My thanks go to Michał Gałężewski for contributing this silent image

Passion, or Purpose?

I have received a number of commendations from past colleagues and peers who used a word which I wouldn’t have expected — passion:

Part 1: Passion is a wildfire

I don’t consider myself passionate, because I’ve always associated that characteristic with it’s typically exuberant, loud manifestation. Someone once called me a quiet leader. That sat very well — to be in a more private mode, having powerful, discreet conversations, earnestly encouraging a group in intentionality, whether spiritual, professional, or general— that’s me.

While passionate is proclaimed like a badge of honour, a burnished trophy to be raised in victory, I might tactfully trade it in for the adjective purposeful. Here’s why I think why I was given the passionate badge. It’s the label which is used in business for a particular set of traits. This is what they’ve seen in me:

Commitment to the value of something. Genuine insistence of what is really important. Diligence in seeing the job through. Confidence to say what needs to be said, when no one else is speaking up.

This, I recognize. This is me. People call it passion. That’s great for my professional profile. But honestly, passion scares me. Passion is where I would lose my head. Passion is a zealous, extroverted wildfire. If you’re in its path and not matching its speed and direction, you’re done for. And just as bad, other values get lost in its smokey clouds.

Part 2: Purpose is a pillar

I’m happier to be a sturdy pillar, with a certainty of values and purpose. Yes, as strong and unyielding as a wall of flame, but not so hot, not so loud. Purpose manifests in a calm, rested assurance that gets to work and won’t be drawn.

Aside: I was the kid who won diligence prizes all through high-school. At the time it felt like the award for “you keep trying hard, but shame you aren’t the best”. I didn’t know the inherent value of trying something, whether or not you accomplish the end goal. Now, I see that those years built up to great learning, and academic records to match. Trying and learning are worth it — that unfrantic persistence of simply getting it done.

The purpose of writing this is not to knock those whose passion does burn hot. It must be a match for personality, of course. And it must be something worth being passionate about. Purpose compels me to persist in my intent, my diligent defence and uncompromising confidence that what is valuable is valuable, against every other good thing that could stoke my fire. That is where and how I invest my energy.