression and nurture their passion. Once people learn that passion is unacceptable, I've observed that it is very difficult to ever embrace it - fear of failure or judgment perhaps. It saddens me to see talented people come so close to achieving success in their passion, only to give up or shy away in favor of the "safe" or "reasonable" choice, which is what society rewards.

israel Gat

Great post! Cuts straight through to the heart of a major problem that affects many companies.

I was criticized in various points along the way of having too much professional passion. The repeated advice "medicated" to me from above was "Israel, you need to take dispassionate view of things." No doubt I have my faults, but this advice never made any sense to me. I understood it and rejected it - why would I want to be anyone else but the me myself?

About a year ago I was on a consulting gig. One of the engineers with whom I was discussing the assimilation of Agile techniques told me about his executives: "They are judging executives." What he meant was that they were not getting involved. Instead, they were playing "little God."

I believe the interplay between an individual and his/her corporation has two stages:

1. "I found my voice/passion"
2. "I found my tribe"

My sense of corporate America is that very many folks are stuck at level "1.5", namely:

1. They found their voice/passion.
2. Various other folks agree with them and constitute kind of a "private tribe."
3. However, the folks that agree with them are afraid to come out of the closet.

This "1.5" phenomenon is at the root of a vicious cycle that kills companies, particularly these days:

1. A round of layoffs is implemented.
2. Just about everyone takes notice and tries to exhibit the "proper behavior/values."
3. Folks in the "private tribes" don't dare come out of the closet.
4. The passionate person who found his/her voice is like a fish out out of the water. Sooner or later he/she looks for a tribe elsewhere.
5.The company becomes even poorer on innovation and the drive to make it happen.
6. Goto step 1.

The only antidote I know to this vicious cycle is the construction of an effective social contract. See A Social Contract for Agile http://tinyurl.com/aplcr5 for details how this antidote was successfully implemented at BMC Software.


janet attwood

Hi John; Great article. I really enjoy your honest and deliberate style of writing and truly agree with you on all fronts about all that you have communicated on. Thank You! On another note, I am the NY Times bestselling author of the book, "The Passion Test - the effortless path to discovering your life purpose" and would be thrilled if you would accept my offer to walk you through this incredible process/tool at your earliest convenience. Here is what Jack Canfield co/author of the Chicken Soup Series wrote after taking The Passion Test:
When I did the work on discovering your passion with Janet and Chris Attwood in a workshop, I wasn't expecting that much to happen because I am already living my passion -- teaching others about how to become more successful. However, their powerful process took me to an even deeper place, where I realized I was not spending enough time with my true number one passion -- my family! That realization, and the other work they did with me, has changed the way I have lived the past year.

Jack Canfield
Co-author of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series
Co-author of "The Power of Focus" and "The Success Principles"

If you would like to take me up on my offer, you can reach me at
[email protected]

All the best-Janet

Arnold Beekes

I am also passionate about passion. But it is not easy to find in yourself or to help others find their passion. The reason for this is that in our families and schools and companies we are totally not encourage d to find our passion. Rather we are stimulated to behave in accordance with the expectations of others.Whether those others are your parents, teachers, bosses or even your relationship. They 'know' what is right for you to do.
In other words we are not encouraged to think what we want. When I ask this question to my clients they most of the time don't know the answer. They know very well what they don't want. That list is easy to make for them.

So, finding your passion is often a process which takes time. And it needs the change of limiting beliefs and patterns. The name already says it, 'limiting' habits prevent you from knowing who you are and what you want. A good source is The Element from Ken Robinson.

People of all ages would benefit if they discover their passion and through that the society at large will benefit as well. To get started an awareness campaing is necessary as to give tools and help in finding your passion.

Also it is my experience that as you grow in and with your passion you will also stretch your potential. I do believe that you protential is dynamic and unlimited, but you have to learn to cross and stretch your boundaries, i.e. your beliefs.

You can also have multiple passion. Check out The Rennaissance Soul from M. Lobenstine.

Account Deleted

John, this is a wonderful post. I've considered much of what you've described, but with a different lens.

I've often thought about the way in which human beings deal with uncertainty. Given my lifelong interest in information (by definition, the countervailing force to uncertainty), I came to the conclusion that some set of us deal with uncertainty (aka doubt, fear of unknown, ...) in at least two ways:

(1) delegation of responsibility to someone (or something) else which claims to be or have The Answer. To varying degrees, the proponents of an 'answer' will lay claim to the truth, and provide the reduction of uncertainty thereby. People who take this path to the reduction of uncertainty can often be passionate advocates for this answer, its formulae. We all have found methods, processes, rules of action in which we believe, and have good reason to believe. Within a particular universe of discourse, they seem to work!! In the extreme, people who resolve uncertainty by this means are often called zealots or fanatics, and can exhibit the obsessive behavior of reducing ALL uncertainty to a problem that can be addressed with their 'answer.'

(2) curiosity and exploration in response to a recognition of uncertainty. The people who take this path are often the people to whom you refer, in this post, as passionate. They're often seen as insatiable consumers of new information. They can be the eternal student, transported and delighted by the discovery process, and yet never satisfied. The lack of satisfaction stems from the fact that even if one aspect of their desire for certainty is addressed by their exploration, the process inevitably uncovers more questions, more issues to resolve through continued investigation. Like the first type, this kind of approach has the potential for pathology... crippling uncertainty or obsession to the point of inaction.

You've done us a great service by laying out so many of the qualities of the passionate, and asking some exquisite questions at the end of your post. I'm particularly fascinated to see how this can be applied to organizations ranging from small groups to large enterprise. Please keep this line of thinking going. I'll gladly contribute more from my perspective should you see it as valuable.


Thanks for this post John. I often think about these issues-- as you know, I'm a supremely passionate person, but don't always know where to "put" it. You're an inspiration to me! Check out my tumblr (current passion project)-- I posted about this.


I remember my therapist some years ago asking me what I had a passion for and I noticed I didn't even know what passion was, much less feel it. Getting in touch with my heart and shedding the expectations of others was the pathway for me to live a life of passion, which I now do. I like what you have written here and will share it with colleagues. Thanks for "spelling it out."

You ask some important questions.

Another question might be is passion a privilege? (or for the privileged) (not a yes/no, but for conversation)

I agree that it is a key factor in the Great Turning (as some people call it)

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