When Passion Becomes Fashion

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.


7 thoughts on “When Passion Becomes Fashion

  1. Harry, so true. My passion is utilizing unique innovative solutions for award-winning, dynamic providers. I’m exclusive and extensive and cutting edge blah blah blah.

    What a load of crap! Save your passion for your animals, your garden, your environment, your wife, the book you’re writing. Try to take a little of that passion and apply it to your work…but claiming your passion is leveraging power degrades the word, just as many other words in our language have become meaningless from overuse. Overused words can be insults, too, and I hope they lose their power as well.

    I just thought of something—when it’s true passion, others will say that about you. You never need to put it on your resume.

  2. Passion is such a wonderful word. It kills me that it’s being pulverised into obsolescence… along with words like gay [which once perfectly described random joyfulness and now can’t be used outside an accepted social construct].

    But passion [the feeling] has to be lived. And breathed. And felt.

    Some people find it in the 9 to 5. Most people dont. My local GP once divulged how he longed to be able to reinvent himself over again and do something else with his life… but too much had been invested to get where he already was. He loved helping people… was devoted to his work [and was very good at it]… but something was somehow missing. I’d hazard a guess it was passion. Eventually he bought himself a fast motorbike and went out on weekends to chase that capricious thought away.

    Passion can be hard to find. But you have to look in the right place. You can’t go out and find it because it’s on the inside not the out. You have to feel it… not do it. That’s probably why it doesn’t fit when people use the word to describe their occupation. [But that’s just what I think] [grin]

    Thanks Harry 🙂 this is thought provoking stuff!

  3. Pingback: What Do You Daydream About at Work? | Kay Camden

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