Lately, I’ve thought a lot about passion. I see passion differently than I did even a year ago. What makes one person passionate about something, and another seemingly similar person indifferent. In the working world, why can one passionate person be hired and turn into a superstar, while another equally passionate person be let go a couple weeks later? I think it’s time we get clear on what it means to be passionate, and understand the impact this can have on what you’re doing.
If you read my blog, you know in the past year I’ve discovered some pretty significant things about myself. I had been working against my most authentic self for many years. I’ve been denying parts of me, so integral to the fabric of who I am that I created conflict for myself. I was telling myself stories, many of which were pretty self-deprecating and certainly very limiting in helping me move forward. Yet in all those years, I was always seen as a passionate person.
When I was first hired as a project manager, I was very excited as I felt it was a stepping stone to something bigger in my career. I was very passionate about making a name for myself as I thought I had found my thing. It didn’t take long until many of the things I was doing as a project manager just made me feel empty. I didn’t really pay much attention to this, as I knew if only I could move up the ladder I would be happy. I remember one company where it seemed only the most passionate people got ahead. So I decided I would put aside my feelings, and act passionately about everything I did. I just had to get that next promotion, and then I would be happy.
There were many times in my career I grew impatient with waiting to get ahead (like the example above). So I started to apply for other Project Management jobs. It wasn’t overly difficult to find something, as I had lots of experience, qualifications, and skills. I was also able to present myself as being very passionate about what I do. I would tell stories about how my leadership saved a project. I would tell them with zest how I have never had a project fail (at the time I had convinced my rational self this was true … although now I see this very differently).
I would get hired into this new role. I was excited. They were excited. I would jump in with both feet, and get to work with this new challenge. For a while, it would be easy to maintain a level of passion as there was so much to learn. However, before long that zeal for the job would fade, I’d stop caring as much and before long I was gone.
I have always prided myself on doing a good job. I think that’s why I changed jobs so much in my career, as I knew if I stayed there I couldn’t continue to do a good job. Call it what you will. The honeymoon was over, and off I’d go to the next thing.
A passion is not a passion
I see passion very differently these days. What I’ve been describing about are the actions of a passionate individual (ie. a verb). Now I see a very different thing, which is passion (ie. a noun). Having passion is not about the actions you take. Some of the most passionate people I know today, are the quietest people in a room.
I have found my passion. My passion comes from my heart, and it is not something I have to work at. My passion is something which shows up when I stop trying to be something else and meet someone else’s expectations. When I step into my passion my life just feels so right, and I don’t have to work at moving forward.
I no longer think about work/life balance … I only have life and I love everything about my life. I no longer think about retirement, as I just don’t have an urgency around escaping the working world. I know there will be more tests for my passion ahead, but I am trusting a pretty amazing part of me I have spent a very long time denying.
Finding the right people
For some reason, I have been in several discussions in recent weeks about finding the right people (ie. finding new employees). The basic problem I see, is most organizations have set themselves up to find passionate people (ie. the Verb). They have HR systems that filter resumes based on letters behind a name. They interview and ask questions about skills, experiences, successes and failures. They ask people what they see themselves doing in five years. Lots of great questions all with the aim of finding passionate people.
If you hire based on finding passionate people alone … you’re in trouble.
You need to shift your focus and find people with passion. In other words, you have to find people who are following their heart, staying true to themselves, and want to have a meaningful impact in this world. That’s not the same as saying someone wants a good job. How do you find these people? Simple … after you get through all your questions about skills, ask the question “Why?”. Why do you want to be in this position? Why do you get out of bed every morning? Why do you exist?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. However, trust your intuition. If the person talks about things like advancement, opportunity, challenge, etc … they may just lack passion. If however, the person talks about making a difference, helping people come together, leaving their mark on this world … you just may have found someone with passion in their heart.
My life is full of people with passion
I look around me right now, and I feel really blessed by the people I know who have such big hearts. Their passion draws me towards them, and I’m not afraid to tell them that. More importantly, my own passions take me through life with little effort.