As parents, teachers or coaches, we are often telling those we are entrusted with to ‘pursue your passion.’  This sounds noble because we don’t want to be telling them to go out and get a job that, as long as it makes good money, it doesn’t really matter how miserable you feel.

But lately, I’ve wondered if I’ve mislabeled what I was really trying to say.

If you’ve read my book, you know where I’m heading.

We are called to connect, create and contribute.  These aren’t three flavors of ice cream, but a required trio of nutrients for, you guessed it, our passion.

When we are closely connected to others, we are passionate about that.  I have heard from many military members that their dedication to duty and continuing to serve was usually more about being there for their buddies than for the mission or the geo-political agenda.  Passionate about connecting to others.

When we are able to put our God-given talents to work and create value towards a noble purpose, we are passionate about pouring our energy into that endeavor. I am reminded of the words of Eric Liddell, the Olympic track star from England and portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  Passionate about creating value to a purpose.

Ultimately, being connected and creating value are not there for their own self-serving pleasure, but rather the joy of others.  Those others may be our family, our team members or our customers and stakeholders.  As Deming said: “Joy on the job comes not so much from the result, the product, but from the contribution.” Passion from purpose.

Where does this lead?

For me, it leads me to make sure that we don’t put the cart before the horse (I live in Lancaster County, PA; we really know that that saying means!). We want folks to pursue that which will stoke their passion…about what you are connected to in terms of people and purpose, to transform your talents into creating value towards what your are connected to and to contribute that value to others.  Notice that last part… “to others.”  That is key, otherwise all this talk about pursuing one’s passion solely for one’s own pleasure…well, that’s sort of narcissistic.

To serve rather than being served

Why do I say that? I’m reminded that back before a majority of people were literate, art, music and poetry had a very important purpose. They were not ends unto themselves, not admired for their own beauty. Long ago, unlike today, people had to rely only on memory to remember complex concepts and detailed procedures. But they didn’t rely on the rote type of memory that we think of today. Rather, they relied on the type of memory that goes with the ABC song, because we remember pictures and rhyming rhythms so easily.  Art, music and poetry were beneficial ways to help people to remember.  The art, music and poetry SERVED others, not itself, and not the artist his or herself.

In other words, art, music and poetry weren’t things to be passionate about unto themselves, but rather for the purpose they contributed towards; helping people know and remember information that had been learned over the ages when there weren’t books or Google to do that.

Passion is great, but Purposeful Joy is a better way to express what we really want for others.

The desire I have for myself and for those in whom I’ve been entrusted to lead, teach or coach is that they are passionate about what they are doing because they deeply feel connected, they explicitly create and they collectively contribute to a purpose that is worth being joyfully passionate about.

A shout out to some others who helped me get my thoughts around this topic.  A Ben Horowitz commencement speech to the graduating engineers at Columbia University and a TED talk by Terry Trespicio

 

Hope this helps you to enable joy just a little better today.

-Paul

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