07 June 2014

Is passion overrated?...

Internet is crammed with articles on helping you find your passion. I searched Google for 'Find your passion' and it came up with,
About 11,10,00,000 results (0.33 seconds) 
I searched for 'finding your passion is overrated' and came up with
About 2,42,000 results (0.30 seconds) 
So when I start a topic like above, I am already in a huge minority. 
There are a few reasons why I think that 'Finding your passion' is overrated. In the Linkedin Tradition of numbered points, here are my reasons for arguing that as a whole this 'Passion' business is overrated.
1. Is the idea of 'Finding your passion' a middle class fad?
Poor people are so busy living their daily grind that they don't have time to think about anything other than their work. If you are a daily wage earner and if you do not do your work because 'it is not your passion', you and your family will stay hungry that night. What about Super Rich? Did they become Super Rich because they found something passionate. My gut is that if you ask them, most of the Super rich will tell you that they started doing something, they became interested in that, they did the job well, they took some smart decisions and here they are !. That is not passion. That is doing your job well.

But when it comes to us, the middle class, most of the motivational books and speakers exhort us to find our passion, to find our potential, to be the best that we can be. We get carried away by this rhetoric and spend our lifetime trying to find our passion.

All the while....
2. 'Your passion' is in your perspective of your current situation...
Most of us have heard the story of three Stone Cutters. One of them is just cutting the stones, another is building a building and the third is building a residence for god. Guess who is more passionate about his work?
There is a janitor who works in my company. He is always happy and enjoys his job. I asked him how he is so happy with the work when his job is to clean the toilets. His response was an eye opener. 'Sir, this is the place where you come to wash your face and spend a few seconds relaxing, before you go back to your work. If this place is dirty, you will feel irritated as you leave and that will affect your work. Once it affects your work, it will affect the performance of the company that I work for. So, it is important that I keep the place clean so that you are happy to do your work better and that makes my company performance better.'
He is passionate about his work because of his perspective. He sees a higher purpose in what he is doing now.

  • How do you see your work?
  • Do you look forward to the day with anticipation or a sense of drudgery?
  • Do you think that you are performing a higher purpose or are you an intelligent pen pusher?
  • Can you redefine your work in your mind so that it meets a higher purpose? I am sure most of the work that you do has a higher purpose like the case of the janitor above. The trick is to analyse your work to find the higher purpose behind it. 
Most of the time, you can find the higher purpose by identifying your customers and see how your work helps them. Sometimes you can find your higher purpose if you have the knowledge of the context in which you are working. 
3. Which comes first? Passion or hard work.
I think that many of us have got that equation on the reverse. We spend our time trying to 'Find our passion' and ignore our current work. When we do that we get negative feedback from other stakeholders. Since we do not want to accept blame for our poor work, we put our blame on some esoteric stuff named 'Passion' which is somewhere 'out there' and which we have to be 'Constantly in Search of'. We spend our whole life living in the future, trying to find our 'Passion'.
Maybe we should focus on the 'Now'. Rather than living in the future, we should put our heart and soul into our current work and accumulate positive feedback. That will start the virtuous cycle of hard work --> Positive Feedback --> Passion. If you are a traffic constable (I guess you are not) you should try to be the best traffic constable in the Universe. 
Let me tell you the example of a neighborhood traffic constable. Anyone who know India will tell you that it is very, very hot in this country in the summer. There is this old traffic constable, who should be close to his 60s, who mans traffic near my house. It is pleasure watching him do his task. He is always smiling, has kind words for passers by, very enthusiastic about his work. Watching him man traffic is like watching an expert dancer dancing to the tune of the traffic. He has everything under control. I have seen him work in the morning, noon and evening. I have seen him work in Summer, Rains or Winter. His demeanor is always the same, pleasant and enthusiastic.
That is passion. Doing your current job extremely well is passion. Passion is an outcome of doing a good work. It is not the means to do good work. 
So the question is, are you doing your current work exceptionally well? Or are you waiting for your passion.
In Indian philosophy, 'Yoga' is a word used to for anything that will help you find yourself. Many of us conflate Yoga with Meditation. That is only one type of Yoga. In Indian philosophy, there are many ways to find out about yourself. One of them is called 'Karma yoga' loosely translated to 'Realizing yourself through your work'. As per this philosophy, if you do your work passionately (?), you will attain self realization. 
Isn't that the whole purpose of searching for 'Passion'? To know what you are capable of achieving. To realize your full potential.
4. What is 'Passion' anyway?
How do you define 'Passion'? 
Many people equate 'Passion' to liking. Instead of saying 'I like writing', the 'Passionistas' will say 'I am passionate about writing'. No you are not. You 'Like' to write. You enjoy writing. Doing something which you like or enjoy is not passion. It is a hobby. 
I am not immune from this habit. Recently I attended a Blogger's conference. In the registration form I had two write a response to the question 'Why do you blog?'. I sort of pompously wrote 'Blogging is my passion'. 
No it is not. I like blogging. But it is not my passion. 
If blogging were my passion, I would,
1. Make plans and act on making blogging as a full time career.
2. I will eat and sleep blogging. My mind will be continuously brimming with ideas on how to improve my blog.
3. I will become a full time blogger. I will write and post at least one blogpost a day for the rest of my life
4. I will network with other bloggers. Share ideas on how to change society / future through blogging.

5. I should be able to earn money to feed my family from blogging.
The problem is that while I will continue to blog, I know that Blogging is not going to be my career. Once it becomes a career, it becomes my 'Work'. I have to get ideas to blog, I have to find publishers who will buy my work. I have to feel guilty for not meeting my writing targets. I have to do mundane stuff like editing and polishing my work. I have to 'Sell' my work to readers..
Once it becomes my work, it no longer remains my passion. 
Viola, I am again in the market, searching for my 'Passion'. 
5. Finally, Searching for your passion and doing your current work well are not mutually exclusive.
I want to end this post by pointing out that finding your passion is a process. You are not going to get up one day and miraculously find your passion. While continuing to do your current work well, you could experiment with other ideas, other areas of work. You could experiment with blogging, photography, dancing....Anything. But be clear if you just 'Like' doing the stuff or are you ready to undertake major sacrifices to enter into the field that you are 'Passionate' about. 
If you can't make those sacrifices, then try finding a higher purpose behind what you are currently doing. I am sure that whatever you do will help someone else do their work better. That itself is a higher purpose.
We all feel happy when we are of service to others. So if you find the 'Receiver' of your service and find out how you are helping  them do their work, you will feel happy with what you are doing and that may translate into passion.
Here is wishing that all of you find work that you enjoy and are passionate about. 

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