Find your passion.  So, we are advised.  But, where do you look?  How do you know if you find it?


Find your passion.

Everywhere you turn, it seems someone tells you to find your passion.  They say, “You can’t be creative until you find your passion.”

Look on a milk carton for missing passion; put up signs around the neighborhood: “Missing passion;” file a report in the post office—“passion wanted: dead or alive.”  Passion has fled the scene of the crime.

Even the FBI can’t find your passion.

The problem with finding your passion is “what the hell is it anyway?”  What are we all looking for?

We think of passion as an all-consuming fire and fury—like the cover of a romance novel—a splurge of shameless excitement burning in your heart while your clothes are shredded by the pulsating blood in your veins.  

Is that passion worth finding?  Sure.  But, no one can feel like that every day—or even wants to. Think of the wardrobe replacement costs.

I say, “If you can’t find something, look in the dictionary.”

Passion entered the English language in the 12th century from the Latin word for suffering, such as the Passion of Christ.  It didn’t begin to carry sexual overtones until the late 16th century.  Today, we say forget suffering, passion leads us to fulfillment, even to ecstasy.  But, we can divine insight from these entomologies.  

Ecstasy derives from ancient Greek—ekstasis—meaning “out of place,” and, by implication, “in a trance,” “out of mind,” and even “out of body.”  By the late 16th and early 17th century, ecstasy became mystical: “a state of rapture that stupefied the body while the soul contemplated divine things.”  

Based on entomology, your passion means something you are willing to suffer for.  No one expects you to endure waterboarding for your right to macramé.  But, there is insight here: what are you willing to take pains to accomplish?  What are you willing to do over and over again to satisfy your expectations?

Now, consider ecstasy as a trance, a time when you are lifted out of your ordinary mind, your daily concerns. You become indifferent to time, you are focused, in a state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dubbed flow.  You find yourself lost in your work.  Now, maybe you and your passion both seem to be lost.  But, in fact, you are re-united.  Your search is over.

This is ecstasy worth searching for—complete absorption in your task.

This is not the moment of “eureka.”  It is not the grand slam home run or the cry of “Aha!”  These are simply pleasurable, sometimes intense, moments of work and thought that can occur every day.

So, ask yourself, do you enjoy the work of your domain at its simplest level?  If you want to play the piano, does the simple act of running your fingers through a scale give you a modicum of pleasure?  Do you get a little kick, or even excitement, out of arriving at your office or lab?  Do you enjoy solving the problems of a spread sheet?  Do you wake up thinking about what you might do that day?

Only if you enjoy doing the basic, day-to-day work in your domain, will you be able to persist through failure, dry spells and frustrations.  Like Schubert.  Like Edison and Darwin.  Passion—the pleasures of the tasks—develops persistence.  Persistence leads to success.

Dan Hunter