On Passion

I’ve been e-mailing back and forth with a buddy of mine from college ever since we graduated and he moved away. Earlier this week I sent him the quote below I found on the subject of passion:

“Passion makes a person stop eating, sleeping, working, feeling at peace. A lot of people are frightened because, when it appears, it demolishes all the old things it finds in its path. No one wants their life thrown into chaos. That is why a lot of people keep that threat under control, and are somehow capable of sustaining a house or a structure that is already rotten. They are the engineers of the superseded. Other people think exactly the opposite: they surrender themselves without a second thought, hoping to find in passion the solutions to all their problems. They make the other person responsible for their happiness and blame them for their possible unhappiness. They are either euphoric because something marvelous has happened or depressed because something unexpected has ruined everything. Keep passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it- which of these two attitudes is the least destructive? I do not know.”

-Paulo Coelho Eleven Minutes


Naturally, his first response was “So, what’s the passion that you have found?”  I told him that I hadn’t really found it unless you counted traveling, reading, and writing.  But that I thought our lives should be an exploration of trying to find out what we’re passionate about.

He asked me if I thought passions could change over time and I think the answer is an obvious yes.  I would even go so far as to say that your passions should change over time.  I’d hope that someone at 45 years old has different passions than they did when they were 12.  He even tried to help me by eluding to the idea that maybe my passion was trying to find my passion in life.

When I read that my mind jumped to a pretty common quote by John Lennon:

“When I was 5 years old my mom always told me that happiness was the key to success. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Regardless of whether it’s true or not it’s a cool little story.  But  I found it misdirected.  I don’t think happiness is the key to life.  Happiness is a by product.  If you’d replace the word “happy” with the word “passionate” it’d be closer to the truth.

Passion is what leads to happiness and feeling fulfilled. Happiness doesn’t lead to passion.   When we have a reason to get up each morning we’re able to find happiness.  But we have to have that reason, that passion, in order to give us the opportunity to chase our happiness.  I don’t think you can be truly happy unless you’ve found at least one thing you’re passionate about.

My friend (mentioned above) is currently teaching middle schoolers and he absolutely loves it. We got in an argument because he was jealous that I had been traveling and I was jealous that he’d found what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. It’s interesting to see how differently people view the same situation.

Look around and you’ll see an overwhelming blend of people who have found their passions and those who haven’t.  As important as it is to find your passion it’s even more important to look for it.  If you don’t know what it is yet that’s fine but keep trying things and going places until you do.  Keep pushing yourself because you never know what you’ll find or where you’ll end up.  It all goes back to the line in the Charles Bukowski poem that says “Find what you love and let it kill you.”

I don’t know for certain what my life’s passion is.  But my current one seems to be: experience as much as I can while I can.  It’s not a finished product, but hey, it’s a start.

Stay Gold.

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