Without passion, you don’t have energy;
without energy, you have nothing.”
— Donald Trump
Defining passion can be tricky, playing with your mind. When you think of passion, you may have images of someone enthusiastically pursuing a goal, preaching a sermon or having a strong sexual desire for someone. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘passion’ as an “intense, driving or overmastering feeling of conviction.” In its Latin roots, passion also includes “suffering.”
Passion is obviously about emotion, not reason, but passion must not be confused with obsession. When we are obsessed, we are controlled by cravings and become slaves to addictions and compulsions. Passion is a decision. It is choosing to devote yourself to something bigger than you, a vision of possibility for a worthwhile cause such as family, career, charity, community, country or the world.
What does the word ‘passion’ mean to you?
I have spent much time during the past several years interviewing people and researching the nature of passion and how it goes hand in hand with both success and being fully engaged in life. My research has shown that passion is not only a core leadership trait, but also that when a leader is passionate about a vision; he or she can take others to places they would not normally go.
Passion is the fire within our soul. It attracts others like moths to a flame and, as the American author/motivational speaker John Maxwell writes, “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”
Passion, single-mindedness, persistence and enthusiasm go hand in hand and, as the old saying goes: enthusiasm is infectious. Passion embeds an unwavering single mindedness and the ability to surmount obstacles and overcome fear. It means that you have true grit.
Passion in a leader is a deep and abiding commitment to a cause, a vision, an enterprise. Sterling examples abound throughout history. Henry Ford provides a great passionate leader example because he just kept going, despite business failure. Mother Teresa was a passionate leader – quiet, tiny, humble – she spent 50 years working among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta and founded the Missionaries of Charity. Walt Disney’s passion helped him overcome several setbacks, including a nervous breakdown, as well as discouragement from family and friends. The list goes on: Mahatma Gandhi, Indra Nooyi (CEO PepsiCo), Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Thatcher, John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates and Martha Stewart.
In my quest to understand the nature of passion, I had an insight that very few address: namely, that there is both a downside to passion and a price to be paid for passion.
First – the downside. For everything positive and good, there is the polar opposite. Without perspective and a dash of reason, passion can run amok, and out-of-control desire distorts reality. There is nothing inherently wrong about believing in what you are doing and being single-minded about doing it. But, without perspective, passion can easily turn into fanaticism, ruthless competition, delusion, narcissism and narrow-mindedness. When you emotionally over-invest in a project or a business, you can easily become ego-driven, blind to reality and prone to make irrational decisions.
How do you avoid these pitfalls of passion? Surround yourself with and actively seek council from people who challenge you, instead of who simply say “yes” to every idea you have and every decision you make. You do not want to operate in a void. Ask for input and listen without getting defensive.
Now, let’s take a look at what first sparked me to write about The Price of Passion. More than a year and a half ago, I decided to totally reinvent my career. That meant taking a huge risk by going out on my own, leaving the secure umbrella of being with the same speakers’ agency for 26 years. I’d have to market myself as a speaker. That meant that I had to re-design my website, create new video clips of speaking programs and finish a book I’ve been plugging away on for nine years. A choice like this does not happen in a vacuum, nor does it occur without being determined, staying focused and putting in the time. It has affected my wife, my personal assistant and friends. It has curbed my social life and limited spontaneous vacations. For this period of time, I’ve had to give up many pleasures, including movie-going, reading frivolous fiction books and taking off for a cup of coffee to chat with friends. It has meant months with little financial return – until recently. And that has not been easy.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of fun and I love what I do because I am passionate. I take breaks, walk, work-out and meditate, because I want to avoid getting burned out. If you are passionate about what you do, you need to keep the fire of that passion burning brightly by taking care of yourself. I firmly believe that the price of passion is worth paying because what comes back to you – the creativity, the aliveness and the personal satisfaction – cannot be monetarily measured.
I used to think that passion was something you either have or don’t have. But, now I am fully committed to the belief that passion can be uncovered and nurtured. Below are a few ideas and strategies that can help you discover, reignite and sustain your passion so that you can live an exceptional life:
1. Passion is like a muscle. You have to use it to keep it. Recall something, anything in your life that you felt passionate about. Close your eyes and vividly summon the memory. Notice how it feels in your body.
2. List five of your most important values. Your passion will always be linked with the satisfaction of your personal values. They are your drivers.
3. Get clear about what excites you. Answer this question. If you could do anything you want to do and get paid for it, what would you do? Answer without putting any judgments or restrictions on the possibility. Make a list. Read the list over and imagine how you might apply that to your life. After a client of mine concluded, “I would do nothing but read,” she became a script reader for a major Hollywood producer.
4. Choose one idea that involves being of service or helping others. Make an action plan, a roadmap. Start easy. What could you say or do within the next 24 hours to kick off your plan? Take that first step and take your time.
5. Create support. You want a cheerleader to keep your passion sparked. That might mean sitting down with a friend, declaring your intention and asking that person (people) to hold you accountable. Surround yourself with people who are positive. Here is a little secret: you get support by helping others achieve their dreams even if the helping is just listening.
6. Visualize the end result. When you create your future mental movie, do a check to make sure that it arouses the physical feeling of passion (excitement, curiosity, fun) in your body.
7. Keep the big picture in mind and have fun. As long as you do that, you will stay focused, be armed to ward off the inevitable distractions, and learn to say “no” when you need to.