What It Means to Be Passionate About Something

Last Updated Sep 9, 2011 12:06 PM EDT

What It Means to Be Passionate About SomethingWhen I was seven, my mom asked what I wanted for my birthday. I said one word, "Books." So she took me to a bookstore in Manhattan where we picked out two paperbacks: Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man and Isaac Asimov's The Human Brain.

I know; I was a weird kid.

Reading has been a lifelong passion with me, to the point where I guess I romanticized the writing profession. For decades I worked my tail off and climbed the corporate ladder, hoping that someday I would reach a point where I could try my hand at this magical thing called writing.

Luckily, I developed another passion over the years - sort of the intersection of management, leadership, strategy, and psychology - so I actually have some expertise to write about. These days we call that content. It didn't hurt that I ran marketing for a few companies, either. That's a big help in writing, as it turns out.

Funny how, with all the things that go wrong in our lives, once in a while, things turn out exactly as they should.

Ironically, during all the long years of not pursuing my passion, I actually learned what it truly means to be passionate about something. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but here's the thing.

It turns out that you can be so passionate about something that you actually abstain from doing it for years and years until you've got the time to focus on it. To do it justice. To do it right.

Now, I've got to be honest; it's not as if I knew I was doing that at the time. But looking back, that's exactly what I was doing. And it's a good thing that I did it or I never would have learned ...

What It Means to Be Passionate About Something

  • Humbling yourself and sustaining rejection when you've already paid your dues and there's no earthly reason why you should suffer such humiliation.
  • Becoming a sponge - even a student again - when you've already had a career, achieved great things, and the thought of sitting passively and learning or being tested makes you nauseous.
  • The thrill of discovery makes you feel like a kid again, even though you're 40 or 50. You revel in having no answers, only questions. FYI, that's what makes Apple products so innovative - they start by asking themselves what people want to do that they can't, what drives them nuts. Without that, there would be no iPod, iPhone, or iPad.
  • Then, once you have the answers, you start the whole question-answer loop all over again to raise the bar. Love may mean never having to say you're sorry. But passion means never having all the answers. Besides, if you knew the answers, where's the thrill in that?
  • Being labeled a fanatic, a control freak, a perfectionist - and not in a good way - for wanting to learn every aspect and get every detail right. An obvious reference to Steve Jobs, among others.
  • Sacrificing and waiting long years for the opportunity, then sticking with it until you achieve your vision, come hell or high water.
  • Working at it nonstop, until all hours of the night, seven days a week, for months and months, just to get all that pent-up passion out of your system so you can relax and think clearly and rationally again. Yup, I did exactly that seven years ago - and that book will never ever see the light of day.
  • Having so much respect for your passion that you're willing to admit that you don't know squat, even though you've observed from a distance your entire life.
Now, if this sounds just a little bit fanatical - maybe a lot fanatical, even over-the-top - that's exactly what it means to be passionate about something. Just so you know.

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