September 19, 2017

Lesson #6: Passion — What Excites You?

Passion is part love, part obsession and all engrossing. A passionate life has meaning beyond punching the clock and counting the days till your next 2 week vacation.

Passion sometimes makes no sense at all. Ask someone why they are passionate about what they do and you will hear everything from:

  • I just love doing it

  • I can’t stop thinking about it

  • Life without it would be unbearable

  • I can’t remember a time I did’t do it

  • I would and do it for free

All of these feelings and attitudes mix together to form passion. But there is a catch — passion has an evil twin — lust.

Lust and Passion

Lust is intoxicating. Lust is that feeling you get when you just want more and more and more and more.

Lust leads to passion only when the right mix of ingredients are in place. Without these five ingredients, your passion is just a flirtatious romp with lust.

The 5 Simple Ingredients of Passion

I know what you are saying. How can there only be 5 ingredients for passion? Passion is so complex and layered. Like life itself, it takes on many forms, functions, nuances and even evolves over time. How can it be so simple?

Well, like most things, simple solutions are usually the most lasting and that’s the first ingredient of passion: sustained interest.

Ingredient #1 — Sustained Interest

Lust and passion differ in the duration of the affair. Lust is fleeting while passion is lasting. Lust runs hot while passion burns slow and steady. Lust wants the quick fix while passion takes its time.

If you are truly interested in something and that interest last more than one hot summer, than it’s probably a passion.

Ingredient #2 — Obsessive Practice

It’s not enough to be interested in something, you also need to practice it. Without practice, an interest is just a fascination — kind of like when you took that kayaking class. It was fun and interesting but not a passion.

If you find yourself wanting to practice more and more, learn advanced skills or just do whatever it is, it’s probably a passion.

Ingredient #3 — Determined Advocacy

A pursuit that is a true passion will draw you in to advocating for it. There will be an inner desire, drive and sense of mission to get everyone to be as passionate about your passion as you are.

I’m sure you have friends that try and try to get you to scrap book, play golf, sail, run or drink single malt scotch. These friends are true advocates. They want their passion to be your passion and that means they are truly passionate.

Ingredient #4 — Blind Obedience

True passion has a dark side. This dark side is the exclusion of all other options besides your passion. Just ask any Green Bay Packer Fan who dons the green and gold along with their favorite cheesehead. Those fans are passionate about Green Bay and can’t understand those odd Vikings fans.

Ingredient #5 — Scholarly Pursuit

Passion creates a deep desire, an almost fanatical drive, to learn as much as you can about your passion. Scholarly may not be the proper term for all passions but there is a certain dedication to the art and craft (even being a Green Bay fan. Just look at cheesehead TV ) of your passion by being a dedicated scholar.

Scholarly pursuit goes beyond learning the techniques. True passion elicits a level of research that goes beyond the basics. It’s the almost encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and the pursuit of the most trivial detail just so you can know all there is to know.

Finding Your True Passion

So now we know the 5 ingredients of passion. The next step is to find out what in your life mixes these ingredients up to form your passion.

Finding your passion is actually not that easy. Sure, you may have some (or maybe its just lust) but your true passion, the one you really want to pursue, is most likely hidden — waiting for you to find it.

Passions can be confused with our societal duty. You have probably heard them all: Go to school. Get a job. Find a mate. Have a couple of kids. Go to the PTA meetings. Take your 2 week vacation. Retire. Move to Florida. Play Bocci Ball. Die.

Well, okay, I’m making it sound bad for dramatic effect but you get the idea. Where’s the passion in doing what everyone else is doing?

Finding your true passion requires breaking the mold and really examining your life to see what excites you. Below are five steps that helped me find my true passion.

Step 1: What are Your Dreams?

Dreams are a good starting point to find your true passion. Now, I must warn you that dreams can be discouraging if you want to be Zinedine Zidane or Tiger Woods. Obviously, those are pretty daring dreams.

Bold and daring is good if you can back it up with the skill and resources to get it done. You may never be as good as Tiger Woods but you might get good enough to win a local tournament and be your communities Tiger Woods.

Step 2: What comes to you Naturally?

Natural skill can be a true passion is we really enjoy developing and practicing the skill. It’s also satisfy to be good at something and that feeds our passion for it.

Look at what you do with little or no effort. Do you really enjoy doing it? Does it excite you? Maybe it’s your hidden passion.

Step 3: What do you do for Free or Pay for?

This touches on ingredient #4 where you pursue your passion for free. Look at the activities your enjoy doing that are considered work but you do it for no pay. After that, look at the pursuits you pay to do. This is also a pretty good indicator of your passions since you pay your hard earn money to participate.

Step 4: Who do you Admire?

Healthy admiration (not stalking) for an individual can be a great way to find your true passion. Whom we admire, we usually admire because they have either overcome great adversity, performed a terrific feat or inspire us to be like them.

Sports hero’s are obvious but also look around your community. There are plenty of inspiring community leaders, teachers, volunteers and even politicians that you may end up admiring.

Step 5: Try before you Buy

With any pursuit, it’s best to try a couple out first. Remember, lust is always lurking in the background — waiting to take a joy ride with you.

Don’t get discouraged if you try a couple of things and find out it’s just lust. Plenty of people have stumbled along looking for their passion until one day, it just clicked. That’s the beauty of life — exploration and discovery.

Passion and Leadership

I hope by now you have given some thoughts to what your true passions are and how to pursue them. If not, don’t worry. There are some exercises in the Things to Ponder section that will help you even more.

Leadership and passion go hand in hand. A great leader, even a leader of one, sustains their commit to a cause, vocation or purpose by having a passion for it. All great leaders have a passion for something.

When a leader is passionate about something, it shows. You can see the look in their eyes when they talk about it. This passion is contagious. It’s what draws supporters to your cause. It’s the central ingredient in your ability to maintain focus and momentum when things get tough.

When you find your true passion, there will be plenty of leadership opportunities to grasp. People will see your commitment and be drawn to follow you.

Take-a-way: Find your passion and you will find your life’s work.

Things to Ponder

  1. When you were young, what did you want to be? Write them down. Next to each one, write down why you wanted to do that? Are you still passionate about it or was it just lust?

  2. Write down the 5 people you admire. Next to each person, write down their profession. Do any trends appear? Pick the top 2 people. Write a paragraph on why you admire them.

  3. What charities do you donate to? Make a list of all the charities you have given to over the years. If you have never given to charity, find 5 you would give your money too. What draws you to them?

  4. Volunteer for one of the charities above. How does it make you feel working for free? Write a paragraph or two about your experience.

  5. Interview someone who does what you are passionate about. Ask them why they do what they do. Do they have the 5 ingredients?

  6. Each week, pursue a different passion for a couple of hours. Keep a journal of how each experience makes you feel. After a couple of months, which activity do you want to do again and why?

Exploring Further


This post is part of a series called Leading from Within, a FREE course on how to lead your most important supporter — you. If you landed here via other means (like Google, Twitter or a friend), you can learn more about the course and sign up here.