Scouting around the blogosphere as I do, I get a vicarious thrill from clicking some of the “About” pages on blogs when they present themselves. It helps to know a little bit about the person you’re reading. One thing I’ve started to notice, especially on some of the more biz-oriented blogs that people put up is the extreme overuse of the word “passion”.
It’s hip now to be passionate about what you do. And it’s good to be, if passion is genuinely what you feel. But how much of this self-described vigor is really passion? What things do we encounter in our working lives any more that we can really be passionate about?
I think of this especially when I see people say things like “my passion is leveraging the power of cross-functional teams to create new opportunities for social media leadership in the product space” or some such drivel. Really?
Did you know that when you were a kid, leveraging your little cross-functional buddies so they could create new opportunities in case Twitter got invented? Or is it not cool anymore to just say “I’m a sales manager who enjoys technology”?
I’m all for passion, when it’s real. But like so many other terms that the corporate world has co-opted until they don’t mean anything, passion seems to be getting worn out.
The flip side of this is even for what we’d term successful people, are you there because you are passionate about what you do, or just because your ego and need for acceptance has been consistently rewarded.
Consider the following. Suppose you are a relatively “bright” child, “bright” meaning you have a relatively good memory, speed of recall, and the docility to follow rules. So when you are shipped off to school, you do pretty well, just based on your basic disposition. You get patted on the head when you do well on tests, and it doesn’t take your little self long to figure out this is the way to win praise from people and feel good about yourself.
So you knuckle down, even in high school when things start to bore even you, because it’s just kind of the role you play. You go on to college and it continues. When you graduate college, you don’t really know what to do with yourself yet, so maybe you go to law or graduate school. So there you pop out at the end of the pipe, with your J.D. or your MBA or something else.
But were you really passionate about any of this stuff, or did just winning the approval and the prizes motivate you?
There’s a quotation that says character is how you behave when people aren’t watching you. I’d like to add a corollary to that that says passion is what you think about when you are at work.
For most people, it’s not work, regardless of how passionate they declare themselves to be.