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pio dalcin

Passion is what has driven my life experience and also lately my G+(Google Plus) "journey". It may not be the right approach to business but
it surely helped me in creating a real interaction with a lot of intersting people on the Web

Great interesting Article indeed

Hemant Puthli

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but are you suggesting that entrepreneurs and businessmen should be driven by the same kind of passion as extreme sports athletes (who seem to have a death-wish, perhaps) as opposed to athletes in traditional sports (such as Jordan / Ruth / Federer, to take your examples) who play games that are governed by a framework of rules?

Clearly, businesses must play within the legal and regulatory framework that governs their industry. Passion must manifest itself within the confines of this framework and not run away - unbridled and reckless, to seek the most extreme form of fulfillment possible. That could well result in another global economic meltdown, given the interconnectedness of everything.

From a business work-ethic perspective, it is one thing to be fascinated by extreme sports, or even to indulge in it as a hobby. It is a completely different thing to bring that mindset - described by the words "pushing limits and breaking rules" - into the enterprise. Pushing limits is one thing. Breaking rules is another. The wiser and more mature profesional will walk the fine line and hold of at the edge. But what about the younger, more impressionable maverick looking to make a mark in the business world? I hope your views do not encourage young professionals to adopt a death-defying / near-suicidal approach to their work.

Monika Hardy

a distinction i had never thought of before... but had subconsciously been wrestling with.

working in ed.. i always thought flow was the answer... but upon recent research - i have started having this nagging feeling that it was a super way to cope.

upon reading Godin's Linchpin and Robinson's The Element... i felt flow being less of a true element.

wow.. what a find. thank you for sharing.

Marc Resnick

Perhaps trying to either contrast or equate flow and passion is the wrong approach.

Your description of passion suggests that it is easier to engage in the deliberative practice (whether 10,000 hours or not) necessary for expertise for things we feel passionate about. And I think the experience of flow might make deliberation harder because of its somewhat unconscious nature.

So what I would like to suggest is that we can experience flow for the subtasks of our passions or the parts of it where we have already developed expertise. But then the passion kicks in during deliberative reflection when we innovate.

From this perspective, it is possible to experience flow without passion, but also possible to experience both for the same activity, just at different levels of experience.


Thank goodness I misinterpreted Chick-send-me-high as I used the flow experince as being highly skilled and task (goal)oriented; combining the skills-learning with achieving a goal certainly helped my team and I to achieve flow. As it was a personal goal (connected to the overall goal) we also broke the rules, took the flak and achieved impressive outcomes that the rule-based approach could not achieve. We also thought in terms of OODA loops that major Boyd put forward as a way of achieving combat superiority but useful to express what we were doing in the context of ourselves and our collaborators (both meanings apply: working with the enemy [not the expected people we normally worked with] and working together to achieve the outcome [not what the business routinely expected so it felt a bit naughty]). Certainly we felt flow, OODA and passionate rule and game-changing activity meant constant goal shifting with the aim of delivering radical effects. It isn't worth getting out of bed to achieve 5%, 50% makes it all worthwhile!

John Sviokla

Great post. I agree John there is a qualitative difference between passion and flow (as least as Csikeszentmihalyi defines flow).

I also think there's a difference in the quality of mind which people bring to truly new endeavors, not just riffs on old ideas and forms of work -- what I call, blue water thinking.

It's difficult to really start from the blank page.

Richard Cross

Agree with the comments that the '10,000 hours rule (how easy too remember too) seems to have been extrapolated from certain fields and sports. It's rather like Gladwell's work on ice hockey players and the headstart impact of when they were born.

Well it doesn't apply to all sports. We checked out the data yesterday at the Leander in Henley-on Thames (a hotbed of rowing talent) and it doesn't apply to rowing success there.

The distinction you draw between flow and passion makes sense in the way you expound it at least. As JSB will know from his previous life at Xerox from his time wit the ethnographers in an organisation context practice triumphs over process.

As for following the rules as part of research with a Professor Peter Saville I've been profiling World Champion athletes and comparing them to 'successful' CEO's,(younger generation mainly) entrepreneurs, and politicians and those in the Performing Arts.

What's intriguing is the similarities in that many World Champions are natural entrepreneurs. They dislike 'the rules' and have a natural questioning disposition. Many of these people personify the Olymian value of being the best they can be. And that doesn't apply to the athletes only. A female CEO talked about how being 'true to herself' was what enabled her to come through the ranks and deal with the hierarchy.

Others seem to be prepared to 'create at the point of their self destruction' They will suffer for their art. One arts entrepreneur Australian Rebecca Hossack who introduced Aboriginal art to the UK changed from following a law degree when a fellow student simply asked 'what do you really want to do?' From then she pursued and achieved her dream....and it wasn't easy. She wasn't afraid to go against the mainstream.

Of those who live at and love the edge the skiers, aerobatic pilot, world champ MX'er, special forces operatives, whilst a breed apart seem to recognise and value those who bring passion to what they do. In taking their passion to the extreme they have ultra composure too yet all can do the basics brilliantly.

To me that defines great people. They have found something they are passionate about and good at. It often go's with humility and modesty. En route to success they have had their fair share of 'humility inducing experiences.'


John - here's passion in the world's most passionate game:


And yes, they still have rules and goals!

Joe McCarthy

Interesting analysis. At first, I found myself resistant to your distinction, but by the end, I'm willing to agree.

I'm reminded of the book, Finite and Infinite Games, by James Carse: players of finite games play within rules, while players of infinite games play with rules.


I'm also reminded of a session I proposed at an unconference a few years ago on the scalability of passion, with the following abstract:

What if everyone followed their passions, liked what they did and did what they liked? I suspect Foo Camp represents an unusually high proportion of people who are following this trajectory. Are we a privileged class? How generalizable is this formula? How would the world change if everyone acted this way? Could the world move in this direction?

During the session, the conversation unfolded in unanticipated directions (more the norm than the exception at such events). I'll mention two items that I think may be relevant here: another person during the session compared passion to the flow state, and after being reminded that the root of "passion" is "to suffer" I started questioning the Goodness of passion. At the end, another person wryly noted "it really doesn't matter whether it [passion] is good or bad, that since having a passion for something means you can't not do it, I (we?) don't really have a choice".

I posted more notes from the session here:



I've been interested in Csíkszentmihályi since I first learned of his work. Since we can find examples of flow in a variety of endeavors, having research about it is welcome.

However, I wasn't aware of Csikszentmihalyi's emphasis on learning the rules until I did some recent research on the "10,000 hours" concept and found his thoughts on creativity.

Although recent books citing the "10,000 hours" concept suggest that its application is universal (i.e., you can't be an expert without at least 10,000 hours or ten years of deliberate practice), in reality the "10,000 hours" concept has only been researched in certain fields, where there are specific, measurable ways to compare one person's output to another's.

So when you are comparing passion to flow, you might also note the "10,000 hours" discussions because they are more rules-based than most people realize.

Here's what I found and it includes a quote from Csíkszentmihályi.


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