Discovering the Passion of the Explorer ft. Writer & Strategist John Hagel


Society is in the early stages of a profound transformation, and by finding our passions we can all make bigger impacts and speed up the process of building a new world. Today’s guest is John Hagel, joining us on the show to talk about some key concepts from his research in Silicon Valley. He speaks on the role of passion and community in sustained performance improvement within high-pressure environments, amongst other topics. John is the author of The Power of Pull, and a prolific writer on the theme of how we should tackle the world’s greatest problems. He has also been a Co-Chairman at the Center for the Edge with Deloitte for almost 13 years, working on edge strategy and the future of work.

John begins by talking about the need for society to reframe its fear-based narratives as opportunity-based ones. We then explore John’s concept of the ‘passion of the explorer’, which asserts the need for people to find their passions as well as describes how this can be done. For John, being committed to a cause should not be about discipline as much as passion, and if we can find our passions, it follows naturally that we will be able to make bigger impacts. We spend some time discussing John’s journey through different passions and how they all center around his desire to help people achieve their potential. Toward the end of the show, John talks about the shifts in the world from a push to a pull-based economy and what this all means. For all this and more about the importance of community, how to increase the probability of serendipitous meetings, and the role of community in big achievements, be sure to tune in at one of these links:

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Key Points From This Episode

How to tune into the ‘passion of the explorer’

Passion is what continually drives motivation and helps people take risks that profoundly impact our world. In order to find your passion, you should be open to new experiences and constantly reflect on what experiences give you energy. If nothing you do excites you, keep exploring until you find something. This passion should lead to a long-term commitment to a domain — it’s not something that excites you for just a week. It is something that will motivate you to have an increasing impact in a particular field.

How to work better under pressure with passion and teamwork

John has researched various fields with extreme sustained performance pressure. Some examples include online gaming environments and extreme sports, where you can die (figuratively or literally) with just one mistake. He found that a common trait many of these people have is a true passion for their work, which helps them under pressure. This passion also comes from a non-selfish place. Big wave surfers, for example, all work together with their teams and other surfers to learn from each other. The goal for most is not to win over another, but to learn how they can all surf bigger waves.

Why we need to reframe the idea of challenges

Big problems are often presented from a fear-based perspective. This is seen especially in the news and amongst politicians today. Fear polarizes people and drives them apart, preventing work from being done to address the challenge. Shifting the presentation of a challenge from fear to opportunity can motivate otherwise scared or apathetic people to work together to address the issue. Rather than “look at all these children living in poverty cycles because they don’t have access to education,” we can say “imagine what would be possible if we can get these children quality education.”

What the ‘power of pull’ means

A push-based economy is based on an industry seeing a demand and pushing people and resources into it to meet a demand. A pull-based economy, which John believes we are shifting to, looks to draw the right people and resources to meet a need. There are 3 levels to this:
1. Access — where can you find the people/resources for this demand?
2. Attract — how can you draw people/resources that you didn’t know existed towards this problem? (Gives you the insight you may not have had before)
3. Pulling internal potential from within ourselves over time, helping us learn faster, and increase impact.

How to increase your chances for serendipitous encounters

Serendipity isn’t just luck. We can increase our chances for serendipitous encounters (see level 2 of the power of pull above). If you are an executive with full days of meetings with people you already know, you’re not leaving space to speak with people who may seek you out and give you the information you never would have had before. Leave a block of time during your day to go out and explore, speak with new people, and find new insights. During the pandemic, this is a bit harder. John’s advice? Write. Any idea you have. Post it online (see John’s blog here) and see what people have to say about it.


“Getting people to have a sense of agency that they can make a difference is critical.” — @jhagel[0:05:23]

“I think it’s key to be very focused on short-term action to drive long-term fundamental change and opportunity.” — @jhagel[0:07:27]

“That’s really the key in terms of determining if you have found your passion yet — do you have that kind of commitment to make more and more of an impact and does that really excite you?” — @jhagel[0:12:28]

“We tend to focus on challenges as threats. ‘We’re all going to die.’ How about reframing them as opportunities?” — @jhagel[0:21:13]

“No matter how smart you are, how capable you are, you’re going to achieve a lot more if you come together with others and are motivated by a really inspiring opportunity.” — @jhagel[0:30:30]

Coming Up Next

Next week we’ll hear from Laura Callanan of Upstart Co-Lab, an organization that connects impact investors to the creative economy. If you’ve enjoyed our past episodes on impact investing or are a creative looking for investors, this is the episode for you. Be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss it, and leave us a rating here so we can help spread the word further.



Every week, we interview entrepreneurs, creatives and leaders that have successfully integrated purpose and positive impact into their careers and businesses. We’ll be asking them to share their best frameworks and strategies so that you too can do the same.

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