Career Tools

Working With Passion

passionFor many, an occupation is just that, a job and a paycheck.  The majority of the population will have to work 40+ years, for some even longer, before the possibility of retirement is an option.  Winning the lottery, or receiving an inheritance are pipe dreams for those looking to get out of a dead end job. But for those who have found occupations that offer meaningful challenges, opportunities for growth and play up an individual’s passions, counting the days until a possible retirement seem far less important.

“Few people discover the work they love,” writes Lance Secretan in his book, Inspirational Leadership.

Many professionals have long since faced the facts that finding a meaningful position is a dream long since given up.  These individuals measure each day by a clock hanging on the wall and count the hours, minutes, seconds, until the work day is over.  Finding passion in one’s occupation can be difficult, but not impossible.

Kenneth A. Tucker, Coauthor of Animals, Inc, states:

Simply put, passion, or its absence, isn’t just a philosophical or psychological matter — it’s a business problem, too. Far too many companies lack employees who are passionate about their work, and they flounder, or just get by.

But some companies instill passion and thrive as a result. Ask Herb Kelleher, founder and chairman of Southwest Airlines, and he will tell you that passion means money in the bank for his company. Fly on one of Southwest’s flights, and you soon come to know why their slogan, “the airline that love built,” articulates the passion of their employees. “At far too many companies, when you come into the office you put on a mask,” writes Kelleher in Leader to Leader. “We try not to hire people who are humorless, self-centered, or complacent, so when they come to work, we want them, not their corporate clones. They are what makes us different, and in most enterprises, different is better.”

Passion helps to engage an organization. When people discover the work that they love, work becomes more than a job — it becomes a unique calling, a life’s mission. People with passion for their work engage each other and their customers.

Kaihan Krippendorff of Fast Company provides 14 tips to finding passion and purpose for work:

1. Build your portfolio
Randy Komisar, technology legend and now a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, thinks looking for your one-and-only passion will paralyze you. Instead, think of a portfolio of passions and use those passions to guide you. You don’t have to choose just one!

2. Write three lists
Sit down and write out three lists: everything you are good at, everything you enjoy doing, everything that gives you a sense of purpose. Then look for the common themes in these lists. (Source)

3. Recall flow states
Sit me down in a library with a stack of old books and mission to produce a blog or paper, and time stops. I blink and three hours have passed. Flow states occur when you mind is so engaged in your activity that it lacks the mental capacity to notice other things. It means you are loving what you are doing. Sit down and think back from childhood to today and put together a catalogue of activities that put you into a state of flow.

4. Explore the “four aims of life”
A Buddhist framework suggest there are four aims to life: (1) physical health and pleasure, (2) wealth and things and family, (3) becoming a perfect person, and (4) finding your greater purpose. Think of and write down three potential passions for each of these aims.

5. Ask yourself
Deepak Chopra suggests you meditate for a few minutes to reach a state of deep relaxation, then, “Ask what your heart deeply desires and yearns to express and listen quietly for an honest response … don’t fixate on one response.”

6. Create space
President Obama dedicates 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night, while Michelle and his girls sleep, to work, read, and write. I find my think time while cooking a midnight meal in a quiet kitchen, when everyone else is in bed, or on long flights. When is your think time?

7. Write until you cry
Steve Pavlina suggests you write down the answer to “What is my true purpose in life?” Then, write another answer. Keep writing until you cry. “This is your purpose.”

8. Envision your funeral
Michael Gerber, author of E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work, recommends you imagine your funeral and asking what you want your eulogy to consist of, your lifetime achievements to be, the difference you made. How many of these are you doing right now?

9. Answer 15 questions
The people at offer a list of 15 questions you can ask to help connect with your purpose, including “What makes you smile?” and “If you had to teach something, what would you teach?”
10. Write your “ideal self”
One of my favorite gurus on passion and purpose, Steven Pressfield, wrote “We have an ideal Self in our imaginations … This Self is a New York Times Bestselling Author. This Self stopped a bar fight with a witty joke. This Self sang the national anthem … of the world. This Self saved babies from a burning building, then demurred when the TV news reporters sought them for an interview for their heroic valor. This Self is the most interesting person in the world.”

You are writing a novel or play with your “ideal self” as the lead character: who is he/she? Mine is the bestselling author, the inventor, the “guru” who fills a stadium.

11. Find and seek out your fears
Pressfield also writes, “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” So ask yourself, “What is it I’m scared to death of? Where am I today? Is my comfort zone getting very uncomfortable?”

Untitled-112. Write the “moments”
Stan Slap, author of Bury My Heart at Conference Room B, suggests you find a personal story that impacted you and share it.

“The answer is that your story doesn’t have to be dramatic, only real,” said Slap. “True epiphanies often come from a series of small moments” that only after reflecting on them you realize formed your values and passions. What moments do you most remember for your past?

13. Watch TEDTalks
YouTube is now filled with them. Watch talks by anyone and you will see what it looks like to be deeply connected with a passion and purpose.

14. Remove the cause
The Indian guru Jiddu Krishnamurti distinguishes false passion from passion without a cause. “Our passion is for something: for music, for painting, for literature, for a country, for a woman or a man; it is always the effect of a cause [but] when passion has a cause, there is attachment, and attachment is the beginning of sorrow.” So ask yourself, “If I had nothing to prove, nothing to achieve, if I had all that I needed, what would I love doing?”

Click here to download a workbook detailing these 14 exercises, or

Choose It
A strategy is as much about what you decided NOT to do as it is about what you decide to do. So to achieve your purpose commit to it and say no to the alternatives: the complacency, the easy path, the distractions. This is the beginning of action. As Peter Drucker said, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes … but no plans.”

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