Friday, June 8, 2007

Passion - Who’s Responsible

Passion, especially passion at work is an extremely popular subject. Google it and find 63M hits. I guess this makes 63M and one. It’s interesting because so many people want it and yet so few have it. Employers demand it of new employees but seldom can sustain it after employment. Lack of passion for what they do is one of the biggest reasons people change jobs. Why can’t employees find and sustain passion and once they do why can’t corporations nurture it?

Let’s look at the first half, why can’t employees find and sustain passion? For years I have heard it said that you are not defined by what you do. The context of that statement is that we have a social aspect, a family aspect, a spiritual aspect, along with the work aspect of our lives. The premise of this view is that we do what we must to provide the money required to be who we want to be. Sadly for most people this is true. They take the highest paying job that will afford them the luxury of living the life they prefer. Although intuitively I understand this argument, I always felt that it was attacking life from the wrong point of view. I am not defined by what I do, what I do is defined by who I am. I love what I do. I can’t imagine not doing it. I do what I do because it makes me happy.

Now unfortunately, if right out of high school or college you start doing something you don’t enjoy and acquire debt to make yourself happy (e.g. house, car, better house, better car etc.) you create a vortex that continues to draw you downward. You feel that you cannot afford to find your true destiny, so you settle for the destiny that has been thrust on you. This is one of the hard facts of life.

Nearly all great passions, comes from a singular vision pursued doggedly until it achieves success.

Martin Luther King Jr., once said "If a man is called to be a street-sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street-sweeper who did his job well.'"

Modern paraphrase “Fake it until you make it” Look down the road 10, 15, or 20 years. Who do you really see (single vision)? Don’t wait to be that person, take small steps today that will assure success over time (pursued doggedly until it achieves success). If you take Martin Luther King’s advice in everything you do, you will create opportunities to do what you want. How will you know you’ve arrived? Here’s how I know:

  • I look forward to Monday Mornings, I’ve waited all weekend for it.
  • My eyes pop open at dawn with new ideas and things that need to be accomplished
  • I gravitate toward people who share my passion
  • I Read, Read, Read
  • I seek advice on how to be better at what I do.

I am doing what I enjoy, therefore I am much better at it and people find me better to work with when I am doing it.

Lets take the second part of the dilemma, employers who are lucky enough to find someone with passion then can’t sustain it. I worked for an interesting individual at one point that could not understand why his employees had no initiative. Part of the hiring process was identifying those prospective employees that had passion and energy and enthusiasm. Within months these people became robots. The good ones were very good at following orders; the bad took on the persona of the living dead. They had all lost their passion. In this case the metamorphosis took place because we didn’t listen to them. They came in with great ideas cultivated by external experiences, new ways of looking at information, different ways of approaching problems. That was the core of the problem. They were different (not invented here syndrome). Most ideas were not aligned with the existing plans in place. Ideas were squashed or worse yet approved and then not acted upon. After a while the new employees stopped providing input. We hired them for their knowledge and passion, and then we managed it out of them.

Finding that which we are truly passionate about is our responsibility. At the personal level true passion is self-sustaining. Nurturing and sustaining that passion in the corporate environment falls, in part, on the employer. Give it some freedom let it breathe. If your employer is stifling your passion either find another one or become your own boss.

The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

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