A father asked me recently to tell his son that he should “Follow his passion.” Not wanting to undermine fatherly advice, I hedged.
“You certainly need to do what you were meant to do,” I said, knowing that meant whatever either one of them wanted it to mean.
To me, that phrase is very specific – and very different from suggesting the guy should just do what he has a great desire – or passion – to do.
Passion is a high level of affect, and affect or emotions trigger creativity (which can also be defined as your problem solving process). I hoped this young man would do some creative problem solving to figure out what he should do with his life – and get on the job of living his life with purpose. Following his passion is just a starting point.
That’s all it is.
If everyone wanders around following a passion, there would be no symphonies, no cakes for weddings, no Triple Crown winners, no Hall of Famers, no great movies, no fun tech toys, no special brews, no beautiful gardens.
Passion is only 1/3 of the creativity formula. Whether the results are positive or negative, the equation includes equal parts of effort using emotional preferences, conative actions and cognitive skills.
The father thought that if his son acted according to advice on his Kolbe A™ Index he would do well chasing his passion. Yes, using your innate conative strengths to make something happen is lots easier than working against your conative grain. However, even if you lived alone on an island, survival would require working against your instinctive grain some of the time. You need to learn how to deal with such situations.
You also have to work to gain knowledge, evaluate and become persuasive about what you want to be doing.
Following a passion requires spending time and energy learning about it (and yourself), and persevering in doing it — including when you experience failures.
Following a passion requires sacrifice. It means giving up lots of other things you would enjoy doing, but that would consume too many of your mental resources.
What I wanted to say to the young man was:
Work hard to do things that you believe have value. Make an effort to learn as much about them as you can. When you find a passion that is worth your sacrificing the time and energy you could be putting into other endeavors, you will know it is a life passion, not a passing interest.
Instead, I turned to his father, who I knew lived a purposeful life, with a passion about what he does, and said, “Tell your son about the hard work and sacrifices you have made to follow your passion. He sees the result, and would benefit from understanding the great amount of effort you put into achieving your goals.”